Cycling and environmental campaigners in Hackney are urging the council to keep emissions low once Londoners return to work, in a bid to retain the better air quality and public safety seen during lockdown.
The London Cycling Campaign (LCC) warns that a large-scale shift to cycling and walking is needed to ensure the safety of TfL networks. Both the LCC and environmental campaign group, Friends of the Earth, argue that low air quality is only bad news for those with pre-existing respiratory issues – such as those caused by COVID-19.
Simon Munk, Infrastructure Campaigner at the LCC told Eastlondonlines, “Hackney council is very lucky in the sense that they took climate measures before the crisis began. They’ve been very progressive in tackling air quality and they’re in a good position to take further action.”
Hackney council’s fight for better air quality however, is more so against people simply travelling through the borough, “Most of the traffic in the borough isn’t even from Hackney residents, as a matter of fact, Hackney car ownership levels are actually very low,” said Munk.
“Many of those who don’t cycle are not doing so because of safety concerns. Networks of cycling routes are vital for safety. We need an increased number of them, along with wider pavements and fewer cars on the road to make London safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Once you make cycling a safer practice, many more will begin to do it.”
“It’s been shown that cargo bikes are more efficient than vans in most cases, meaning that a lot of van drivers are making unnecessary journeys. But for those who actually need cars, those who need their vans – there will be more room for them and far less congestion if we put the right measures in place.”
Environmental Campaign group, Friends of the Earth, told Eastlondonlines, “Air pollution is responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths a year in London alone.”
“After this incredibly difficult time has passed, we must not go back to the way it used to be when it comes to looking after the planet and our health. More road space should be given over permanently to walking and cycling, alongside more and better public transport once it’s safe to do so.”
Friends of the Earth also told Eastlondonlines, “The mayor must reverse his support for the four-lane Silvertown tunnel planned between East and South East London. The tunnel would push air pollution levels for some people even further over the legal limit.”
The COVID-19 lockdown has already seen more than 11,000 premature deaths linked to air pollution avoid, after coal and oil consumption dropped by a third, a European study found.
London alone has seen a 40% decrease in air pollution.