Damian Whitworth, Francis Elliott, Political Editor
March 11 2017, 12:01am,
Cars should be banned from roads near schools to reduce air pollution and to force parents to walk their children to school, the mayor of London has said.
Sadiq Khan compared modern politicians who were indifferent to “killer” air pollution to previous generations who were aware of the health risks of smoking but did nothing.
Speaking to The Times, Mr Khan accused Philip Hammond, the chancellor, of ducking action on taxing the most polluting vehicles off the roads in this week’s budget, but he stopped short of following cities like Paris and Madrid in proposing to ban diesel cars.
Instead, Mr Khan is targeting the school run to put himself at the head of efforts against what he has identified as a critical emerging political issue. “The reason why I’m so angry about this and it’s a priority for me is that the science and the evidence is unarguable and yet it appears the government is ignoring it,” he said in an interview published today.
“Forty or fifty years ago we thought smoking was bad and yet our forbears took no action. We know air quality is a killer, it makes you sick and no action has been taken. It’s a health emergency.
“You can’t play politics with people’s lives and people’s health. Every day action is delayed it means another young person breathing in this toxic air, an older person having breathing problems because of the poor quality of the air and literally people die.”
From his office in City Hall, Mr Khan is limited in what he can do directly but has made protecting children a priority. He has provided cash for 50 primary schools in the most polluted areas to take simple measures like relocating entrances away from busy roads.
He wants boroughs to follow the examples set by Camden and the City of London and ban cars from some roads around schools.
“Why can’t we work with schools and councils to have some roads outside schools where cars aren’t allowed to go? Really encourage mums, dads, carers and children to walk to school. It will be safer and you are not breathing in toxic air when playing in the playground.”
Mr Khan stopped short of committing to banning all diesel cars as some other mayors of major cities have done. “Some cities are talking about banning diesel by 2025. I am not prepared to wait that long. By the way, there is no road map for how they get from here to banning diesel. Some of the new diesel is better than some of the old petrol. I think it is a bit simplistic and crude [to ban diesel vehicles].”