London considers car-free days to cut back on air pollution

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The days of the London smog may be a thing of the past, but the UK’s capital still struggles to provide clean air for its growing population.

The issue has become a significant political issue and official studies have estimated premature deaths caused by toxic pollutants run into the thousands.

As a result, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has made improving air quality a main pillar of his administration.

Last week, the Mayor unveiled an environment strategy with the aim of transforming the capital into a zero-carbon city by 2050. The plan contained new measures to improve air quality, including creating zero-emission zones and planting thousands of new trees.

Mr Khan’s latest move is to consult on the possibility of banning cars from whole areas of the city to ease the pressure on its choke-filled streets.

Other major capital cities, such as Paris, have also experimented with banning cars in city centres.

“The Mayor already supports a number of car-restricted days for annual events in London, and he has asked City Hall officials to consider additional opportunities for car-free activities as part of his Healthy Streets vision,” his office told the Reuters news agency.

Older diesel vehicles wanting to drive in the city are already subject to an increased ‘Toxicity Charge’ of £10 a day, in addition to the Congestion Charge, which has been in operation since 2003.

“The Mayor is determined to do everything in his power to protect the health of Londoners and prioritise walking, cycling and public transport and reduce Londoners’ dependency on polluting cars,” the spokesperson added.

A recent World Health Organisation report found the city was in breach of guidelines for levels of particulate matter, although other major cities such as Berlin and Los Angeles were higher.

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