London local authorities and the promotion of Car Free Day 2019

Here we present a round-up of Car Free Day (22 September 2019) promotional tweets from London local authorities, as posted chronologically between mid-morning on Wednesday 18 September and mid-day on Tuesday 24 September 2019. It may not be a definitive list (although it is hoped that few, if any, tweets have been missed).

Any retweets that boroughs may have made in regard to Car Free Day are not included, unless these were retweeted as a quote. Meanwhile, tweets from Greenwich, in relation to the borough’s own Car Free Day held on Saturday 21 September 2019, the day prior to World Car Free Day, are included though (well done Greenwich)!

LondonLocalAuthoritiesAndThePromotionOfCarFreeDay2019__20190922_IMG_5639_v1This round-up is not intended as a critique of individual London boroughs. It is simply a time-stamp of how boroughs used one channel of social media, Twitter, to promote “London’s biggest ever Car Free Day” (the description used by the Mayor of London on 22 September 2019).

Essentially, all this round-up of tweets does is to highlight a certain degree of engagement from various London boroughs towards Car Free Day through their Twitter accounts. This is just a snap-shot in time, nothing more.

Before we take a look at the tweets, it is worth remembering that the purpose of a Car Free Day is not about an outright ban of the use of cars, as clearly thought by some respondents to the consultation on Sutton’s Air Quality Action Plan 2019-2023 (with quotes replicated below), but rather toΒ provide an opportunity for us to reimagine our streets. If the opportunity is taken, this should help take the conversation forward.

Extracts from ‘Air Quality Action Plan 2019-2023:Β Appendix B Reasons for Not Pursuing Action Plan Measures’:

β€œCar Free Days. Not always practical if an emergency occurs.”
β€œWe have areas in the borough where you cannot drive car down. By having car free day will result in increase in traffic elsewhere causing added unnecessary air pollution.”
β€œPublic transport is unreliable and expensive-as a person who has to move employment site within 20 mins, I would not be able to do this on PT.”
β€œWhat a ridiculous suggestion. I have a disabled child who needs to get to appointments and I rely on having access to a vehicle to make it possible for us to get there. This could be any day of the week.”

Car free days are not about the closure of streets per se, either, but rather about the opening of streets to people and the closure of streets to through traffic.

Car free days are about trying something different, and trying something different includes Play Streets and School Streets (and, yes, possibly dancing as well) on a trail basis. And the context of trying something different, as far as Sutton is concerned (although the stat does not vary much across London), is that over half of all car journeys in Sutton are for distances of less than 5 km (3 miles) [Cycling Strategy, LB of Sutton, November 2015]. If the Mayor of London’s target for 80 per cent of trips across London to be made by active, efficient and sustainable modes by 2041 has any chance of being met, then it is time to break the driving habit for some of our local journeys. (In Sutton, the target is for 63 per cent of all trips by 2041 to be made by walking, cycling and public transport (currently 45 or 46 per cent), see Sutton’s third Local Implementation Plan receives approval).

Car free days are not about preventing people from driving either, but they are are about raising awareness of a number of issues. Issues such as public health concerns around air pollution and inactivity. Raising awareness can, as mentioned by Harrow Council in a tweet on 20 September (#16 in our list), simply involve providing a reminder to switch off your car engine whilst parked-up (see the ‘Be an idol, don’t idol’ campaign from MumsForLungs).

[Sunday Politics London, 22 September 2019: Presenter Elizabeth Glinka, guests Susan Hall AM, Deputy Leader, London Assembly, Conservatives; Wes Streeting MP, Labour, Ilford North. Reporter Richard Tudor interviewing Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London]

So, having set the scene, let’s take a look at the Car Free Day tweets for Sunday 22 September 2019, as posted by local authorities across London, between mid-morning on Tuesday 19 September and mid-day on Tuesday 24 September.

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Leaving the last word to the Mayor of London:

But clearly, the Mayor needs the boroughs, the councillors, and us, as residents and users of the streets, to play our part too.

For our part, we hope that low-traffic neighbourhoods will soon feature extensively across suburban London. And for more about that, see our next post…. ‘Anticipating Sutton’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods funding bid‘ (25 September 2019).

v1: 24.09.2019; v1.1 29.09.2019 (added details of Sunday Politics Live (BBC One, 22 September 2019, plus link to ‘Anticipating Sutton’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods funding bid).

Posted in Advocacy

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