London’s ULEZ Expansion: Balancing Environmental Protection and Motorist Rights

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.

You can read Doshi’s full article here.

For more on 15 minute cities, go to this topic on ClimateTV

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Rud Istvan
July 29, 2023 2:27 pm

Thanks, CtM. Great pointer to an article I would not otherwise have seen.

In the US, they now want to ban gas stoves. UK wants to expand ULEZ and ban all ICE cars by 2035. It is all going to backfire bigly, because now the imposed climate solution pain is becoming palpable, while the predicted climate problems are not.

Sea level rise has not accelerated.Arctic summer sea ice has not disappeared.Glacier National Park still has glaciers.UK children still know snow.No increase in ACE or >EF2 tornados.
It appears that the more the ‘climate science’ failures become clear, the shriller the alarmist ‘solutions’ become. Cannot end well.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 29, 2023 7:19 pm

The UK is to ban ICE from 2030 – but still allow hybrids. Ban hybrids from 2035.

Ban sales of oil fired boilers from 2025. That affects a couple million households that are off the gas grid.

Gas boilers in new build housing are banned from 2025. Not clear when all gas boiler sales are to be banned, 2035 has been suggested, but with heavy qualifications and possible exceptions.

Which is very wise, since 80%+ of UK homes are heated and hot watered by gas.

Ban them from replacing worn out ones with gas boilers, and you can sit back and wait for the returning electoral tidal wave.

Reply to  michel
July 30, 2023 8:57 am

The wheels are already falling off the gas boiler ban if you pardon the pun. Currently developments that are intended to be all electric have been told that there is not sufficient capacity on the grid so had to install gas. There are not sufficient heat pumps or installers, so if forced to use heat pumps there will be a halt in house building.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
July 29, 2023 10:44 pm

Just to be clear, Rud, the UK ban on ICE is for new cars only. Or at least for now, that is.

Reply to  Redge
July 30, 2023 8:53 am

Makes you wonder if there will be an increase in very very very low mileage ‘used’ cars being imported.

Ben Vorlich
July 29, 2023 2:54 pm

I think the first nationwide anti-ecotaxe revolt was the Bonnets Rouge in France, of course it was France. The gantries to be used to monitor movement and apply the ecotaxe were burnt nationwide. The revolt started in 2013 and the ecotaxe was eventually dropped. The charred remains were left on the roadside and we’re still there during the much more effective, from a government point of view, Covid lockdowns.

Ulric Lyons
July 29, 2023 2:55 pm

London air pollution levels are low. PM2.5 particulates rise to moderate levels more so during the colder weather periods in winter, which last winter were the first half of December, the second half of January, and late March-early April. Probably more to do with domestic heating than traffic, coupled with lower winds speeds during the colder spells. Zoom in on London and a mouse over brings up year to date data for up to five pollutants:

Reply to  Ulric Lyons
July 29, 2023 4:55 pm

There has never been any scientific evidence that PM2.5 is a health problem.

Reply to  MarkW
July 30, 2023 1:26 am

When I went down to check out of my Hyde Park Hotel yesterday, a Muslim man was complaining to the manager that he could smell bacon when he had just walked past the hotel’s cafe.

The day prior, I watched as thousands of Muslims took over half the street for a protest.

In some years, PM2.5 will be a memory.

John Oliver
July 29, 2023 3:03 pm

But still at-least here in the US most of my left leaning dyed in the wool democrat voting friends family neighbors still essentially believe all the ( now completely and document-ally disproven) narratives foisted by the MSM. Many still fully believe the “ settled science” on AGGW, that the vaccines are safe and effective ,and that Trump colluded with Russians and had a “ Golden shower” while doing it!
No, things have to literally be coming down around their ears before many of the brain washed will even come close to waking up.

John Oliver
Reply to  John Oliver
July 29, 2023 4:45 pm

But just to be on the safe side shall we make the standard of care read: All physicians must immediately recommend to their patients the purchase of a thermometer that reads accurately to .1 degree minimum because this is not your grandfathers climate. That sneaky .01 degree delta in your later years could do you in! My gosh – danger danger!

