Everyone who lives in, works in, or visits London depends on its roads and streets. They serve to move us around the city. They provide spaces where we can work, trade, meet, play, relax and exercise. They are vital to London’s ongoing success as a welcoming and creative global city.
In many respects London has, over recent years, done a good job in maintaining and improving its surface transport system. The capital has a uniquely rich and varied public realm. After decades of neglect, this has seen relatively large scale investment, with extensive programmes of traffic calming, pavement widening, tree planting and pedestrianisation. The capital has invested heavily in its rail services, so relieving demands on the road network, but also in bus services and cycling infrastructure. The Congestion Charge was widely acclaimed when it was first introduced, as an innovative and effective way of managing road space in a crowded city centre. As a result, more and more of us have given up on our private cars and are getting around on trains, buses and, to a lesser extent, by bicycle.
But as London’s population grows so its roads and streets are under intense and intensifying pressure. Congestion is on the rise. Air pollution, road safety and the cost of travel are all major public concerns. And too much of the capital’s public realm still feels undervalued and neglected – a state of affairs that could easily get worse as cuts to public funding continue to bite. While new technologies have made it easier, cheaper and more enjoyable to move around the city, they have also had unexpected and unwanted effects, including increased congestion.
Against this background, this report looks at new ways of tackling the challenges facing London’s roads and streets – including congestion, pollution, safety and poor quality of place – and making the most of the potential of new technology.
During the Commission’s deliberations, the Mayor published his draft Transport Strategy, alongside his draft Environment and Housing Strategies. Together they place a strong emphasis on creating a clean, safe, efficient and sustainable transport system, attractive and walkable mixed-activity neighbourhoods, and a more reliable, enjoyable transport experience.
The draft Transport Strategy, of particular relevance, has three themes: (i) Healthy Streets and healthy people, (ii) a good public transport experience, and (iii) transport to support good growth. The Commission welcomes the powerful vision and the ambitious targets contained in this, and supports its commitment to tackling air pollution, promoting public and active travel over the private car and improving London’s street environment.
This report looks at new ways of tackling the challenges facing London’s roads and streets – including congestion, pollution, safety and poor quality of place – and making the most of the potential of new technology.
We hope that this report will help support the Mayor’s work and the work of the boroughs, by providing more detailed policy thinking than the necessarily high level Strategy provides and by addressing challenges and opportunities that perhaps need more attention than they get in the Strategy – notably the challenges and opportunities of new technology.
We also hope that this report helps identify and advances thinking on the difficult choices facing London — choices for instance, around the pricing of road use and parking. Facing up to these choices will not be painless, but the gains to the capital in doing so will be enormous.