25 signatures reached
To: Devon County Council
Exeter as car-free city
It is proposed that Exeter becomes a car-free city by 2022, by closing the roads to conventionally fuelled private cars in the centre of Exeter. This would significantly reduce traffic-related emissions and air pollution. It would improve health and associated costs, increase green space and green networks, encourage physical activity, improve safety, decrease noise levels, and enhance social cohesion. Most importantly, it would have positive distal effects, and represent a progression towards achieving climate change mitigation through CO2 reductions.
Why is this important?
Vehicle emissions are one of the main sources of outdoor air pollution, particularly in cities. Most urban areas in the UK, including Exeter, have very high or illegal levels of NO2 pollution. Breathing in air pollution can stunt lung development, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, worsen asthma symptoms, and even result in lung cancer. The effects of toxic air are worse for those most vulnerable individuals (e.g. children and older people). However, up to a 40% reduction in NO2 levels has been reported on car-free days. Transport is also the fastest growing source of fossil-fuel CO2 emissions, the largest contributor to the environment and climate emergency. Furthermore, cars, and the associated infrastructure, congest roads and take up valuable space, and they divert investment and interest from public transport.
To ensure a sustainable city that meets government objectives for air quality and moral obligations regarding the climate emergency, we must take steps away from our current over-dependency on private cars. (Obviously there will be exceptions for emergency, electric and delivery vehicles, as well as drivers or passengers with disabilities.) Indeed, many cities worldwide are beginning to shift away from cars, towards more environmentally friendly and citizen-focused means of mobility. Hamburg, Oslo, Helsinki and Madrid have revealed plans to become predominantly private car free cities, and York has also recently announced plans to become a car-free city. We need to invest in cycling infrastructure and pedestrianisation, restricting inner-city parking and increasing public transport provisions, with the aim of reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. These adaptations are also likely to significantly benefit public health.
Exeter is in an ideal position to implement such changes. It is a relatively small but fast-growing city; indeed, the flow of commuters is estimated to rise by 25–30% over the next 20 years. Many roads in the city centre are already pedestrianised or restricted-access only. There are currently 9 train stations (with more planned) and 32 bus routes, with a bus station in the process of redevelopment, as well as plans for ‘smart ticketing’. Furthermore, we have an established but growing cycling community, with cycle routes and provisions throughout the city. There is also a successful electric bike hire scheme within the city. Moreover, there are a number of Park and Ride services in place, with plans for another having recently been approved. Making Exeter a car-free city – a bold and ambitious but crucial step – would demonstrate that the City of Exeter is at the forefront of attempts to address the environment and climate emergency, leading the way for other cities to follow suit.