Leo MurrayMon 4 Nov 2019 10.37 GMT
West Country asthmatics breathed a deep sigh of relief last week, as Bristol city council unveiled long-awaited plans for a clean air zone in the city. The proposals would see a total daytime ban (from 7am to 3pm) on diesel vehicles entering a small central zone – a first in the UK, though increasingly common across the continent – plus a new charge for entering a wider area.
If approved tomorrow, the scheme will come into force in 2021. It cannot come too soon for Bristol’s most vulnerable residents: illegally poor air quality currently contributes to 333 annual premature deaths from respiratory illnesses in the city.
Preliminary results from a similar scheme in London, the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ), are even better than expected, with toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions down by nearly a third, demonstrating that this approach can really work. In one respect, Bristol’s plan goes one better, as its proposed scrappage scheme – financial compensation for ditching old diesel vehicles – includes an option, unlike London’s, to redeem value against an electric bicycle or on public transport.
But one curious feature of the plans exposes Bristol’s clean air zone as a microcosm of national policy paralysis, and demonstrates a collective failure of imagination on transport and the environment. The city intends to charge commercial diesel vehicles including buses for entering the wider clean air zone – while exempting private cars. They argue that charging private motorists would disproportionately affect low-income households that depend on their cars to get around, and in the absence of alternatives this is undoubtedly true.
But this is exactly the wrong way of thinking about the problem. A fifth of children in Bristol are in low-income families, and are far less likely to have access to a car than their better-off peers. Leaving the streets filled with dirty cars means throwing these children under the SUV. What is required is urgent action to ensure that nobody in Bristol is dependent on their cars for mobility.
This is the heart of the issue. The years of foot-dragging and buck-passing between central government and city authorities on air quality are just one aspect of a fundamental societal intransigence. At every level of government, politicians have been too blinkered and cowardly to challenge the primacy of the private car as the dominant mode of transport in Britain.
I applaud Bristol for banning diesel vehicles. But why not ban all private cars? | Leo Murray | Opinion | The Guardian
Leo MurrayMon 4 Nov 2019 10.37 GMT West Country asthmatics breathed a deep sigh of relief last week, as Bristol city council unveiled long-awaited plans for a clean air zone in the city. The proposals would see a total daytime ban (from 7am to 3pm) on diesel vehicles entering a small central zone – a… [Read More]