City Hall has implemented a new range of measures to inform Londoners about air quality, as a new deputy mayor for environment and energy is appointed.
Air quality alerts will be made available at bus stops, Underground stations and at roadsides, in a bid to inform them of days when conditions are particularly bad. The desire for information was highlighted in a consultation, where 79% of respondents said they would value information, notably on days when pollution was high or very high.
The switch-on will cover 2,500 bus stop and river pier signs, 140 displays on major main roads, and 270 Underground station signs. On days of poor conditions, drivers will be encouraged to switch off engines when stationery at junctions. Messages will also be distributed via social media.
There will be encouragement to walk, cycle or use public transport, while those with conditions such as asthma will receive advise on when to reduce strenuous activity.
“Unlike my predecessor, I believe that Londoners have a right to know about the quality of the air that they breathe,” said Khan. “These new alerts will allow them to take precautions and help them plan ahead to avoid the worst instances of air pollution. I am doing everything within my power as Mayor to put the health of Londoners first. I hope that these alerts will become less and less frequent as we take steps to make our already great city a cleaner place to live, work and study in.”
Leon Daniels, managing director of surface transport at Transport for London, said: “We are working with the mayor to deliver an ambitious and wide-ranging programme to improve air quality across the capital. An important part of this work is to raise awareness and provide advice to people on how they can personally contribute to this work.”
And the new deputy mayor responsible for the environment is Shirley Rodrigues. Currently acting executive director for climate change at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Rodrigues has previously worked at City Hall; from 2005 to 2009 she worked on environmental policy, including the implementation of the Low Emission Zone, and programmes to reduce building emissions.
“Shirley Rodrigues brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience and is the perfect person to deliver my agenda to make London a cleaner and greener city,” said Khan. “She will drive forward the urgent action needed to ensure Londoners no longer have to fear the air we breathe and will address the failure to tackle the problem by the previous mayor and government. I am sure she will be a fantastic addition to my top team, taking on a crucial portfolio that has become an issue of life and death.”
Rodrigues responded: “I am delighted to be working with Sadiq on his ambitious plans to make London one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world. He has already proposed a radical and wide-ranging approach to clean up London’s dirty air and I feel privileged to be able to lead on this vital piece of work that will boost the quality of life and health for millions of Londoners.”
Among the pipeline projects are the ULEZ Ultra-Low Emission Zone, due to be implemented in 2020, and Low Emission Bus Zones. The bus zones will launch in February next year, with Putney High Street the first such zone allowing only buses with hybrid drive, or the latest diesel engines to be used. A second route, between Brixton and Streatham, is set to follow. The results should be a reduction of more than 80% in NOx emissions from buses. The routes will have changes made to junctions, to give buses greater priority to keep them moving.
Looking further ahead, the aim is for all new double decker buses bought from 2018 to be hybrid or zero emissions.
Taxis are also to be targeted, with all new taxis from 2018 to be “zero emission capable”. A concession of up to £5,000 will also be available for cabbies trading in diesel taxis that are at least 10 years old.
LPA Perspective: Raising awareness is an important part of encouraging changes in people’s habits, as London looks to improve its air quality. The fight is being conducted on a number of fronts, from cycle superhighways to electric car charging, but regular nagging via information on signs around the capital will surely also help.
One area where the mayor has considerable opportunity is in forcing public transport providers to go greener. The recent moves to force new buses to be less polluting are welcome, as is the move, finally, to get taxis to be less dirty. The silence that has followed an earlier fanfare about Nissan’s green, possibly all-electric taxis is demonstrative of the power of the entrenched taxi lobby, to slow change. Ironically, most cars provided by Uber, the deadly rival of the black cab drivers, are almost universally cleaner than the black cabs they displace.