ABD London is pleased to feature a guest article from a member of the public
Punishing the capital’s motorists can never help Londoners
By Horatio Tremoine
Once again we have the Mayor of London announcing grandiose plans for the future of transport in the capital based on manufactured data and illogical arguments.
As if that were not bad enough, the Mayor’s call for ‘bold action’ is based on gouging more money out of Londoners and demanding that central government plough more taxpayers’ hard earned cash to save the capital from his mismanagement.
Things might not be so bad if what the Mayor says was actually a realistic picture of the situation in London. But it isn’t.
We have the same old, same old faulty arguments around pollution, gridlocked roads and the fantasy world of zero CO2 as if these problems all cropped up suddenly and without explanation. The reality is much of this of the Mayor’s own making.
The Mayor’s programme of reducing road space with the creation of cycle lanes, low traffic networks and low emission zones are behind the gridlocks and increased pollution. This is simply because entirely legitimate traffic is channelled into narrow conduits where some traffic lights only allow very few vehicles to pass at a time, creating vast backlogs in some of the poorest communities in the capital.
This is self-inflicted mayhem by the hands of the Mayor alone. He could remedy much of this at the stroke of a pen.
Cities around the world have been addressing pollution for decades and that work has shown enormous gains in ‘cleaner air’. In the case of London the vast majority of problems around air pollution were successfully addressed by the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 and the 2010 UK Air Quality Standards.
Since then vehicle engines have become ever better at reducing emissions, but no vehicle - even Battery Electric Vehicles - are emissions free. The emissions from EV’s are simply moved from the ‘tailpipe’ to the power station.
Traffic and the busy-ness of roads is part of living in a city where road transport is the lifeblood of employment, commerce and industry.
But before we get into the detail of road transports contribution to air quality we must first understand that it is impossible to create a zero CO2 economy, or indeed a zero CO2 society.
There simply is no such thing as no CO2 to be had anywhere: CO2 is an essential part of the food chain which all plants thrive on. No CO2 means no plants and this means no food for our families, we all starve together.
For the Mayor to pursue a range of punitive policies that will damage employment, commerce and industry at the expense of his electorate is unthinkable. To then blame central government for failing to subsidise his outlandish plans is breath-taking.
The Mayor furthers his argument by citing ‘soaring temperatures’ and ‘flash floods’ as a reason to shut down the use of our own vehicles: car use must be lowered by 27% because of climate change according to the Mayor. The Mayor thinks that more than a third of car journeys could be walked in under 25 minutes and two-thirds could be cycled in under 20 minutes.
Our Mayor clearly has a very strange understanding of how life in cities works. Not all journeys are single-stage and many involve many different stop-offs en route. A plumber or electrician is unlikely to transport tools and equipment on a bike. People in congested cities use motorised vehicles for many reasons and these decisions are both logical and necessary: they should not be at the whim of an elected official to deny the hard won basic human rights of freedom of association and freedom to move on legitimate business.
It is calculated that road traffic accounts for less than 20% of the pollution found in cities. The rest is generated by industry, other forms of transport such as rail and the underground, then there’s catering, construction and commerce, waste disposal - and the list goes on. The Mayor’s statement that most of the pollution in London is from transport is often taken to mean that road traffic causes the ‘most’, which is simply not true.
Let’s turn to the Mayor’s claim that London traffic is causing “nearly 4,000 premature deaths” because of toxic pollution. There is no evidence provided for this dramatic claim, nor for his further assertion that “children are growing up with stunted lungs”. I have never seen a death certificate with either “premature death” from pollution, nor “stunted lungs”. Not even in the most polluted cities on Earth have such claims been made.
As a double qualified Nurse, having worked in every clinical speciality bar midwifery and having managed every type of hospital in the NHS, having worked on the design-and-build of hospitals in ten countries as a Consultant, I have never heard of “stunted lungs”. With no evidence to back up any claims for premature deaths and having invented a new clinical diagnosis we can only assume the Mayor has been less than forthright in these bizarre claims.
Yet it is always the motorist who is blamed, taxed and penalised. And now the Mayor wants to add more problems for Londoners by introducing even more restrictions because of “soaring temperatures” and “flash floods”. Yet the scientific data shows us beyond all doubt that there has not been a pattern of exceptional weather events like this. The Mayor has simply got it wrong and is using these fictions as an excuse to hit the city’s drivers again.
The Mayor seems to think that his plans, if approved, will reduce pollution, gridlocked roads and the financial pressures on his budget. What these plans will do, however, is to create further limitations on London as a powerhouse of world economics and creativity. The Mayor cannot somehow separate London from the rest of the country, the same atmosphere, the same sky and the same air form the weather and climate for the whole country. Tinkering with one bit will not prevent weather and climate in one corner of the country.
Punishing the capital’s motorists yet again is short-sighted and can never help Londoners and the city to reach full potential. This is just a fund raising exercise for a scientifically and economically illiterate Mayor who has nothing constructive to offer his electorate and just wants to relieve Londoners of more of their earnings for his failed experiments.
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