Taxi drivers and the London Cycling Campaign have joined forces in calling for action on illegal and dangerous levels of air pollution in the capital.
London’s air quality crisis has brought together Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), and Ashok Sinha, Chief Executive of the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), in supporting a proposal for a Clean Air Zone in London, as their members are among those worst affected by toxic vehicle emissions on the streets.
A survey published last week shows 62% of Londoners support the proposal, led by Greenpeace, for the Clean Air Zone in the capital, while it also emerged the 37 most popular models of diesel cars are producing many times more health-damaging pollutants on the roads than claimed in laboratory tests.
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the LTDA, said: “As cabbies, we are subjected to the worst of London’s poor air – driving around in illegal levels of pollution on a daily basis.
“Black cabs are committed to cleaning up London’s air and will be emissions free in new vehicles from 2018. We stand together with the London Cycling Campaign and Greenpeace in calling on the next Mayor to implement a Clear Air Zone to ensure that other vehicles operating in the capital clean up their act."
Greenpeace is calling for a Clean Air Zone, created by phasing out the most polluting vehicles from the city centre, encouraging electric rather than petrol and diesel vehicles, boosting car sharing, a network of clean zones around schools and hospitals, with motor vehicle bans when air pollution is high, and cleaner public transport, among other things. The Ultra Low Emissions Zone currently proposed for London, to come into force in 2020, only applies to Zone 1 Greenpeace, the LCC and LTDA say it needs to be expanded to protect more Londoners outside of Zone 1 .
Ashok Sinha of the London Cycling Campaign said: “A comprehensive Clean Air Zone for London would protect everyone’s health - especially that of the capital’s children – as well as help fund the new Mini-Holland and Cycle Superhighway schemes that our Sign for Cycling campaign is calling for. The London Cycling Campaign stands united with Greenpeace and London’s cabbies in calling for the next Mayor to adopt this win-win policy that would both save lives and make it safer and easier for Londoners to make many more of their journeys by cycle.
A Greenpeace poll of 1,000 London residents shows 51% of Londoners are extremely or very concerned about bad air quality, while 60% support the introduction of a wider Clean Air Zone.
The calls come amid a further scandal surrounding the automotive industry: a recent Department for Transport investigation into cars by manufacturers such as Ford, Renault and Vauxhall are an average of more than five times above EU limits on Nitrogen Oxide in real-world conditions.
Responding to the DfT’s findings transport minister, Robert Goodwill (who is also the minister for cycling), said no rules had been broken as the vehicles passed laboratory tests without cheat devices.
“Unlike the Volkswagen situation, there have been no laws broken. This has been done within the rules”, he said.
“But certainly I am disappointed that the cars that we are driving on our roads are not as clean as we thought they might be. It’s up to manufacturers now to rise to the real-world tests and the tough standards we’re introducing”.
Last week Greenpeace staged a protest across the capital, in which they placed pollution masks on high-profile statues around London, including Nelson’s Column, and Oliver Cromwell inside the Houses of Parliament complex, to highlight the growing air quality crisis which sees around 10,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of poor quality air.
On Wednesday (29 April) campaign organisation, Stop Killing Cyclists, is planning a mass protest outside the Department for Transport headquarters to highlight transport policies that the group says are failing to tackle lethal air pollution.