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London is transforming its center into a car-free zone to create more distancing when it reopens

“We will need many more Londoners to walk and cycle to make this work.”

London is transforming its center into a car-free zone to create more distancing when it reopens
[Photo: Amarjeet Singh Hardeepsingh/iStock]
在线看的免费网站黄2019 of the plans today. “That’s why these plans will transform parts of central London to create one of the largest car-free areas in any capital city in the world.”

Some streets in the city’s financial center will be limited to cyclists and pedestrians, while others will also allow buses, but no cars. (Emergency vehicles and vehicles for those who are disabled will still be allowed.) London Bridge and another nearby bridge may also be restricted to buses and people on foot or bike. While the size of the area covered has not yet been released, it appears to cover the entirety of the city’s central “Square Mile.”

在线看的免费网站黄2019The city is widening sidewalks and adding bike lanes in other areas, and working with boroughs—the neighborhood governments that control most of the city’s streets—to consider similar car-free zones in other parts of the sprawling city. It’s also reintroducing its congestion charge, a fee that drivers have to pay to enter the central city.

Without the right infrastructure, many commuters will turn to cars, and the city wants to avoid a steep increase in congestion and pollution. “What we’re seeing from elsewhere in the world is we do face a situation which is a lot of people are going to go toward cars if we don’t give them a decent alternative,” says Simon Munk, infrastructure campaigner at the nonprofit . “So I think most politicians, most people in London, recognize we’re now in a race in terms of getting loads of cycle schemes. . . . I think there’s a widespread recognition now across the political spectrum in London that we do not want to go back to the levels of motor traffic that we saw before, and the air pollution and road danger and inactivity and climate emissions that came with that.”

The city is still under lockdown, but COVID-19 cases are falling, and there is a short window of time to prepare before the economy reopens. “We don’t know yet how many people can work from home,” Munk says. “We don’t know how many people want to go back. What we do know is when [Prime Minister] Boris Johnson started talking easing the lockdown, almost instantly, the bus and tube services that were running were overwhelmed, and the images were terrifying. So it’s a very delicate situation.”

Other cities, including Milan, are also racing to add space for pedestrians and cyclists to prepare for shrinking public transit. Paris is accelerating plans to build long-distance bike lanes for suburban commuters. In the U.S., on a smaller scale, Seattle now plans to permanently limit traffic on some streets在线看的免费网站黄2019 that were closed when the pandemic began. In some cases, cities were already moving to reduce traffic, but the pandemic transformed timelines. “We’ve been talking about it for years and years and years, if not decades, but very little of London has gone car-free,” says Munk. “So for the mayor to be talking about the size of area he’s talking about, that’s a huge change.”

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About the author

在线看的免费网站黄2019Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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