The Barbican's lung-busting tunnel to (almost) ban combustion engines from 2020.
Ever walked along Beech Street in the Square Mile? Your lungs would remember. It's that seemingly endless tunnel of fumes and motors that runs beneath the Barbican.
The road is open to pedestrians and cyclists, but many will be put off by the trapped particulates and garish 1970s colour-scheme.
The most important of those two deterrents should be fixed in spring 2020, when the road will be forbidden to anything with an exhaust (PDF). Only zero-emission vehicles (including cycles) and pedestrians will be able to use the route, and that applies at any time of day or night.
The restriction will be "enforced via automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras with a penalty charge notice issued to drivers who contravene the experimental traffic order".
According to the City of London Corporation, this will make Beech Street the first 24/7 zero-emissions road in the country. It would be quite a turnaround from the forbidding tunnel of wheeze it is today. Backers hope that the scheme will also improve air quality around two nearby schools: Richard Cloudesley School and Prior Weston Primary School.
A few caveats
Before we get too jubilant, it should be noted that quite a few vehicles will be considered exceptions. Emergency services, obviously, must be able to take the route without hinderance. But the road will also be open to drivers seeking "access to the car parks off Beech Street and for refuse collection and deliveries". Some of the logistics for the Barbican Centre takes place in the service areas off Beech Street, and it also provides residential and visitor parking — so we're not talking about a trivial dribble.
The scheme will be run as an 18-month experiment, to see if it reduces air pollution, or causes congestion elsewhere as traffic diverts. We're immediately wondering about the effects on nearby and parallel Old Street, which is extremely popular with cyclists.
The zero-emission zone is backed by the City of London Corporation, but must still win final approval from Transport for London. It forms part of a wider plan by the City to reduce emissions, with a 15mph speed limit and further zero-pollution zones. Hopefully, the City will replace that 1970s colour scheme — visual pollution — too.