The Government, to its great shame, has supported road closure schemes while hiding behind councils.
TELEGRAPH VIEW23 January 2021 • 10:00pm
Last week saw a powerful victory in the High Court for drivers, when Mrs Justice Lang ruled that Sadiq Khan and Transport for London had taken “advantage of the pandemic” to wage what one might call a war on cars.
If they had proceeded “more cautiously” with road closures and cycle lanes, and on the basis of evidence “rather than conjecture”, their plans might have served a purpose. What they produced instead was “unfair” and “irrational”, designed to “transform” parts of London into car-free zones.
Local authorities have seized upon the coronavirus – cynically exploiting a human tragedy – to carve out their vision of a post-car fantasy, regardless of the impact upon the elderly, the disabled, emergency services, business, taxis or residents who suddenly find a short journey is transformed into a lengthy crawl down a single carriageway. Often past an enlarged cycle lane with no bicycles in it.
We have seen a similar policy in a number of other cities across Britain, with major changes being imposed without thought or meaningful consultation.
The fight continues: Mr Khan is appealing, and at least 10 groups across the country are seeking a judicial review next month to try to overturn road closures and pop-up cycle lanes. The Government, to its great shame, has supported these schemes while hiding behind councils.
It should now rethink and realise that while it’s a great idea to make walking and cycling easier, this should not come at the expense of motorists. It can be done, but it will take time and cost money; and the best way to reduce emissions is to electrify cars, not ban them. In the meantime, the vast majority of these “temporary”, supposedly Covid-related road schemes should be reversed, and only permitted when there is clear evidence of support–as with a local referendum – that extends beyond the road immediately affected. This is the one culture war that the Tories have so far been on the wrong side of.