Pedestrian Utopia?

Dave Haste
By Dave Haste Last edited 197 months ago
Pedestrian Utopia?
London pollution

From BBC News:

London must become car-free if it is to substantially cut carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new report.


In response to the findings London Green Party member Jenny Jones said: "I have asked the London mayor to do a feasibility study into creating a car free pedestrian zone in central London linking all the main squares and parks.

"We need to show that the car no longer rules in London and that the future is based upon public transport, cycling and walking."

We instinctively like the sound of this. We think that Central London would be an even cooler place than it is right now if it had better public transport and improved opportunities to cycle, walk, rollerblade, pogo or space-hop from A to B.

A blanket car ban also seems like a much fairer and more equitable approach to reducing central London’s pollution than some of the eco-spin-based ‘green taxes’ that many of our politicians have proposed (or even put in place). We have long sensed that these taxes, such as Ken’s proposed £25 congestion charge for band G vehicles, are poorly thought through to the extent of becoming completely arbitrary. By levying charges based on the type of car rather than how it is used, these taxes help perpetuate the delusion that a driver could tot up 100,000 miles a year in a Nissan Micra without damaging the environment at all.

Such approaches run a real risk of becoming counter-productive, whilst being unnecessarily costly to implement and administrate when compared to more consistent ways of taxing pollution, such as levying a ‘pollution tax’ on the fuel itself. Still, by their very nature, taxes that are based on eco-spin are always going to be more politically palatable than some of the more sensible (but rather dull) alternatives. As we speak, Ken’s £25 congestion charge proposal is going through ‘public consultation’ (which, as far as we can tell, is Ken-speak for “we’re going to ask a pathetically non-representative sample what they think about our proposals, then disregard their views anyway”).

So all-in-all, we think that a complete ban on all private cars in central London, in favour of improved public transport and more pedestrian areas, is a much better idea. Sadly, we’re not sure if we’ll ever see it happen. Shame.

As a side note, we had a sneaky peek at the report in The Lancet that prompted this proposal, and noted that it suggested that the climate-changing effects of UK aviation could have previously been underestimated. In particular:

… at the household level, the contribution [to carbon emissions] of flying is higher and could be greater than from driving. Recent studies estimate that by 2030 UK total aviation emissions of carbon dioxide will rise from 32 million tonnes in 2000 to 65-85 million tonnes. These predictions include probable gains in efficiency.


Recent estimates suggest that the effect of aviation on climate change is 1.9 times greater that that which would be due to its carbon emissions alone.

So when someone suggests that Heathrow Terminal 5 is converted into a huge shopping centre for the good of the environment, remember that you heard it here first.

Image taken from rigilbert’s Flickr photostream under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 licence.

Last Updated 14 September 2007