John Oliver
Reply to  John Oliver
July 29, 2023 4:48 pm

oh sorry that was suppose to go with my lancet paper comment- the heat must have gotten to me!

Chris Hanley
July 29, 2023 3:09 pm

“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

Noble: righteous, virtuous, good, honourable, honest, upright, upstanding, decent, worthy, noble-minded, uncorrupted …
Nothing that comes from the WEF could be described as ‘noble’ IMO.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Chris Hanley
July 29, 2023 5:06 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised if China doesn’t have more autos in 2050 than the rest of the world put together and most will be ICE cars.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 31, 2023 6:51 am

Incredibly China already has over 50% of all EVs on the road worldwide (IEA Global EV Outlook 2023)

John in Oz
Reply to  Chris Hanley
July 29, 2023 6:56 pm

“the World Economic Forum’s ambitions for governments”

The WEF were voted in by no-one and have no authority to tell any government what to do or aim for.

Reply to  John in Oz
July 29, 2023 10:47 pm

Ditto the UN

Reply to  Chris Hanley
July 29, 2023 10:47 pm

I should have read your comment before adding mine which is broadly similar

Reply to  Chris Hanley
July 29, 2023 11:09 pm

I choked at “noble”, too.

July 29, 2023 3:15 pm

London air quality has never been better in modern history.
The claim that only a small number of drivers will be affected is also at odds with the claimed desire to improve air quality, if there are few vehicles to be upgraded/discouraged and most of those will just pay the charge and carry on polluting.
If EVs become universal there is only a decade or so before polluting ICE cars become a tiny minority, so why the need for ULEZ when any pollution problem will self resolve.
When we had the lockdown, broadly there was no significant cleansing of the air in London, I checked the DEFRA data myself. With zero traffic it was evident that other sources/factors swamp any pollution caused by private motor cars.
The only place with noticeable improved air quality was the most polluted road in london where the sensors are right next to a bus lane near a taxi depot – and the pollution returned more in line with returning public transport than private motorcars.
There is no justification for ULEZ expansion.

Neil Lock
Reply to  MrGrimNasty
July 29, 2023 11:32 pm

You ask, why the need for ULEZ? My best guess is because if it doesn’t happen, TfL will go bankrupt.

Reply to  Neil Lock
July 30, 2023 1:20 am

TfL were bankrupted by Covid shutdowns. Their business model is sound except for a total ban on travel.
It’s not that London usually has no demand for public transport.

So they should have had a bailout from the taxpayer. The alternative is that TfL goes out of business (economically disastrous fort he UK – far more expensive). Or that TfL seek more revenue.

As they have to act to reduce air pollution – because of legal rulings by the courts – the answer has to be ULEZ.

It’s a Tory policy, invented by Boris and enforced by Rishi through funding restrictions.
Khan is doing what he has to.

Richard Page
Reply to  MCourtney
July 30, 2023 8:58 am

TfL (so far) has received 3 or 4 massive bailouts from the Treasury. It still gets the income from the LEZ (large vehicles), the congestion charge, all fares and ULEZ. And somehow that still isn’t enough to keep it afloat, even though BoJo managed to do it, before COVID, without ULEZ (it was Boris that planned it but Sadiq Khan chose to implement it).

Neil Lock
Reply to  MCourtney
July 30, 2023 9:12 am


If TfL didn’t need subsidies and political favours, then why was their “business model” thrown out of kilter by a temporary drop in demand because of COVID? If they had been forced to discontinue services, then government maybe should have picked up the tab for their equipment lying idle. But they weren’t.

As to air pollution reduction, I’m tired of giving out the link to the article I wrote in 2017 – published on this very site – before ULEZ even came into effect. Look it up for yourself via the search box.

