Furious motorists today hit back at Sadiq Khan’s plans to have a car-free day in parts of London on Sunday September 22.
The London Mayor extended the ban on vehicles to 12.5 miles of the capital’s roads, which will be the biggest Car Free Day yet in Central London.
It will banish all vehicles from Tower Bridge, allow only buses to cross London Bridge, and cordon off routes that span the length of almost 200 football pitches.
But critics said it would damage business for taxi drivers and also cause problems for the disabled and elderly who need road transport to make it across the City.
However, Mr Khan insisted the event will help Londoners ‘reclaim the streets’ and allow for children to play freely and communities to enjoy parties in their areas.
The decision to block off roads in Central London on September 22 is set to irritate motorists
Londoners to reclaim the streets… for a day: Sadiq Khan has announced that Sunday 22 September will be Car Free Day in the capital
The decision to block off roads in Central London is set to irritate motorists who will be unable to gain access to certain routes and even exit their own streets.
Keith Prince, GLA Conservative Transport Spokesman and member of the London Assembly said: ‘Londoners want cleaner air but car-free days risk travel chaos if managed poorly while doing little to tackle air pollution.
‘Instead of virtue signalling, the Mayor should focus on cleaning up TfL’s bus fleet quickly to improve London’s air quality.’
Some critics are also bound to question the safety of the capital’s streets for children to play freely, considering the alarming rise in knife crime, which Khan has faced heavy criticism about from residents, campaign groups, and US president Donald Trump.
The announcement was made on Thursday, which happens to be national Clean Air Day – an annual event that raises awareness for greener living.
Khan said he wanted those in London to enjoy an autumn day without being exposed to the toxic emissions produced by vehicles.
Free events will be put on by councils, ranging from guided walks and treasure hunts, to BMX rides, pop-up playgrounds, and a number of street performances and live music events.
The major hopes the event will attract more than 150,000 Londoners to take part.
He said in the day’s confirmation statement: ‘London is leading the way in innovative measures to improve air pollution and I want this year’s Car Free Day events to be the best of any world city.
Tower Bridge will be closed to all vehicles for the day, the London mayor has confirmed
Only buses will be allowed to cross London Bridge as part of the arrangements in place for Car Free Day in the capital
‘This will be a great opportunity for us all to leave our cars behind and explore our streets by foot, or by bike.
‘We’ve called our range of events ‘Reimagine’ so that Londoners get an idea of what some of the busiest parts of our city would be like without cars and traffic… I encourage as many Londoners as possible to join in the fun and see the city from a different perspective.’
Khan hopes the day will help encourage a change in behavior needed to meet his ambitious target of 80 per cent of all journeys being taken via sustainable modes of transport by 2041, compared to 63 per cent today.
He has repeatedly said that air pollution is ‘one of the biggest health emergencies of our generation’, with more than two million Londoners living in areas that exceed toxic air legal limits, including more than 400,000 children under the age of 18 – half of which is produced by vehicles, a Transport for London survey claimed.
A total of 12.5 miles of roads will be closed to motorists for the event, which hopes to encourage Londoners to walk and cycle more often
Some 18 London Boroughs have signed up to the event and some will host street parties on the day
On yer bike: Residents in Central London might have to use alternative modes of transport to travel on Sunday 22 September if their street is one of the routes cordoned off to car
At least 18 boroughs have also confirmed they will be participating in Car Free Day.
Boroughs including Ealing, Brent, Greenwich, and Tower Hamlets are organising their own events, while others have pledged to support residents who would like to hold a Play Street on the day.
Silviya Barett, transport research manager at Centre for London, said the Car Free Day will give Londoners a ‘brief glimpse of what the future of our city could be; a people-friendly city with cleaner air’.
She also warned: ‘But one day of action will only go so far – we need to lock-in car-free lifestyles for good.
‘We must make it easier for people across the city to leave their cars at home by investing in walking, cycling and public transport.
‘And the Mayor should introduce a city-wide charging scheme, which charges drivers per-mile on the most congested and polluted roads.’