- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

London's congestion plan in peril?

There is a lovely article here by someone at the London city authorities describing a visit by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to view the wildly successful and popular congestion charge in that city. The article describes all the success that this project had reducing inner city car trips, which far from simply reducing pollution has dramatically reducing deaths and injuries to pedestrians and dramatically improved public transport efficiency and pedestrian access. Obviously a resounding success that has the attention of city planners the world over. However there was one very ominous small note at the end which should be cause for serious concern to anyone who really cares about the improvements London has achieved. The City notes that:

"Transport for London is currently consulting on proposed changes to the congestion charge that would include drivers of the most polluting cars being charged £25 to drive in the congestion charge zone. Drivers of the cleanest cars would be given a 100 per cent discount, a policy that has widespread support among Londoners."

Whatever is meant by "the cleanest cars" this is a serious dilution of the whole concept which has brought so much improvement to the lives of Londoners. This proposal, if adopted, would essentially roll back most of the benefits of the congestion charge. If I remember rightly it was called a congestion charge, not a pollution charge. Yet this rule would welcome cars free of charge if they have less or no tailpipe emissions. This would be a dramatic step backwards. It would bring congestion right back to the city centre; the city would lose the efficiency gains to the bus and public transport networks; the number of deaths and injuries to pedestrians would come right back up where they were before. If you care about the success of the congestion charge, and what it means for London and as an example for other cities around the world - including the many cities of China and India currently being overrun by cars, then you should contact the London authorities and voice your opposition to these suggestions.

Remember, the problem with congested cities is more than just pollution:
Road Rage
Drive-by Shooting
Random Deaths
Pedestrian Deaths
Automobile is #1 cause of death among world's young
More Random Deaths

At what point do you stop calling these deaths "random accidents"? The point is, there is a lot more benefits to a congestion plan than just reducing tail-pipe emissions, and if these proposals were to be accepted you would have very little left in the way of tangible benefits to the community.

Contact Matt Brown on 0207 983 4716 or at matt.brown at london dot gov dot uk
or the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100 to let them know what you think.

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