York has announced plans to ban private car journeys from the city centre in an effort to cut carbon emissions within the next three years. Following the lead of Bristol – due to become the first UK city to ban diesel cars by 2021 – councillors have spelled out the “unashamedly ambitious” goal in latest plans.
Despite attracting nearly 7 million visitors per year, councillors have voted in favour of the plans by a majority. The ban would stop all non-essential private car journeys inside the city walls by 2023, with an exemption for people who rely on cars such as disabled residents. The City of York council is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030, 20 years before the British government’s net zero target. The ban is one of the latest attempts to reduce the illegal levels of air pollution within the city centre.
“People’s first response might be to be a bit anxious about what we’re proposing. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. The public mood is changing – particularly in relation to climate change.”
– Jonny Crawshaw, Labour Councillor
According to data compiled by Friends of the Earth, 12 locations in the city centre exceeded the national air quality standards of 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre (ug/m3). The data shows that a bus stop on Rougier Street was the city’s most polluted spot in 2018, followed by a taxi rank outside the railway station (59.9 and 57.7 ug/m3 respectively).
Crawshaw, who represents a city-centre ward on City of York council, said the proposals were not about preventing those living in the city centre from having a car, or stopping tourism. Instead, it is “about reducing the removing non-essential car journeys across the whole city, while improving the range and attractiveness of alternative travel options.”
Few cars on the roads will hopefully enable faster, more reliable public transport from the villages and suburbs into the city centre. Similarly, few cars on the roads would make cycling feel safer and become a more viable option for commuters. The emphasis on both cycling and reliable public transport could help cement York as a prime example of a post-net zero city.
At ethical partnership we are working increasingly on projects such as new rail stations and refurbishment of existing stations, logistics hubs and on the planning aspects of road developments. As an environmentally-conscious organisation, we seek to do so in a way that means the public will benefit from these projects, with as little environmental harm as possible. We have a track record of researching the ways in which new technologies can be integrated to minimise pollution and energy usage. We hope to work more on planning projects that enable us to provide more cycle lanes, in turn helping to protect the environment and reduce congestion around busy areas.