'Time to turn words into action on car use'

Labour supporters celebrate taking Westminster City Council

The Labour party defeated a pro-car administration in Westminster - Credit: PA

The London local elections on May 5, 2022 were a good moment to test Londoners’ views on changes to our roads.

Across London, ramped up by a media war of words, candidates and politicians stood on platforms explicitly in favour of or against recent "active travel" and traffic management schemes. 

Some claimed cycle tracks, low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), ULEZ etc were not consulted on, not popular and the cause of London’s woes; others claimed they were popular, reduced car use and enabled and made safer alternatives such as walking and cycling. 

London Cycling Campaign's Simon Munk

Simon Munk says that the climate action and LTNs influenced voters in the recent local elections - Credit: Simon Munk

Of course the evidence is well established: schemes such as cycle tracks, LTNs, ULEZ do broadly work. Academic studies and data from councils and TfL show very encouraging results and disprove claims of main road chaos, higher pollution levels and people stuck in their homes. What’s clear now is not just the evidence these schemes work, but they’re popular. 

Obviously it’s difficult to unpick local election results from a war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis and "Partygate", but across London candidates who championed action on climate and car use won seats; those who campaigned directly against schemes lost. That played out in Camden, Haringey and Islington and most surrounding boroughs. But then there was Westminster… 

There, a notoriously pro-car administration was unseated historically by Labour, whose leader was one of the first to sign up to the London Cycling Campaign’s Climate Safe Streets campaign (as did leaders in Camden, Haringey and Islington –full statements at lcc.org.uk/climate). Taking action on climate, cycling, car use reduction in London cannot be declared a vote loser, but a vote winner.

Now, of course, turning words into deeds will be vital. The mayor’s team have modelled that London needs a 27% cut in motor vehicle km driven by 2030 (while electrifying cars and vans etc. too), for London to hit climate targets. We need a rapid expansion of safe routes for walking and cycling, and to ensure people only drive when necessary. It’s not just our planet but tackling road danger (“Vision Zero”), pollution, inactivity, community severance in our boroughs that needs tackling too. 

Simon Munk is campaigns manager for London Cycling Campaign.