Extinction Rebellion demands ‘clean air for good’ as pollution levels drop during lockdown

Pic: Ethan Lucey

Some 100 climate activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) took to the streets of Hackney on bicycles yesterday, spray painting bike logos, cutting off traffic and making bike lanes with temporary markings.

Activists set off from Clissold Park’s Church Street and travelled south to Dalston Junction before going East to Well Street Common, calling for better air quality and greater social distancing measures within the borough of Hackney.

Sam Silverlock, 54, an activist for XR said: “I’ve lived in Hackney since 1983 and its always been the case that the borough is too dominated by cars, causing high levels of pollution which is very unsafe. So we’re here today to ask that both the council and the government provide the resources and the structures to change the way the transport system is being operated in Hackney and elsewhere.

“We want to make Hackney a safer place for cyclists and pedestrians and greater infrastructure is needed to reduce injury and death rates on the roads.”

Motorists reacted by beeping their horns after protestors ran red lights. Video: Ethan Lucey

He went on to say: “We can see that public transport capacity has decreased and there’s a danger that fossil fuel burning will increase as a result.”

Members of the group spray-painted bicycle logos on the streets and used temporary markings to widen streets for pedestrians.

Protestors wrote “No Going Back,” featuring the XR logo. Pic: Ethan lucey

XR aimed to raise awareness of dangers of increased car use, after the government urged people to not use public transport.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, reintroduced the congestion charge at an increased price and converted a number of streets in central London to car-free zones earlier this week.

Jayne Cominetti from XR said: “Closing some main roads in central London to vehicles will do tremendous good in reducing air pollution and making cycling and walking safer in these areas. However, most Londoners live in zone 2 and beyond, where traffic in is on the rise again – so these measures alone are not enough.

“Hackney has the third highest Covid-19 death rate in the country, which shows the stark reality of poverty and health inequality.”

Participants followed a specific route, outlined by stewards to ensure safety and physical distancing. All cyclists taking part were urged to wear face masks.

Activists attached flags to their bikes. Pic: Ethan Lucey

Councillor Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, waste, transport and public realm said: “The ending of the Coronavirus lockdown in London provides opportunities to lock-in the big air quality improvements seen in the capital during the pandemic through shifts to cleaner modes of transport. Following the AA’s analysis that a fifth of current drivers will use their car less after the lockdown, it is more vital than ever that we reallocate road space to those who will be walking and cycling more.

“Hackney is accelerating its work on traffic reduction to make sure that a surge in private car use does not happen. This involves permanently reallocating road space away from motor traffic to create a borough-wide network of Low-Traffic, Low-Emission Neighbourhoods as well as potentially tightening parking controls. Hackney is also progressing with background studies to tackle the 40% of traffic on the borough’s roads that are ‘through traffic'”.

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