What I want for London: put walking first
Yesterday we launched Greener London with eight other environmental organisations, a set of 20 practical actions for the next mayor that together would make London a greener, fairer and better place to live and work. And, at our Greener London hustings on 4 March, Londoners get their chance to quiz mayoral candidates on their plans.
So, in Greener London week, we’ve asked people from organisations active in the capital to tell us the one thing they’d like to see for a greener London. Today, we hear from Sarah Williams of Living Streets.
- What do you like about London?
I’ve lived in London for 16 years, after moving from the very rural county of Lincolnshire. What I love now is the same thing that drew me here at the turn of the millennium. It’s exciting, diverse and full of opportunity. It can be crazily expensive. And it can also offer a huge range of world class entertainment for only a few pounds as long as you know where to look.
- What’s the one thing you’d do to create a greener London?
I would put walking first in transport and planning. Walking is the most common way of getting around in London yet it is often overlooked. The current mayor’s transport strategy has only three pages dedicated to walking. There is also significant opportunity to get more people walking in London. There are about 1.6 million daily short trips in London where people currently drive and these are ones that it could be walked or cycled instead. I think better streets and roads would be the biggest incentive to get more people walking.
- How would it change the city?
Putting walking first would fundamentally shift the balance between methods of transport on our roads and streets in London. Oxford Street and Parliament Square are two of our most iconic streets in London. Yet they’re dominated by traffic. On Oxford Street, a pedestrian is knocked over in a road collision every six days. This should be a place for people to meet and enjoy spending time in, not worry that they’re going to be hit by a bus or taxi. And, if we put walking first in our town centres and high streets we can make our communities healthy, pleasant and liveable.
- Why’s it such a good idea?
This could address some of the biggest issues facing London. We know that 9,500 people die prematurely in London every year because of poor air quality. We also know that about half of Londoners are not getting enough exercise. Getting more people to walk and cycle will make a huge difference to both of these problems. It could deliver an economic benefit of £2 billion each year.
- What’s your favourite green spot in the city?
I’m a bit of a water baby and I like industrial green spots that aren’t too manicured but look like nature is trying to fight back against the city. So it’s the walk from Victoria Park to Tottenham Hale which has great changes in scenery.