The Daily Telegraph covered the alleged “culture war” caused by road closures in Islington today. The article said: “The leader of Islington council, Richard Watts, hit back at suggestions that the road closure plans were ‘anti-working class’, writing on Twitter: ‘Car ownership in inner-London is linked to income. The richer you are, the more likely you are to own a car. The truth is we’re stopping affluent people polluting working class communities’.
Eliska Finlay, who lives in Crystal Palace, where further demonstrations have been taking place, claimed that the changes have led to a ‘culture war. People are being singled out and targeted for having cars’, the 45-year-old mother of two said”.
It’s certainly true that most of the local councils that are closing roads, as opposed to just putting in over Covid-19 measures such as widening pavements and installing cycle lanes, are left-wing, Labour dominated councils.
Are Labour councillors attacking wealthy car owners indirectly by closing roads? Perhaps but in reality they are often attacking their own electorate because it’s not just the wealthy who drive vehicles. In Lewisham for instance it’s about 50% of households who own a car and if you walk the streets of Lewisham as I have done, you won’t find many expensive vehicles. Road closures attack workers such as plumbers plus other service occupations, and social service workers who need vehicles to quickly get around the people they help. They also attack delivery drivers who deliver the goods we need, often to people undertaking self-isolation at present.
Richard Watts is surely just rationalising a view that all vehicles should be banned and turning Islington into a ghetto of poor people and the healthy young who can cycle because even the middle classes won’t want to live there as vehicles are so essential for so many purposes. That’s unless you want to be restricted to short walking and cycling distances or using public transport and have no incapacities.
If you actually look at air quality in Islington, the minor roads only contribute 6% of NOX emissions, whereas 20% comes from gas boilers. Buses and coaches also contribute 38% whereas cars only contribute 28% (source: Islington Air Quality Strategy 2019-2023). One could argue that it is the public transport users who are polluting the most!
We surely need to have less divisive politics which can cope with the needs and preferences of more than just one segment of the population.
The Telegraph article is here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/11/coronavirus-road-closurescreating-culture-war-residents-warn/
Roger’s blog first appeared on his ABD London website