Here’s a pretty sobering fact: approximately 9,500 people die every year in London due to air pollution. Isn’t that staggering? In fact, as this article is being written, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has issued a toxic air alert along with a public health emergency warning set to last until Friday. Londoners, keep your babies inside!
However shocking that may be, it’s at least shocked the city into action. Sadiq Khan has pledged to spend 770 million pounds on bike initiatives throughout the city during his five-year office term – that’s over a billion Aussie bucks (thank you Google for assisting with the conversion of a ridiculous amount of zeros)! To put that into terms all of us bike geeks can get involved with, it amounts to around 17 pound per head, which rivals the per-head spending of Denmark and The Netherlands – respect!
Kinda surprisingly, that’s almost double what his predecessor spent on cycling. For those of you familiar with Boris Johnson (he of the ‘Boris Bike’ fame), you’ll know this is no small feat – you don’t get the word ‘bike’ in your nickname by not being pretty crazy about these two-wheeled contraptions!
Anyway, money talk aside, it’s an obvious solution in combating this problem. The most serious offender in the air pollution ranks is nitrogen dioxide (CO2), caused by motor vehicle exhaust. You see where this is going, yeah? By reducing the amount of cars on the road (by, say, cycling instead), you in turn reduce levels of CO2. It’s a clear win-win sitch.
A good chunk of the money would go towards the creation of two new cycle superhighways, infrastructure that keeps cyclists largely protected from traffic. To date, Londoners have eight of these, with the two most successful having caused a 55% increase in cycling numbers on these routes. That translates as more bikes than cars on the road in peak periods in those areas – next stop, world domination?! The proposed new cycle superhighways would be among the longest in London, so at least ‘city domination’ could be in reach. Other initiatives include ‘mini-Holland’ schemes, which involve reducing through-traffic in the suburbs with partial road closes and traffic calming measures, and a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Thames in East London.
Do we smell revolution in the air? Is this the beginning of a massive cultural shift? Let’s get our optimism on – viva el bike!