‘Car-free’ zones planned for London to continue social distancing after COVID-19 lockdowns ease

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) have announced plans to transform parts of central London into one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world.

The plans will create more space for social distancing when walking and cycling and ensuring that the people who have no choice but to return to work in central London, can do so safely, according to a news release posted to the mayor of London’s website.

Some streets will be converted to walking and cycling only, with others restricted to all traffic apart from buses, as part of the mayor’s latest Streetspace measures.

More than half a million people work in the City of London and changes are being made to the historic streets to make room for social distancing for employees and support the economy.

The mayor’s air quality program, including the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), had already contributed to a reduction of forty-four percent in roadside nitrogen dioxide in central London between Feb. 2017 and Jan. 2020, according to the mayor’s website.

To prevent London’s roads from instantly becoming congested, TfL has confirmed that the Congestion Charge and ULEZ will be reintroduced on May 18. These programs assist to reduce congestion, pollution, and help tackle the climate emergency. The Low Emission Zone, which discourages the use of trucks and large vans, will also be reintroduced at the same time.

“Covid-19 poses the biggest challenge to London’s public transport network in TfL’s history,” Khan said. “It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.”

“We will need many more Londoners to walk and cycle to make this work,” Khan continued. “That’s why these plans will transform parts of central London to create one of the largest car-free areas in any capital city in the world. If we want to make transport in London safe, and keep London globally competitive, then we have no choice but to rapidly repurpose London’s streets for people.”

“I fully appreciate that this will be incredibly difficult for many Londoners,” Khan said. “It will mean a fundamental reimagining how we live our lives in this city. And this transformation will not be smooth. But I promise to be as clear and upfront with Londoners as possible about what we are doing, why and exactly what we need from you in order to keep us safe.”