As if we didn’t already know, the government-funded Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants has reported a definite link between exhaust emissions and the rise in dementia.
No doubt there will be calls to ban cars, and higher taxation for the worst gas-guzzlers. But the worst gas-guzzling is caused by traffic control.
Traffic lights prevent infinite low-speed, low-rev filtering opportunities. When lights fail, and we are free to use commonsense to merge more or less in turn, congestion disappears. I’ve witnessed it across central London, e.g. in November 2007 and February 2008. Never was it more pleasant to cycle along Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly. Cab drivers smiled and waved you on. People rediscovered their humanity and made common cause. Above all, there was an absence of traffic. Free to disperse of its own accord, it vanished into thin air.
I emailed Dave Wetzel, then vice-chair of TfL. He checked with his officers. They said they had erected cordons to prevent traffic from entering the affected areas. I contacted a Chief Inspector contact at the Met. He investigated and replied that no such action had been taken. So TfL officers were lying. This has never been exposed before, except on the Improperganda page of this website.
As I wrote in No Idle Matter in 2007 (reprinted 2011), the stop-restart drive cycle produced by traffic control multiplies emissions by a factor of four. Since then, I found a University engineering professor who says the factor is as much as 29.
So the quick win is to switch off most traffic lights and let us filter. The immediate reduction in emissions will be at least 50%.