Posts Tagged ‘traffic’

South Circular Protest

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

London’s air quality is a disgrace with around 2 million people living in areas which have illegal levels of air pollution. Academic studies suggest that there are almost 10,000 premature deaths every year due to the high levels of pollution, and huge levels of pollution related illness.

I can just about remember hearing at the time about the 1952 Great Smog in London, when visibility went down to around a foot and traffic simply had to stop. It was thought to have killed around 12,000 people and the severity led to a Clean Air Act that outlawed coal fires in the city – and we had to switch to Coalite and coke. The smog wasn’t quite so dramatic on the outskirts of the city where we lived, but it was certainly unpleasant, and wrapping scarves around your face if you had to go out wasn’t very effective. And even inside the house, the air wasn’t quite clear.

The air looks much cleaner now, though I still get dirty shirt collars from trips into the city, but the dangers are there if invisible. High levels of nitrogen oxides and other gases, as well as particles too small to be visible. And there are local hot spots around major road junctions and busy roads, often creating up to five times the legal limit for air pollution in Central London and around major roads elsewhere. Road traffic is a major factor in these illegal levels which peak at certain times during the day, particularly during the rush hours. Another peak occurs not far from where I live, around Heathrow and any airport expansion would bring extra road traffic to add to this as well as the pollution from more aircraft.

Boris Johnson when London Mayor failed to take any effective action, but under Sadiq Khan there have been some reductions, with a change to hybrid diesel-electric buses, regulations for new taxis to be electric and the setting up of Ultra-Low Emission Zones, currently covering the inner-city congestion zone, but withe a Low Emission Zone for heavy goods vehicles extending to a wider area of Greater London later this year.

The effects of air pollution and particularly bad for the elderly and those with pre-existing lung conditions who largely make up those who die prematurely, but also for children whose lungs and other organs are still growing and are stunted by pollution, with up to 10% lower capacity than those who live in cleaner air. Many primary and secondary schools in London are in areas with high pollution.

Parents in Catford in South East London whose children live and go to schools close to the South Circular Road are concerned for the health of their children and organised a march and rally calling on Lewisham Council to take bolder and faster action to reduce air pollution, particularly around schools.  Although Lewisham isn’t responsible for the high traffic levels on the route there are remedial measures that can reduce local levels of pollutants such as planting screens of trees and hedges which can drastically reduce the levels of minute particles in particular. Putting barriers on some roads near schools to prevent through traffic would also help. Better cycling provision and bus services can also help to reduce traffic and thus pollution.

More at Clean Air for Catford Children.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


UPHD protest discrimination

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

I’m not a fan of Uber and very seldom a user of taxis or private car hire services, regarding them as a necessary evil for those rare occasions when public transport is not practicable. And taxis in particular are evil, causing large amounts of unnecessary pollution – both oxides of nitrogen and particulates – on the city streets both directly and also indirectly from other vehicles caught up in the congestion they cause by ‘plying for hire’ – an archaic system now made redundant by the smartphone.

Also rendered archaic by modern technology is the ‘knowledge’, made unnecessary at least in principle by sat-navs and sat-nav apps, though there is still room for further development on these. But at least in theory they can determine best routes making use of real-time traffic information. An car magazine recently conducted a very unscientific test of black cab, Uber and the writer’s car with an up to the minute sat-nav on a London journey, and the journalist’s satnav – evidently a better one than that in the Uber – won. And despite the ‘knowledge’ many taxi drivers seem to have and use a sat-nav, or at least the “Cabbies Mate” App .

Learning the ‘knowledge’ is certainly a good way to learn your way around London, but largely retained as a method of entry control to the trade. It’s part of the reason why London’s cabs are still largely driven by white British drivers while most private hire drivers come from various BAME communities. The United Private Hire Drivers union (UPHD) would appear to have a good case in claiming that TfL’s decision to apply the congestion charge to minicabs but not to taxis is discriminatory, though it remains to be seen what the court will make of it.

The UPHD also claim that private hire drivers are four times as likely to be stopped by TfL’s enforcement officers “than taxi drivers despite consistently better compliance performance on a licensed driver & vehicle basis. ”

THe UPHD is a part of the IWGB (Independent Workers Great Britain) one of several grass roots unions which are leading the fight for precarious workers in various sectors , including cleaners, cycle couriers and foster carers. As well as this campaign against TfL and the congestion charge, they are also fighting Uber for proper employment rights for the drivers, who are clearly workers for the company rather than self-employed.

Since 2016, successive judgements from the UK’s Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal have all said Uber drivers are being unlawfully denied basic worker rights, such as the minimum wage and holiday pay. 

(IWGB web sute)

The union says drivers currently only earn around £5 per hour and are demanding an increase in fares to £2 per mile, a reduction in Uber’s commission from 25% to 15% and an end to unfair dismissals.

We need to reduce traffic and congestion in London, though the congestion charge is a blunt instrument and unfairly discriminates against less wealthy car drivers. For all private hire vehicles – taxis and minicabs – a per fare surchage paid by the customer would be a better solution. We need to give far more encouragement to cycling and walking, by providing safe routes and also by changes to some traffic laws and road design to give cyclists and pedestrians priority; more bus-only routes (or rather bus and cycle routes), and greater subsidies for buses, trams and local underground and overground trains; to set dates before very long when non-electirc powered vehicles are banned for our cities .

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images