During a tube strike earlier this year, a doctor told me that he and some of his colleagues had a glimpse of hope in the heart of London. For a day or two, the city was walking and riding bikes en-masse. It was fantastic, he said, if only the city kept it up, London might be a healthy place to live. But, the only time this happens is at the convenience of a tube strike.
It is interesting the watch all the reason’s to cycle in the city roll in. I mean, just a 6 mile commute is essentially half an hour of exercise a day – and if it’s a nice day, well, why not go for a spin round the park. Now, doctors have said cycling (and walking) more would help save £10bn on the NHS on the cost of diabetes alone. Factor in all the other health benefits of cycling … apparently, even in London, the health costs outweigh the chances of falling victim the inept infrastructure and terrible driving discipline.
Earlier this year, there was a horror story around London where some sand had been carried over here and placed a layer of dust over everything. . This happened at the same time London (as it reguarly does) went below what is supposed to be its minimum air-level quality. Bloody foreign sand coming over here, mixing with our disgusting air, etc. London was told to stay in doors; don’t breathe the air; take public transport. Anybody who cycles in London knows how foul the air gets without the Saharan sand – the Saharan sand just made the problem visible. Banal pollution is the problem, not these individual moments where things are made visible.
In Paris, they made public transport free and banned certain cars from the city centre. Perhaps there were some suggestions people might take a bike out, too, but I can’t say – I wasn’t there. But, trying to cut the traffic of the city and encourage more communal modes of transport seems to have worked at least .
Why didn’t we try any of this in London? Our current mayor has actually made the congestion charge zone smaller, thus making it bigger. He does nothing when the levels (frequently) go below really-shockingly-bad levels, except telling people to stay indoors. It’s his free-market ideology, perhaps, that we shouldn’t really do anything to limit pollution.
Boris Johnson has been long established as a joke, but I finally know which one: President Scroob from Spaceballs.