London Car Free Day 2019 shuts 27km of roads including Tower Bridge

22 September 2019, 18:59

A yoga session on Tower Bridge was one of many activities taking place across the capital
A yoga session on Tower Bridge was one of many activities taking place across the capital. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

More than 200 roads across central London and several boroughs were closed to traffic today in a push to make the city greener.

The capital held its biggest ever Car Free day celebration today giving Londoners the chance to reclaim the streets by walking and cycling along usually busy roads.

People enjoyed numerous activities around town, with some taking part in a yoga session on the iconic Tower Bridge and Bank junction being transformed into a festival space.

Today's event is part of Transport for London's push to make the city greener, as millions of residents are living with illegal air pollution levels.

It also comes on World Car Free Day with Paris, Brussels and Berlin among other cities who took part.

Tower and London Bridge were shut at 7am and road closures remained in place until 7pm with some traffic delays experienced elsewhere as a result.

Bank junction was almost unrecognisable as it was turned into a festival space
Bank junction was almost unrecognisable as it was turned into a festival space. Picture: PA

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan cycled across Tower Bridge and spoke after about his frustration that City Hall is only responsible for 5 per cent of the capital's road network.

Mr Khan said: "It's really important for us to re-imagine what our city could be like.

"We have persuaded boroughs across London to get involved in this and we think there's 27 kilometres in London that are now car free."

A total of 15 boroughs took part in the event, and those that did not were criticised by the Mayor for being "anti-walking" and "anti-cycling".

He continued: "I'm frustrated by some councils being anti-walking, anti-cycling. There are thousands of Londoners who die prematurely.

"We need Londoners to understand the importance of reducing the pollution on our streets."

People took to Tower Bridge for a yoga session on the road
People took to Tower Bridge for a yoga session on the road. Picture: Eleanor Broderick

Asked if he would consider permanently pedestrianising roads such as Oxford Street and Parliament Square, the Mayor replied: "One of my frustrations is that actually very few roads in London are controlled by City Hall.

"I have argued, for some time now, for the benefits of pedestrianising Parliament Square.

"I want Londoners to just imagine what is possible with fewer cars on our streets."

Mr Khan said he was committed to raising the number of journeys taken using sustainable transport to reduce the amount of pollution Londoners currently breathe in.

Sadiq Khan cycled across Tower Bridge during today's celebration
Sadiq Khan cycled across Tower Bridge during today's celebration. Picture: PA

63per cent of people travelling across the city either walk, cycle or use public transport.

The Labour mayor said he wanted to increase that number to 80% by 2041 while suggesting that national government also needed to do more to reduce air pollution.

"We need support from government. Half of the bad air is caused by transport, half is caused by houses, by construction and from the river Thames," he said.

"There are two million Londoners, 400,000 of them children, living in areas where the air quality is illegal - that can't be right."

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