THE MAYOR of London and Transport for London have announced plans to transform parts of central London into one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world.
The plans will create more space for social distancing when walking and cycling, ensuring that the people who have no choice but to return to work in central London can do so as safely as possible.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, commented on the announcement: “Covid-19 poses the biggest challenge to London’s public transport network in Transport for London’s history.
“It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.
“That means we have to keep the number of people using public transport as low as possible.
“And we can’t see journeys formerly taken on public transport replaced with car usage because our roads would immediately become unusably blocked and toxic air pollution would soar.
“I ask that Londoners do not use public transport unless it is absolutely unavoidable – it must be a last resort.
“We will need many more Londoners to walk and cycle to make this work. That’s why these plans will transform parts of central London to create one of the largest car-free areas in any capital city in the world.
“If we want to make transport in London safe, and keep London globally competitive, then we have no choice but to rapidly repurpose London’s streets for people.
“By ensuring our city’s recovery is green, we will also tackle our toxic air which is vital to make sure we don’t replace one public health crisis with another. I urge all boroughs to work with us to make this possible.
“I fully appreciate that this will be incredibly difficult for many Londoners.
“It will mean a fundamental reimagining how we live our lives in this city. And this transformation will not be smooth.
“But I promise to be as clear and upfront with Londoners as possible about what we are doing, why and exactly what we need from you in order to keep us safe.”
In the past week alone, Transport for London has added around 5,000 square metres of extra space on footpaths across London, giving people space to safely walk and queue for local shops while maintaining social distancing.
Following the Government announcement of coronavirus related travel restrictions, traffic levels on Transport for London roads fell by as much as 60 per cent and harmful nitrogen dioxide was down by around 50 per cent on some of London’s busiest roads.
Traffic and pollution are now starting to rise again.
To prevent London’s roads from instantly becoming unusably blocked with congestion, Transport for London has confirmed that the Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone was reintroduced on 18 May.
These schemes reduce congestion and pollution and help tackle the climate emergency, and the Low Emission Zone, which discourages the use of the dirtiest lorries and large vans, will also be reintroduced at the same time.