Over 40 London streets are to be closed to traffic to mark the international Car Free Day initiative on Saturday (September 22).
Boroughs including Barnet, Camden, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Newham, Richmond, Southwark and Waltham Forest are all hosting events to mark the day, which it is hoped will encourage residents to walk, cycle and play in areas that would usually be given up to traffic.
Initiatives are being supported by City Hall and Transport for London, which are also working with London Play, a charity promoting recreational space for the capital’s children, to deliver the initiative.
Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: “I’m delighted that Londoners will be able to enjoy more than 40 streets without traffic noise and exhaust fumes on World Car Free Day.
“Our support for London Play will transform neighbourhoods for families and offer a valuable opportunity to inspire long-term change, helping build on our work to reduce reliance on cars and clean up the capital’s dangerously polluted air.â€?
Christina Calderato, head of delivery planning at Transport for London, added: “We’re really pleased to be working with London Play and the boroughs to transform residential streets into traffic free zones for World Car Free Day this September. We hope that in doing so, people will start to view streets as valuable public spaces, where you can also meet, play, walk and cycle. By creating Healthy Streets, we aim to improve the quality of life for everyone in London.â€?
Support for London to go car-free on 22 September has numbered in the thousands, with organisations and individuals including Friends of the Earth, Kings College London, Campaign for Better Transport, as well as London Assembly Member Caroline Russell, London Living Streets and others among those to back the campaign.
It is hoped that a car-free day in Central London could draw attention to the city’s air quality, whilst also encouraging residents to take up active forms of transport including cycling and walking as an alternative to cars and other polluting modes of transport.
Air quality monitoring at a recent car-free event in Central Cardiff has suggested that nitrogen dioxide levels dropped by an average of 69% during the day (see airqualitynews.com story).
And, analysis of data from London on the day of the 2018 London Marathon by the behaviour change charity Global Action Plan suggested that nitrogen dioxide levels in some parts of the capital had fallen ‘significantly’ due to the closure of roads to vehicle traffic (see airqualitynews.com story).
Further evidence of the impact of walking and cycling schemes on health in the capital has been put forward in a report published last week by Waltham Forest council, looking at the increased physical activity and air pollution impact of the borough’s Mini Holland scheme.
The initiative involves changes to road layouts to encourage residents to ditch cars for short journeys, by making it easier for them to cycle or walk when travelling within the borough.
The report by King’s College London looked at the health impact that environmental and travel-related physical activity changes in the borough have had on residents, following on from an initial report issued in August suggesting that the measures had contributed to an additional six-month life expectancy for new-born children in the borough (see airqualitynews.com story).
The study concluded that the benefits of routine walking and cycling activity, which has increased in recent years, is estimated as a gain of around 204,000 life years (a life year is one person living for one year) for the population over a lifetime. This represents an increase in life expectancy of between seven to nine months in Waltham Forest.