We need a mayor who puts people first on our streets, not private cars

People enjoy the sunshine outside City Hall in London, during England's third national lockdown to c

Elections for London Assembly members are on May 6 - Credit: PA Images

We have a small window to take serious action on climate.

Most experts suggest we’ll need to slash emissions within a decade to stand any chance of keeping climate change to a point where our societies and nature can remain roughly as before.

This is not scaremongering from tree-hugging hippies (not that there’s much wrong with hugging trees). This is from scientists, international panels, governments. So, what can we do?

While of course we look to industrial giants such as China to do their bit, it’s also vital we do ours too.

The UK, London, our boroughs need to cut emissions, fast. So while we wait for government to act on stuff like electric boilers and home insulation, we need to consider what the mayor of London, and Londoners can do too. Most of the mayor’s powers and stuff we can do as Londoners relates to road transport. And, sorry, electric cars aren’t the (main) answer.

Simon Munk is concerned that people will be scared to use public transport post-Covid and use cars i

Simon Munk is concerned that people will be scared to use public transport post-Covid and use cars instead. - Credit: Archant

Electric cars still cause congestion, road danger and pollution (particulates from braking systems etc).

But more, their manufacture is emissions-heavy and their use adds load to the electric grid, much of which still isn’t itself carbon neutral. On top, electric cars are far from affordable for most Londoners (who already don’t use cars anyway). So what is the answer?

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Even fairly august government bodies suggest we need to cut 20% or more of car miles driven even as we go electric (and hydrogen for lorries etc). We need folks doing short car journeys unnecessarily to switch modes by enabling alternatives, we need lower car ownership (and more car share), and we need to look at how freight, deliveries and other professional vehicles can switch to other modes and cut journeys.

Many boroughs in London have, during Covid, taken steps in the right direction. But we need more action and most importantly a mayor that puts people first on our streets, not private cars. That’s why we’re asking all mayoral candidates to commit to a three point agenda on “Climate Safe Streets”: to rapidly expand the cycle network, roll out car-share and dockless bike/scooter hire across London and move to simpler, fairer “smart road user charging” for driving. Add your support for our calls here: lcc.org.uk

  • Simon Munk is senior infrastructure campaigner for the London Cycling Campaign.