Tilak Doshi’s article “London’s Ulez Expansion: Motorists Of The World Unite!” is an eye-opening examination of the real-world impact of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion on ordinary motorists. Doshi carefully weaves in historical perspectives, current developments, and political implications to present a compelling argument for a more nuanced approach to environmental policy-making.
Doshi points out an intriguing historical parallel:
“The average speed of cars in London during a typical weekday averages 8 miles per hour in central London, 12 in inner London and 20 in outer London. According to AI ChatGPT, ‘based on historical accounts and estimations’, the speed of a Roman chariot was likely around 20 to 25 miles per hour on well-maintained roads in ancient Londinium.”
This comparison makes a point about how policy interventions can alter the seemingly natural progression of technology and convenience. The current Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, finds himself at the helm of an expanding ULEZ that could incite opposition from motorists dependent on their older ‘non-compliant’ vehicles.
Doshi perceptively points out that there is a limit to the public’s tolerance for financial penalties for “long-term climate benefits.” He cites a shift in political sentiment, with politicians such as Michael Gove and Sir Iain Duncan Smith calling for a rethink on net zero regulations. As Doshi posits, these regulations are viewed by many as causing unnecessary hardship, particularly for ordinary citizens already grappling with a cost-of-living crisis.
Doshi pulls no punches, stating,
“It is no surprise that a news report published on Friday pointed to a sharp increase in vandalism on the 1,750 numberplate-reading cameras that Transport for London (TfL) is installing in preparation for the Ulez expansion due to be implemented in August.”
The narrative underlines the palpable frustration and resentment of those affected by the ULEZ expansion.
The ULEZ expansion is more than a local London issue. As Doshi aptly describes, it’s part of a global trend where
“the World Economic Forum’s ambitions for governments to reduce the number of automobiles in the world by 75% by 2050 to reduce carbon emissions from the transport sector.”
These ambitions, though noble, fail to take into account the impact on ordinary people, such as tradesmen, parents, and the elderly, who rely on their vehicles.
It’s worth noting that the way questions are framed can significantly influence public sentiment, as Doshi illustrates with competing polls about the ULEZ expansion.
A YouGov poll commissioned by the mayor found that only 27% of the respondents were against the Ulez expansion as a means to “to tackle air pollution” while 51% were in favour. A competing poll, undertaken by the Tories, asked respondents whether they were for or against the expansion with the preface that it was undertaken for revenue raising purposes. This reversed the results, with 51% opposed to the expansion, and 34% supporting. Biased surveys are nothing new, and poll results depend on the framing of the question.
Also, the claims about improved air quality due to the ULEZ may not be as clear-cut as they seem. As Doshi mentions, studies have shown that the actual reduction in pollution might be far less than reported.
Finally, Doshi makes a compelling argument about the potential political implications of the ULEZ expansion and other similar policies. Across Europe, there’s a growing political opposition to what Doshi describes as “virtue-signalling green schemes.” London’s motorists, as per Doshi, may be leading the first real anti-green citizen’s revolt.
As Doshi ends his article with a rallying cry, “Will the motorists of London unite to make this happen?” I can’t help but echo his sentiments.
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