“Adam Smith excoriated the man of system who tries to control people and suppress human individuality and freedom”. That’s from a book by Jesse Norman serialised this week on Radio 4. So I reckon the answer to the question, Would Adam Smith have despised traffic control is YES!
Medics have called for hospital managers who ignored their warnings about Lucy Letby to face corporate manslaughter charges. Just as, in these pages, I have suggested that traffic managers and ministers should face such charges. Despite my analysis, reform proposals and lobbying, they continue to pursue a system that costs lives and costs the earth.
The idea that Sadiq Khan would distort the findings of Imperial College about the effects of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, or that Imperial’s research could be “bought” smacks to me of conspiracy theory. What I do know is that hitting drivers with yet more punitive regulation is bad news. And letting drivers merge more or less in turn at low speeds and low revs on Equality Streets, giving way to other road-users who were there first, would improve air quality faster than all the high-cost regulation currently in force.
The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimates that 43,000 Britons over 30 die every year as a result of air pollution, writes the Telegraph, part of a global annual toll of premature deaths that the WHO puts at a staggering seven million. Long-term exposure to airborne pollutants has been reliably linked to an increase in cancer, asthma, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline and dementia. A 2019 study found that schoolchildren in more polluted areas were 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression by the age of 18. The Royal College of Physicians estimates that the cost of UK air pollution – healthcare, lost days at work, etc – runs to more than £20bn a year. COMEAP chair Professor Anna Hansell notes, ‘studies show that air pollution adds to health risks even at low concentrations.’
Coroner Philip Barlow delivered an historic verdict on the death of 10 year-old Ella Aloo-Kissi-Debrah: ‘Air pollution was a significant contributory factor … During her illness from 2010 to 2013 she was exposed to levels of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and particulate matter in excess of WHO guidelines. The main source of her exposure was traffic emissions.’
Roads in and out of London are, of course, riddled with traffic lights that maximise congestion and emissions.
ULEZ has cut NO2 levels in the capital significantly, reports the Telegraph. Air quality monitoring at Hither Green Lane and Catford, near Ella Aloo-Kissi-Debrah’s home, show NO2 has fallen by over 50% since 2012, with half that taking place since it became part of the ULEZ. So it seems that ULEZ has helped cut NO2 by about 25%. Not to be sneezed at. But what reductions would Equality Streets have brought? I have claimed that allowing traffic to flow and disperse naturally can cut emissions by at least half, by eliminating the stop-restart motion caused by traffic lights. Despite countless attempts to persuade the authorities to run lights-off trials to test the case, they never agreed. Wouldn’t the job of London Mayor be handy!
Most PM2.5 – the nasty airborne particles that we inhale and can lodge in lungs, heart and bloodstream, causing all manner of disease – now comes from brake dust and tyre wear, not tailpipes, says Prof Alastair Lewis, chair of Govt independent science advisory group on air pollution. ‘So even an electric vehicle inside a ULEZ will still be emitting PM2.5.’
What he doesn’t say is that brake dust and tyre wear are maximised by traffic control and minimised by the gentle low speed filtering you get on Equality Streets.
ULEZ = paying for the right to pollute. Where is the sense in that?
Of course we want clean air but there is a way to achieve greater cuts in emissions without coercion and without pain.
You could be forgiven for thinking so. On BBC News last night, Starmer agreed that ULEZ had lost Labour the Uxbridge by-election. Quizzed by Chris Mason about next steps, Starmer said he would have to reflect, and Khan would have to reflect. Pressed for an answer, Starmer said, we will have to reflect, and the mayor will have to reflect. Oh dear, Sir Keir!
Does Sadiq Khan think he’s the only politician who wants clean air? Who doesn’t want it, O pious Mayor? There is of course a way of achieving the aim without the pain. It would bring a host of accompanying benefits too. Followers of Equality Streets know how.
Clean air, green policies and reversing the war on motorists are not mutually exclusive.
Should one of us stand against Khan at next year’s election for London Mayor? Wouldn’t it be cool to introduce a raft of workable, life-enhancing policies!
It would mean risking the £10k deposit. If you get less than 5% of the vote, you lose it. Need a backer with deep pockets, or sponsors in large number.
With my usual proposals for change. In Transport Watch.