Hooray! The City Council has made a good move banning diesel cars from the city centre. It’s a start and a brave one. From 2021 none will be allowed to enter during daylight hours and similarly powered taxis, buses and lorries will have to pay a charge on a size dependent scale.
It might inconvenience some of us but is a price worth paying. The Council’s open data website shows that we are all breathing very polluted air in thick clusters around the centre, which spreads like a spider’s web along the main arteries to all points of the city’s outer suburbs. If you doubt the evidence, try cycling up Park Street in rush hour when you can be sure of being joined by plenty of buses, taxis, the occasional lorry and the normal stream of cars. Of course you’ll be puffing a bit at the top, but it won’t be the steepness of the hill that’ll be closing off your airways but the badly polluted air inflaming them.
Of course we all need to use public transport as much as we can if we want travel in our city to be sustainable. Streets choked with cars are no fun for anyone, but that does not give buses, lorries or taxis carte blanche to pollute. They too must run on clean energy, so let’s hope the daily £100 charge will incentivize their owners to get to work and make it happen as soon as possible.
I mentioned banning diesel cars as a start, but I think we need to go a lot further to improve the quality of our lives and the air we breathe. The challenge is overcoming the practical and emotional barriers to giving up car dependency. Unfortunately our default position tends to lock us in to the fear of what we might loose rather than the gains. Luckily we are good at accepting the need for change. Ten years ago for example, it would have been political suicide to issue a diesel ban, but now that we voters understand more about air pollution and sustainability, the Council has considered it safe to do so.
We are not ready yet to accept a ban on all cars and fossil fuel powered vehicles in the centre, but give us another ten years and who knows what we might agree to. Just imagine if we did allow it. We would be able to hear the birds, cross roads safely, be fitter and healthier and our streets could revert to being the social venues they used to be before being taken over so relentlessly by motor traffic.
One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in December 2019.