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British Medical Association asks Mayor of London to introduce permanent network of traffic-free arterial routes

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that 12 miles (20km) of roads will be closed to cars in Central London on September 22. Boroughs will also hold events promoting walking, cycling and public transport. “I encourage as many Londoners as possible to join in the fun and see the city from a different perspective,” said Khan.

World Car-Free Day takes place every year on or around September 22. When Paris first had a car-free day in 2015, Airparif, which measures city pollution levels, said levels of nitrogen dioxide dropped by up to 40 per cent in parts of the city, while there was almost one-third less nitrogen dioxide pollution on the Champs Elyées compared to a similar Sunday.

The Guardian reports that this year in London roads will be closed around London Bridge, Tower Bridge and across much of the City of London.

“London is leading the way in innovative measures to improve air pollution and I want this year’s Car Free Day events to be the best of any world city," said Khan.

"This will be a great opportunity for us all to leave our cars behind and explore our streets by foot, or by bike.

"We’ve called our range of events ‘Reimagine’ so that Londoners get an idea of what some of the busiest parts of our city would be like without cars and traffic.”

Areeba Hamid of Greenpeace UK said: “It’s exciting to see London adopting the idea of having a car-free day, something great cities across the world from Paris to Bogotá have been giving a try … Reducing toxic air pollution and carbon emissions are vital, but they are far from the only benefit of reclaiming our streets.”

Dr Audrey de Nazelle, an academic at the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, said: “Being aware of the scale of air pollution health problems is not enough. Actually living the joys of a car-free or carless city will do much more to create a positive vision of what a future healthy London could be like.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) has written to Khan, urging him to go further. As well as urging him to bring forward the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) the doctors’ union suggests creating a network of arterial routes only open to "green" forms of public transport.

“Taking action in this way not only helps to decrease levels of pollution, but also provides an opportunity to improve the health and fitness of Londoners through encouraging active travel, such as walking and cycling.”

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