Taking charge (how ULEZ will help clean up London's lethal air)

Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, explains why the new ULEZ will help clean up London’s toxic air

Half of London’s toxic air pollution is caused by road transport, which contributes to harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM), and it is a shameful fact that our filthy air causes dementia, asthma and harms children’s lung growth.

Across the country, toxic air leads to 40,000 premature deaths every year — imposing a financial burden of £20 billion on the economy every year.

This is one reason why the Mayor has been investing record amounts of money to change our streets to make cycling safer, easier and the most attractive option for Londoners on the go, especially for short journeys. From redesigning junctions at Old Street, Highbury Corner and Vauxhall to building high-quality cycle routes including Cycle Superhighways 4 and 9, plus new routes across the city, cycling is at the heart of Sadiq’s vision for London. Our new cycling infrastructure carries 46% of people at peak times, despite occupying only 30% of the road space.

Of course cycling alone will not clean up our filthy air and it is only one key part of the wide-ranging and ambitious plans the Mayor is putting in place.

A critical step towards reducing emissions by 45% takes place from 8 April in Central London with the introduction of the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

In the Zone

The ULEZ aims to protect Londoners’ health by discouraging the use of the most polluting vehicles and encouraging people to cycle, walk or use public transport.

It will operate in the same area as the current Congestion Charge Zone and will operate all day, every day, all year round. Most vehicles driving in the ULEZ will need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge (£12.50 for cars, vans and motorcycles, £100 for buses, coaches and lorries).

The Congestion Charge will be unchanged by the introduction of the ULEZ and will continue to apply for all eligible vehicles entering the Congestion Charge Zone.

We’ve got much wider plans ahead for the ULEZ too — and from October 2021 it will be expanded to include the inner London area, up to both the North and South Circular roads.

The Mayor is also focusing on cleaning up the transport fleet — we currently have 6,200 low emission buses on London’s roads and by December we’ll have 12 Low Emission Bus Zones in operation in some of the capital’s worst air quality hotspots.

Plus, since January last year, all new licensed black cabs must be electric, meaning new diesel cabs are no longer allowed in London. We’re also supporting the switch to electric vehicles, rolling out a rapid-charging infrastructure and funding a scrappage scheme to help micro-businesses prepare for ULEZ.

We expect these measures and the wider action we are taking will result in cleaner air for all cyclists and Londoners. A recent report predicted that, as a result of the Mayor’s action, no schools in the capital will be exposed to illegally high levels of air pollution by 2025.

We would like to thank London’s cycling community for its ongoing support for our plans to improve air quality and we promise to continue working tirelessly on making our city’s air much healthier to breathe.

This article first appeared in our Spring 2019 edition of the London Cyclists – you can find out more about out magazine here.