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Cyclists hit back at ‘propaganda’ after children in face masks are used to protest London Cycle Superhighway 11

Regents Park Cyclists say stunt was ‘distasteful’ and ‘illogical’

Cyclists have criticised a recent protest against London’s Cycle Superhighway 11, describing it as ‘illogical propaganda’. Coverage of the protest in Ham and High featured a photograph of schoolchildren wearing face masks in reference to the pollution ‘caused’ by the proposed cycle lane.

The protest – which involved Hampstead parents and pupils and took place outside St Stephen’s in Rosslyn Hill – was co-ordinated by solicitor Jessica Learmond-Criqui.

Learmond-Criqui has previously said that CS11 will “act as a cork” to traffic, forcing cars onto narrow residential roads and worsening air pollution.

Restating her position, she said: “Hampstead is already bad and in excess of safe NO2 levels for adults and kids. The readings are off the scale.

“Hampstead and Belsize area is the biggest educational park in the world. There are over 55 schools and colleges in Hampstead and Belsize with at least 12,500 school children going to school here every day – many under seven years old. Why is the mayor encouraging TfL to force up to 475 extra cars per hour into some of our narrowest residential side roads?”

Justin McKie, of Regents Park Cyclists, rejected suggestions that CS11 would exacerbate pollution problems and took particular issue with how Learmond-Criqui had tried to make her point.

“I find it very distasteful that a photo of kids in face masks, which were in fact surgical masks and would do nothing to filter out pollution, was used in a propaganda fashion to protest at the CS11 scheme.

“Because of the adjustment made to CS11 plans, I do not believe that the mass displacement of traffic because of CS11 will happen. The issue is that hundreds of parents get into their cars every day to take their children to school. There needs to be an incentive for these people to use alternative methods of transport.

“It is also illogical. The aim of the cycle superhighways is to encourage cycling and reduce pollution.”

A 2014 study, which used MPs as guinea pigs, found that London’s worst air pollution is actually found inside cars.

Using monitors that measured the amount of microscopic carbon particles that were inhaled, researchers found that walking around Whitehall and Oxford Street, the MPs inhaled six to seven million particles per breath. At their destination, London's City Hall, levels fell to three million particles per breath. Travelling in taxis, they were found to have inhaled up to 50 million particles per breath.

A similar experiment carried out by the BBC earlier this month found that for six out of ten days, a Bath taxi driver was exposed to pollution in excess of World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended limits. In contrast, the exposure of a cyclist travelling the same roads always remained below.

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