An Open letter to eight London borough leaders on climate and active travel

Dear leaders of London boroughs of Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Harrow, Havering, Sutton and Westminster,

We write as committee members and activists of borough cycling groups that are part of the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) to ask you to urgently replace words with deeds when it comes to active travel (walking, wheeling and cycling) and the climate crisis.

We welcome the current Conservative government’s policies on climate and active travel (notably commitments to: reduce emissions by 78% of 1990 levels by 2035, decarbonise the economy by 2050; and ensure half of urban journeys are walked or cycled by 2030; as well as DfT documents such as Gear Change: A Bold Vision for Cycling & Walking, the updated Traffic Management Act guidance, and Active travel: Local Authority Toolkit), as much as we welcome the Labour Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy and acceleration of it in commitment to a zero carbon London by 2030.

With 95% of London’s roads in control of boroughs, such as yours, for the Government and Mayor to achieve their goals they need action from you. Most London boroughs have declared a climate emergency, but far too many – despite climate and active travel plans – are failing to turn words into appropriately urgent and bold deeds. And that includes your borough.

Just as good policy on transport and climate cuts across party lines and location, so does inaction on these issues. Those in London failing their residents on these issues include council leaders from different political parties, and in different areas of outer and inner London too. And your inaction doesn’t just hamstring the government and Mayor but also fails residents who face a ‘postcode lottery’ of action on global issues and local health and quality of life between boroughs that act, and those that do not.

London boroughs and leaders have clear examples of best practice, backed by good evidence, in our city and beyond, of what works and what doesn’t. Yet our boroughs’ leaders – you – have thus far consistently omitted to take action that delivers emissions reductions, i.e. by facilitating large shifts of mode of transport away from use of private motor vehicles; and have weakened, removed or not implemented active travel promotion/car traffic reduction schemes, apparently out of fear of being unpopular among some voters. All while the climate crisis accelerates and we see worsening impacts of unnecessary motor traffic on our streets in terms of pollution, inactivity, road danger and of course carbon emissions. These impacts necessitate bold action on active travel and public transport as a top priority, rather than relying in hope on a switch to electric cars that simply cannot deliver the steep cuts in carbon emissions demanded by the latest IPCC reports (as well as leaving problems such as road danger and the health costs of inactivity unaddressed).

As the 5 May elections approach, many residents are demanding action on climate and active travel. Yet according to the London Boroughs Healthy Streets Scorecard, all of your boroughs lag behind on these issues. You have an opportunity to catch up – by committing to the London Cycling Campaign’s ‘Climate Safe Streets’ asks, as developed with us, the local groups. Each borough has asks designed to reflect their unique situation and what is needed over the next four years to begin to catch-up on climate, cycling, walking and wheeling. Please commit to these asks today.

lcc.org.uk/climate

Yours,

  • John Wood, Coordinator, Bromley Cyclists
  • Charles Harvey, Coordinator, Barnet Cycling Campaign
  • Paul McQuillen, Bexley Cyclists
  • Chris King and Walker Syachalinga, Climate Safe Streets Champions for Greenwich
  • Tony Levene, Harrow Cyclists
  • Terry Hughes, Coordinator, Havering Cyclists
  • Andrew Stevens, Climate Safe Streets Champion for Get Sutton Cycling
  • Marc Rothman, Climate Safe Streets Champion for Westminster Cycling Campaign

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