Paris has previously held several car-free days in an effort to reduce pollution. The first car-free day was held in September 2015 and saw emissions fall by 40 per cent.
Sputnik spoke to Professor John Whitelegg at the School of the Built Environment, Liverpool John Moores University about the benefits this could have on UK air pollution.
Sputnik: What do you make of the proposals by the mayor of London?
John Whitelegg: The devil is in the detail, I think there is a long history in Germany cities and Paris in other parts of the world, even in South American cities having car free days. Now a car free day covers a huge area, so in London it would certainly cover the totality of the current congestion charging area and possibly more. That's really good, because what it does is it gives people a strong feeling about how much better the city would be, when people walk, they cycle, rollerblade, skateboard, they have a wonderful time having party’s on the streets. That creates a different atmosphere and a more receptive environment for doing more ambitious things.
Sputnik: How much of an impact could these proposals have on the air pollution levels?
John Whitelegg: One has to be quite realistic about that. One day a month, let’s assume that’s what happens, it would only have a very marginal impact. So the actual impact of the thing itself would be marginal. What it does is create a different environment in terms the way that people are receptive the next stage. Which would be for example in London, if the mayor said the last Sunday of every month, and did that for a year, people would say that’s really good? Then the mayor could then say this is working well, so we could now identify a dozen streets, like Euston Road and Tottenham Court Road and make them totally car free permanently.
Sputnik: What impact could this have on surrounding area’s if certain areas are closed off to traffic?
John Whitelegg: If it progressed in the way I think it will, so we started off with one free car day a month, then that led after a year to a lot of enthusiasm and support for a bigger car free area on a permanent basis. That would have a dramatic impact on air quality and improve air quality and for first time in decades bring us in to line with air quality regulations. What many people might not know, is we are in breach of legal air quality thresholds and limits, in Britain we kill 52,000 people a year due to poor air quality.