Boris: clean up your act, and our air

Years ago, when I worked at the Sports Council (then based directly opposite Euston station) one of my athletic colleagues used to run along to Regent’s Park each lunchtime, do some circuits, and then jog back to the office in a healthy glow.

That is, until he read the report that the benzene levels in the air along the Euston Road were way above World Health Organisation recommended levels. If it was a workplace it would be shut down. As it is, we all have to put up with it.

(Any smokers huddling for a puff outside pubs and offices on the Euston Road probably qualify for some kind of award for surviving the multiple carcinogenic intake).

There may always be heavy traffic on the Euston Road, but that doesn’t have to mean heavy pollution. The proposed Low Emission Zone would have helped achieve that. And you think that Boris would want to help; after all cyclists are in the frontline when it comes to suffering from vehicle pollution.

But no. As my colleague Jo Shaw reports, “Last week while everyone was struggling to get into work (or not) Boris Johnson cancelled the third phase of the Low Emission Zone, which was proposed to come into force in October 2010, and would have required smaller vehicles (vans, taxis etc) to clean up their act a bit.”

Is this the first reported case of burying bad news in a snowdrift?

Anyway, we were having none of it. So this lunchtime – armed with a ‘Clean up your act, Boris’ banner and assorted face masks – there we were: a crowd of cyclists, mums, community activists and Lib Dems laid our lungs on the line, and protested in the middle of the Euston Road (on the traffic island helpfully provided by TfL).

Residents around Kings Cross have quite enough to put up with, without filthy air too. 200 kilometres of inner London roads woefully fail European minimum standards for pollution – including Euston Road and Pentonville Road. More than a thousand Londoners die early each year because of the effects of air pollution.

Diesel engines in taxis and vans are the main causes of toxic particulate pollution – this aggravates asthma, and causes cancer and heart disease, and other health problems. Environmental campaigners highlight that Euston Road has one of the highest concentrations of these pollutants in the area.

Added to the congestion, we have taxis idling outside Kings Cross & St Pancras station, diesel-powered trains inside – and a toxic canyon of diesel bus fumes up York Way. Small wonder that residents want a safer, cleaner way to get from Islington to the redeveloped Kings Cross.

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1 Comment »

  1. Councillor Andrew Cornwell said

    Shocking decision from Boris. I noticed he justified it by referring to the extra costs that would be loaded onto businesses in recession – surely a case there for a package of incentive measures to help small businesses green their fleets, while aiding the struggling motor industry.

    It has to be said that Ken Livingstone’s Low Emission Zone was always a bit of a cop out because it excluded so many vehicles, including private cars. Plenty of diesels and older polluting models among them.

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