By Neil McAlpine

As you have recently read Jonnie Allen has had an interesting conversation with members of the London Assembly and the ‘greenest ever’ Conservative Party. When Jonnie originally spoke to me about this topic, I listened patiently (well I had little choice as I could not get a word in!!) and after the diatribe had ceased I then annoyed him further by saying there are lots of things done worldwide to address this very situation. That conversation has led to this post. Some of these are infrastructure related, some are hearts and minds and others are even more left field and innovative and offer Cundall opportunities engineers never thought they would be involved in. So here are my top ten ideas, in no particular order, used elsewhere and which should be brought to the forefront of UK and in particular London transport and planning policy

  1. Number Plate Lottery – On Monday and Wednesday only number plates which end with an odd number can drive into the city centre, Tuesday and Thursday even number plates enter and on Friday it alternates. Automatic 50% reduction in vehicles which can enter the city as can be seen in Beijing and Paris.
  1. Lots of Smog No Motorised Vehicles – Milan, Bogata and others now ban vehicles when the smog level gets high. Imagine that you can’t see St Paul’s dome, Big Ben or the London Eye but you can see the HGV and Ferrari pumping out more pollution, simply ban them until the air clears up.
  1. Pollution Zones – London already has one and the ULEV is coming, I hear you cry, but how about we use the more draconian German model and have a national framework document enforcing these in all cities and not just making people pay but banning certain polluting vehicle types from the most polluted areas.
  1. Retrofit Polluting Vehicles – Since 2015 there have been stringent laws about pollutants in vehicles but that only impacts on 2.5 million vehicles. What about the 12 million vehicles sold in the decade before that. The Philippines and India have legislated that two stroke engines need to be retrofitted with filters to reduce the pollution, let’s use this model to bring similar legislation insisting that all vehicles meet the 2015 standards.
  1. Green Our Cities – Maintaining and increasing green spaces in the city cannot be a solution in isolation for air pollution reduction but planting can enhance air quality and help urban areas become resource efficient. Chicago has been a pioneer on this front introducing measures that have seen it establish 5,469,463 square feet of green roof coverage in less than a decade. The city’s green roofs Initiative offers planning incentives in return for green roofs integrated into proposed schemes. These include a density bonus, allowing for an increase number of units allowed on a piece of property if 50% or 2,000 square feet (whichever is greater) of a roof is covered with vegetation. London is actually ahead of Chicago in the total volume but we need other cities to follow this example. Our sustainability team in London are doing research on this at the moment.
  1. Get On Your Bike – Norman Tebbitt, an ex Conservative minister, famously uttered this phrase, well give us the infrastructure and laws to back this up. Where are the Dutch style cycle lanes, the Bogata bike loans, the strict liability laws from Ireland, Less than 1% of the transport budget is spent on cycling yet it provides the greatest cost benefit of any transport intervention. Imagine what we could do with 2%.
  1. Shanks Pony – What is that? Walk to places, if you think cycling is badly underfunded it is even worse for walking. I could not even find a percentage figure for the amount spent on walking projects, although I suspect it is so miniscule it might needs lots of zeroes after the decimal point. Yet 40% of trips in the UK are under two miles and according to Sustrans and the UK Department of Transport 80% of these trips are made by car. We need to encourage people to walk. This has been really successful in Scotland where personalised journey planning has seen huge increases in walking trips when government funded projects were undertaken. You would think this would result in more funding but instead it was stopped. As designers  we especially need to make it easier for people to walk to places and encourage them through hearts and minds schemes.
  1. Take the bus – To be fair London excels in this because it has a superb public transport network with the tube and buses. Finally we have a big tick but this is not the case outside of London, funding and infrastructure are needed to support this elsewhere.
  1. Right site in the first place – Encourage high density living and support mixed use developments at affordable levels, people do not then need to get in their cars and travel to work. Cundall’s Planning Director, Ian Cansfield will elaborate on this from a planning perspective in the near future…
  1. Trip to Rio de Janeiro – While we all might like to travel to some exotic place for work, why do we need to do that. We live in a world of technology, do we need to make that trip, can it be done by video conference, telephone call etc and therefore no need to travel. This is true if it is Rio or Epsom. Related to this would be to work from home, don’t travel to work, it not only saves a journey but also saves the company money on office space!

OK OK I am going to cheat and have 11 points

  1. YOU!!!! – what can you do to reduce pollution both in your job and personal life. Think about that trip to the local shop does it need to be done by car? Take the car to the gym why not run?

All these suggestions are being done in other world cities. If London wants to be a leader and a healthy place to live then action should be taken.

Find out more about Cundall –

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. I agree about investing in walking. I walk everywhere and I am often frustrated that footpaths and crossing are an afterthought. Walkways to public transport would make life easier plus signage with estimated walk times would be welcomed.


  2. Hate to be a naysayer, but number plate lotteries don’t work in Beijing, and are unlikely to work in the UK. People just buy two cars and drive them alternate days.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Neil McAlpine, Sustainable Design, Transportation


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,