Monday, 28 March 2016

Boris' Air Pollution Legacy

At the end of Boris' term, London is still experiencing high levels of illegal air pollution with health impacts for tens of thousands of Londoners. His response to this has been to propose a scheme he's called the 'Ultra Low Emission Zone' (ULEZ). This article looks in to the details of this, why it isn't going to give us clean air and what different mayoral candidates are proposing:

  • The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) and the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) are referring to the same small area of central London. Essentially the ULEZ is an update on the CCZ with additional environmental considerations. 
  • It means vehicles have to be at the latest EU standards (Euro 6 for diesels, Euro 4 for petrol), So this doesn't ban diesels.
  • It begins in 2020.

Other measures to reduce air pollution:

Currently the mayor has just got buses to the Euro 4 standard at the end of 2015 (by retrofitting Euro 3). The mayor has pinned his hopes on Euro 6 and so many of the buses in service are two generations older and very significantly dirtier.


It is obvious that the proposed ULEZ is coming in too late, lacks of decisive action and will fail to make any significant improvement apart from in a very limited area of central London.

Mayoral Candidates:

Zac (Conservative): Backing Boris' inadequate plans and promising more of the same.

Sadiq (Labour): Although showing a willingness to go further than Boris, his policies currently lack decisive action to deliver clean air for all Londoners. 
  • Consult on bringing forward the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and expanding it along major arterial routes or a wider section of central London. Lack of details on what he would like to introduce.
  • Call upon the Government to introduce a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme to support those who wish to change to a greener car. But not using his mayoral powers to ban these vehicles...
  • Deliver the electric charging infrastructure, in partnership with the private sector, necessary for a major expansion in the use of electric vehicles.
Caroline (Lib Dems): Caroline Pidgeon's experience as an assembly member shows in her policies for clean air, which they say aren't just ambitious, but are deliverable in practice by a future mayor:

  • Immediately add a £2:50 surcharge for diesels in the zone,
  • Start the ULEZ in 2018 (2 years earlier)
  • Ban diesel vehicles up to and including double-decker buses (not HGVS, presumably due to lack of alternatives) from the zone by 2024

Sian (Green Party): The Green Party are proposing a raft of policies to tighten up and improve the ULEZ in addition to making sure it is expanded to a wider area. This includes:

  • Immediately introduce a higher congestion charge for all but the cleanest vehicles in central London, to create a Very Low Emission Zone. We will invite boroughs to opt in some or all of their area to expand this zone into illegally polluted parts of inner and outer London.
  • Begin consultation immediately on a scheme to replace the ULEZ that will cover all of London and be effective in complying with the law. This could be combined with the new traffic demand management scheme we will develop to replace the Congestion Charge. 


While Sadiq is clearly leading Zac with his ambition for clean air, neither of the leading candidates are proposing decisive action on air pollution. In contrast, both the Liberal Democrats and the Greens are proposing immediate actions which would start giving us cleaner air from day one with plans to tighten the rules significantly over the next 5 years.

However in order to improve the health of the millions of Londoners living away from the centre, it's clear that clean air measures must be applied far beyond the limited zone currently proposed.

If you want to highlight the problem of air pollution, Stop Killing Cyclists are holding an Air Pollution Protest outside the Department for Transport on the 27th April - gathering from 5pm, main  action 6-6:30, join after work, details here:

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Zac & Sadiq on bikes

In the run up to the election we'll be looking at what the different candidates are saying. I'm going to start with the men regarded as the front-runners and see what we're hearing at this early stage.

I will cover the other candidates and also how their manifestos develop in the run-up to the election (some would say I'm saving the best candidates until later, you can make up your own mind on that one).

Zac on bikes

I'm starting with the easy one because there's not a lot to say so far - Apart from a few very poorly considered remarks (and here) about roads/cycling, there is very little to go on.

There is one mention of 'encouraging' safer cycling on his website, but no detail. The website seems to have very little content overall:

If you believe Zac has a credible chance of becoming our next mayor, this is quite a worry.

Sadiq on bikes

This is also easy - Sadiq's office sent me an email setting out his policies! ctrl-c, ctrl-v:

Sadiq is determined to continue the progress in making cycling safer in London. He believes making cycling safer for more Londoners will ease pressure on our public transport system, as well as it being a greener and healthier way of getting around our city.
A list of the things Sadiq wants to do include:
  • Roll out the Twenty’s Plenty initiative to reduce average speeds on the capital’s residential roads
  • Target investment on completing works to tackle the capital’s most dangerous junctions, making them safer for road vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians
  • Pedestrianise Oxford Street and part-pedestrianise Parliament Square
  • Establish a Public Realm Committee, to lead on how we can further improve public spaces across the capital, getting a better balance between all road users
  • Investigate the merits of car free weekends in central London, along the lines of that adopted successfully by Paris
  • Working with cycling groups, local authorities, TfL and businesses to identify ways of cutting the number of the most dangerous lorries from London’s roads at the busiest times
  • Continued investment in cycling provision, including the next generation of Cycle Superhighways, further investment in Quietways and town centre improvement schemes, looking at how we can expand the cycle hire scheme, and enhanced cycle storage on street in residential areas, and in new office developments
  • Further work to bust some of London’s physical barriers, such as the backing the Rotherhithe-Canary Wharf cycling and pedestrian bridge 
On top of this, Sadiq wants to tackle pollution on London’s streets, making them cleaner and safer for all users, by:
  • Widening the area covered by the Ultra Low Emission Zone and investigating bringing forward the introduction from 2020
  • Only wanting to buy electric or hydrogen buses by 2020, thus reducing diesel emissions by the TfL fleet 
  • Planting 2 million trees, centred primarily on schools and colleges
Sadiq believes this package will bring about a marked improvement on London’s roads and he looks forward to the opportunity of implementing them, and hearing more from groups like the London Road Safety Council, on what more we can do.
I think there's lot here which indicates Sadiq has ambitions to improve conditions for Londoners to cycle (my question also mentioned air pollution).

Several of these items are concerned with finishing Boris' unfinished business (safer junctions, Cycle Superhighways, Quietways) which is a very necessary and important task. On all of these programmes there have been concerns about the length of time needed to implement and, for Quietways, there are real worries about some very inadequate schemes being put forward. These are key improvements to cycling, so we will need Sadiq to set out how he can do a better job than Boris has done.

It would also be great to know who might be our next cycling commissioner(s), so I've asked that very question. I will let you know if I get an answer!

P.s. I like trees but am disappointed that in the top three items on the air pollution which affects the health of tens of thousands of Londoners, there is a measure which is literally ineffective green-washing. This is a really big issue for the health of children and the elderly and it seems Sadiq's team haven't got to grips with it yet :-(

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Support Londoners on Bikes!

Ahead of the London mayoral election a group called Londoners On Bikes campaigning for better cycling in London. As well as asking candidates to commit to ambitious improvements for cycling in London, they are also putting pressure on candidates to set out their policies in real detail, so voters can make an informed choice.

As well as online campaigning, they are also tagging bikes and handing out flyers at junctions across London. You can find out more about their plans here:

Sign up on their website to add weight to their calls for safer cycling in London and they will also make sure you're fully informed of the candidates' policies before polling day!