Cars or kids? Which is more important?
Is it really that simple? Well in a way, yes. The biggest threat to children come from road danger, air pollution and the climate and ecological crises.
New roads are the biggest threat to nature. Motor traffic is the main source of urban air pollution. Cars are a major contributor to the climate crisis (car manufacture, cement for roads, diesel and petrol etc)
Motor vehicle tyres are a major cause of microplastic water pollution. Alarmingly called ‘plastic soup’ pollution. Kids are drinking and eating tiny particulates of car tyres. I think we all know that is not healthy.
Our children, inspired by Greta Thunberg, are walking out of school to tell us that they face a terrible future. The accumulative environmental catastrophes of climate breakdown, ecological collapse, pollution and plastic toxicity mean they will inherit a degraded and dangerous world if we adults don’t get our act together. This is why I have thought long and hard about which policies are appropriate to the Climate and Ecological Emergency.
In solidarity with the children and to inform policy, I will be starting a project in September, to live the net carbon zero lifestyle (approximately one tonne of carbon per year). Here is an explainer of the project with a daily journal attached.
Mayors of the world must lead by example. I am a doer not a procrastinator.
Key Policies for a Climate Emergency
- Regular car-free, fly-free and work-free days to cut emissions (Direct, immediate action)
- World fossil fuel free days (we need many trials to experience what this looks like and where we need to be better prepared)
- Free cycles for everyone and free secure cycle parking (This must be the mainstream go-to for personal journeys under 5 miles)
- A hierarchy of energy use for the common good. (Where cooking, heating and hot showers are higher priorities for renewables than low occupancy, inefficient electric cars, 3G 4G 5G networks and data proliferation)
- De-carbonise heating, hot water and cooking ASAP (Millions of green jobs urgently needed with appropriate training)
- Free trees for every garden (on private land in the UK as well as mass planting on public land. Trees absorb carbon and are a critical part of climate action) Every tree, copse and woodland in the UK must be listed and protected.
- Resident allotment permits for food growing on current wasteful resident parking spaces. Councils have a Statutory Duty to provide Allotments for anyone that wants one. This is currently not happening. Perishable greens are high carbon because of the quantity that is degraded in transport. Food security is important. As is locally sourced produce to reduce shipping /road /air miles
- Community composts provided close to homes. Reallocation of parking spaces to localised community composts. Reducing waste and landfill as well as transport emissions and enable food growing for food security.
- Cargo bike hire supplied to local residents and businesses.
- A ban on advertising for planet destroying consumables (car adverts, meat and long distance flights /holidays).
- No to high energy use of tech promoted for per the mile road pricing. (Telematics is a high energy user of data Not appropriate for a low carbon, low energy future. Energy use allowances would be far more effective at reducing car use. (We need to address the root cause not the symptom).
- Ban automation in motor vehicles (Not safe or proven technology. No algorithmic transparency of accountability. It is a very high energy user (there are 100 computers on one Automated Vehicle, equivalent to boiling 3 electric kettles continuously) plus radar, sensors and cameras. Mostly designed for data harvesting and surveillance. 5G is a high energy user and potential serious health and security threat
- Carbon, energy and data allowances for everyone (Energy allowances will allow people to choose between eating, a hot shower, heating or downloading a Netflix boxset or using a car to drive a few miles down the road)
- Switch investment and jobs away from the car industry and road building to pinning solar to every roof possible ASAP (The car industry is stranded assets and jobs whilst solar is an urgent imperative for a low energy low carbon future)
- Transparent, easily accessible carbon accounting at all levels of Government and Business (With indirect carbon from energy use recorded as well as direct carbon).
- Extend job centre plus travel discount to all public transport
- Fully Universal Basic income which I call a ‘core sustainable income’. Available immediately to net zero carbon early adopters. This is nothing to do with Artificial Intelligence but about reducing the working week to 3-4 days to cut energy use and for quality community and family life).
- Education on how to use ICT (Information and communications technology) that is not wasteful of energy. For instance don’t travel via google maps. Plan your journey ahead or use a map. Borrow CDs and DVDs from libraries rather than Netflix and streaming.
- Producing software that is efficient means energy allowances must be applied. Current wasteful and lazy software is burning energy needlessly
- Stopping data proliferation that is used for mass surveillance, data harvesting and selling us stuff we don’t need.
- No forced personal data on the Electoral Register (democracy must be free of outside interference)
- Algorithmic transparency and accountability. We must have an open way of scrutinising decision making.
- Tax under-occupation of dwellings. We could house the entire UK population again in the current unoccupied bedrooms. Make more efficient use of current housing stock through taxation. Cutting cement and steel emissions means a radical transformation in the way we build and maintain housing
- Treat plastic as toxic waste Stop producing the stuff. And man-made toxic plastic derivative textiles too. Acrylics nylon spandex. Fleeces are one of the worst. No more lycra cycling gear!
- Cycle only streets and hire bikes at all train stations and bus interchanges.
- Licence pedicabs and apps like pedalmeapp and move to last mile delivery by cargo bike. Facilitate cargo bike plumbers, carpenters and electricians.
- Give every citizen the choice to live a carfree lifestyle with suitable infrastructure and financial incentives
- Mass rewilding of roads to restore nature, biodiversity, carbon absorbing tree cover and flood mitigation.
- EU directive draft proposal / Mini–Holland for every London Borough
- Every village, town and city in the European Union must have a walking and cycling network.
- Everyone must have the opportunity to walk and cycle safely going about their daily life.
