With Brexit dominating the media, it is quite easy to forget the issues that are a little closer to home, most notably air quality. Too often we experience higher levels of air pollution in central London compared to the rest of the UK. Good news is that our monitoring shows air quality in the City is improving.
Regardless, as a member of the City of London’s port health committee I’ve worked with fellow Councillors to ensure we don’t stand still and it’s good to see that the City is taking a number of radical steps in our fightback against toxic air for our residents, businesses and workers:
- We’ve banned the purchase of diesel vehicles from our own fleet of vehicles, where there is a clean market alternative – and plan to turn parts of the Square Mile into zero-emissions zones by 2022. And we are looking to have the UK’s first fully electric fleet of refuse collection vehicles by the end of the year.
- Our idling engine action days model, where staff and volunteers talk with drivers who leave engines on when parked, has recently received funding from the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Fund to bring this to 27 other boroughs across London.
- We have brought in new emissions-based charges for on-street parking, targeting high polluting transport with higher charges while rewarding drivers of low emission vehicles with lower tariffs.
- Over 27,000 Londoners are using our CityAir app, giving users low pollution travel routes across the Capital, with advice and alerts when air pollution is high.
Our draft Air Quality Strategy, which will be discussed at the next port health committee this month and will be finalised this summer, will strengthen our actions, increase our collaboration with organisations across London and boost our partnership with schools by helping them to develop individual air quality action plans.
But local authorities need more regulatory powers to control emissions from boilers, combined heat and power plant and diesel generators. That’s why I am supporting the introduction of an Emissions Reduction Bill by the City of London to stimulate new thinking. In 1950s after the Great Smog the City led the way with the introduction of an Air Quality Bill, and it’s essential we take the lead once again to stop toxic air in our city.
City of London raked best for “healthiest streets” in London
There was other positive new this week with the City of London being ranked best for having the “healthiest streets” — with the suburbs accused of failing to put people before cars.
Transport campaigners ranked the capital’s 33 boroughs by using official data that highlighted their progress — or lack of it — on reducing car use and road danger, improving air quality and encouraging walking, cycling and use of public transport.
London Living Streets and London transport campaigners, London Cycling Campaign, CPRE London, RoadPeace, Sustrans and Campaign for Better Transport London have published a new scorecard that will measure London boroughs’ progress towards the Mayor’s Transport Strategy ‘healthy streets’ targets.
The aim is to publish the Scorecard annually to show progress year on year. But today’s publication already reveals gaps between the level of active travel in different boroughs and the efforts they are making to increase this. For example:
93% of journeys in the City of London are made by walking, cycling or using public transport. But this is as low as 41% in Hillingdon.
You can find more details on the scorecard here.