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Khan warns of GRIDLOCKED ROADS and FILTHY AIR if Londoners continue to avoid public transport

Image credit: Greater London Authority/Caroline Teo

The Mayor of London has warned London could face GRIDLOCKED ROADS and FILTHY AIR if Londoner's don’t cycle, walk or return to public transport.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has revealed that unless efforts increase to deliver a green, sustainable recovery from the pandemic, the capital could move from one public health and economy crisis to another.

Throughout the pandemic, the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have brought in measures aiming to aid active travel and curb car use. The Mayor and London’s boroughs transformed key road networks to increase the space for people to walk and cycle.

During the peak of the coronavirus pandemic public transport ridership plummeted by 95% and is currently still significantly behind pre-pandemic levels, with buses at 70% of normal demand and Tubes at 55%.

Much to the dismay of City Hall, car use has been more stable than public transport, and has been the fastest mode of transport to recover to near-normal levels of use after each lockdown, with data showing it has been close to pre-pandemic levels for much of the latter half of 2021.

Worryingly for the Mayor and TfL, the overall number of trips made by walking, cycling and public transport in 2020 is estimated to have fallen to 58.3% compared to 63.2% in 2019. This shows that despite the push for more active and sustainable travel, as part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, it has reduced by nearly 5% over the pandemic. This is attributed to a higher proportion of trips now being driven.

Data from external providers shows that as the number of vehicle miles has increased, so too has the time lost by drivers to traffic. TomTom data shows that in 2017 an average of 144 hours per year, per driver, were spent sitting in traffic - almost 20 minutes extra for a 30-minute trip during the evening rush hour. In 2018, this increased to 147 hours, and in 2019, to 149 hours per year. This equates to 6 days and 5 hours in total for an average London driver. In 2020, traffic was much reduced, but Londoners still spent an extra 15 minutes per 30 minute trip driving because of congestion – 115 hours per year. INRIX data shows a similar trend, with 148 hours lost a year by drivers on average in 2021.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Whilst we have made huge strides in increasing walking and cycling in London throughout the pandemic, car use has remained consistently high. If we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future we will replace one public health crisis with another – caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads.

“The cost to both Londoners and the capital cannot be underestimated, with days wasted stuck in traffic, billions lost to the economy and increased road danger and health impacts. Most traffic is caused simply by there being too great a demand for limited street space, meaning the only long-term solution can be to significantly reduce car use in favour of greener means of travel.”


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