- This must be backed up by an integrated, accessible and joined up Public Transport Network
- Ban motor traffic from the core of every town, city and village
As additional reading, I have formulated 5 pathways for the Climate Emergency on
As well as a specific blog on
My Mayoral candidate announcement 2020
London’s Climate Emergency Mobilisation
The IPCC report, published in October 2018, changed everything. In the last Mayoral election I used the phrase Sea Change. The ‘speed and scale’ needed to transform our city in the face of this existential threat, is barely being discussed, let alone enacted.
Extinction Rebellion rightly calls for the transformation by 2025. Setting this target focuses minds to the scale of the challenge. And the narrow window of opportunity, before tipping points are reached. This is what I am focused on.
I have spent the last 7 months, reflecting on what action is appropriate. I have tested out ideas for policy with friends, family, colleagues and a wider global community on twitter.
This is not what is ‘politically possible’. That framing is lazy and inappropriate to a Climate Emergency. This policy is what is needed. This is the scale of ambition required to keep us from reaching irreversible tipping points that threaten life on this planet.
London is extraordinarily vulnerable to sea level rise, flooding, water shortages and poor food security. The current Mayor has barely scratched the surface of what is required to keep Londoners safe and healthy.
London came together in World War 2 to counter the threat. We must now mobilise at speed and scale; as a city, nation and global community.
We inspired the wider world in 1939 when we made a stand. We can do this again to save our world from the threat of Climate and Ecological catastrophe.
Please contact me on twitter @Privatecarfree
My Mayoral candidate statement from 2016:
The health and economic impact of cars in London is immense
Cars are a major cause of illegal air pollution in London, killing 9,400 per year and permanently stunting the growth of children. Some small diesel cars have been found to be emitting the same Nitrogen Dioxide as a bus or HGV. This is a full blown public health crisis but not once has any Mayor of London, called for the banning of diesel cars in our city.
London is now officially the most congested city in Europe. The economic cost of congestion is estimated to be in the region of 8.5 billion per year. Growing car use is unsustainable and affecting the quality of life of all Londoners. Journey times are unreliable and the time wasted stuck in traffic makes the city inefficient and stagnant.
There were 30,785 casualties as a result of road collisions in Greater London in 2014. Every death or injury is a failure of a civilised society. Hit-and-runs are occurring with increasing frequency, creating a sense of lawlessness on the streets. (80 motorist hit-and-runs per week in 2014) Many people feel severed from their community by dangerous roads.
The public health crises of inactivity, obesity and type 2 diabetes threaten our ability to sustain an NHS system, free at the point of entry. 1 in 6 are dying from inactivity, half of Londoners are obese or overweight and 1 in 10 in Newham and Brent have diabetes. Car owners are statistically the most likely to be inactive.
The CEO of NHS England has already said obesity will bankrupt the NHS. This means longer waiting times and a reduction in services across the NHS. We know that diabetes type 2, obesity and inactivity are preventable and can be reversed by lifestyle changes such as walking and cycling.
Cars contribute a significant and growing proportion of greenhouse emissions. In order to cut CO2 emissions to sustainable levels, car use must be radically reduced. Viable environmentally friendly alternatives such as cycling, walking and public transport can make this transition possible.
Vast areas of land in London are currently allocated to cars, both in transit and parked. 6.8 million car parking spaces in London take up a minimum of 78.5 km sq. And with the average car parked 95% of the time, this is economically illiterate use of prime land. When housing is in crisis we need to seriously review how we allocate space in London.
I believe it is imperative to make safe space on our roads for walking and cycling. This is literally self-empowerment for a healthier future
My key policies are
Ban diesel in London
Ban private cars in central London
Prioritise active travel like walking and cycling
Create a car-free cycling network across Greater London
24hr road pricing throughout Greater London
Reclaim car parks as brownfield sites for social housing
Make solar power integral to new builds
Rationalise freight and commercial vehicles, capping PHVs and Taxis
Plant 1 million trees
I believe these policies will
Improve quality of life
Create social cohesion
Cities around the world are waking up to the cost of cars in an urban environment. In 2015 Dublin, Madrid and Oslo announced plans to go car-free in their city centres to reduce pollution, congestion and cut greenhouse emissions. We too can lead London into a brighter future, by making our streets for people rather than cars.
May 22nd 2015
Today I am announcing that I will be standing as an independent candidate for the Mayor of London in 2016. I have been campaigning via my website banprivatecarsinlondon.com for a sea change in the way transport is organised on the streets of London.
Only radical reform will transform our city from a polluted, congested and dangerous space for people living, working and visiting here to a liveable city where people can breathe.
Active travel has immense potential for keeping our economy vibrant, our citizens healthy, reducing NHS costs, inequality and creating the feel-good factor.
Private cars are the least economically viable mode of transport in urban areas. This is why I want to prioritise safe walking, protected inclusive cycling, accessible clean and low-priced public transport and electric sharing taxis.
I would also like to free up the vast quantities of land used for parking. Private cars, on average, are parked 95% of the time. There are approximately 6.8 million parking spaces in London (Transport Statistics User Group 2001) which, based on the minimum parking space per vehicle, take up an astonishing 78.5 km sq.
When housing is in crisis in our city, we need to seriously re evaluate how space is allocated. I would like to designate car parks as brownfield sites, to house key workers at reasonable rents, linked to their jobs in the vicinity.
From the City-centre outwards we can change the car culture of London to create a liveable city where children are free to roam once again without the fear of road danger.