You’re right that it’s a Tory policy, and that Boris Johnson was behind it. But if there was any democracy in this country, Labour should have opposed Johnson’s policy. Shouldn’t they?

Oriel Kolnai
Reply to  Neil Lock
July 30, 2023 3:57 am

Good point. TFL use a firm of chancers called ‘European Parking Collections’ to get the dough from foreign-registered cars which otherwise would not pay (bah!).

Using the cameras for ‘proof’, this bunch are hated for their lack of discernible scruples. So they demand money with menaces from the honest and credulous of Europe, from those who are thus the most vulnerable.

And it pays. After EPC creamed off their ill-gotten gains, TFL made….GBP 3,349,O40 in 2022! Bonanza for the taxpayer? Err, no….It leaves EPC to profiteer from ‘fools’ who have the brass nerve to drive in London and spend money and time there.

Nice work if you can get it? I’ll say!

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  MrGrimNasty
July 30, 2023 1:03 am

Nature itself produces particulate matter in the form of pollen, decaying vegetation, micro organisms etc. I’m sure there was a study in a German city that showed particulates went up during lockdown, and they concluded that a lot of it would finish up in the air filters of vehicles in normal times and the reduction in traffic was the cause. Can’t seem to find it now though, probably another inconvenient fact that has disappeared from the internet.

Reply to  MrGrimNasty
July 30, 2023 1:38 am

As someone pointed out on Twitter, the most polluted air in London is found in the Tube, particularly the older sections. Therefore by trying to reduce surface traffic people are being herded into more polluted areas, which may be more hazardous due to particulates from brakes and the third rail conductor shoes.

July 29, 2023 4:47 pm

These ambitions, though noble,

Noble? Noble? NOBLE???
How does making it hard or impossible for ordinary people to live their lives, all in pursuit of a solution that can’t work, to a problem that never existed, get labeled noble?

Reply to  MarkW
July 29, 2023 4:52 pm

Noble => meeting virtue-seeking targets….

It’s a new definition.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  bnice2000
July 29, 2023 9:33 pm

Obviously some strange usage of the word “virtue” I hadn’t previously been aware of.

-With apologies to Arthur Dent.

Reply to  MarkW
July 29, 2023 11:12 pm

The author probably meant preposterous.

July 29, 2023 4:53 pm

For most cities, cars with modern pollution control equipment are a negligible, at best, as a source of air pollution.
The real sources are various industrial products, household products and paint.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  MarkW
July 29, 2023 5:10 pm

but.. but… haven’t you heard? CO2 is pollution and will destroy the planet- the oceans will boil, the entire globe will boil…. you must panic!

Joseph Zorzin
July 29, 2023 5:02 pm

“the speed of a Roman chariot was likely around 20 to 25 miles per hour on well-maintained roads in ancient Londinium”

Really? I know nothing about chariots but that seems a bit fast unless it’s in a race.

Smart Rock
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 29, 2023 5:50 pm

IMHO he just made that up to make an unnecessary rhetorical point. If you had to ride at that speed in a horse-drawn chariot on stone-paved Roman roads, it would be extremely uncomfortable, and the life span of your chariot would be measured in days, before it fell to bits.

Plus, Roman London only measured about 4 km by 2.5 km. Wherever you lived, you could walk to the Forum in a leisurely 20 minutes.

Richard Page
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 30, 2023 9:12 am

That’s ok, the author doesn’t know much about them either. The road chariot (as opposed to the racing chariot) would have been rare in Roman Britain but able to go 25-30 mph on roads which they were built for – noisy, uncomfortable but very sturdy. The usual transport vehicles would be by 4-wheeled carriages, which could go up to 20-25 mph and again, built for those roads with iron-shod wheels like the road chariots.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Richard Page
July 30, 2023 9:46 am

I’ve always wondered about ancient vehicles. I presume they had no suspension system so they must have been a rough ride.

Richard Page
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 30, 2023 4:16 pm

No suspension, no windows – either open or a curtain across, and iron shod wheels. Noisy and damned uncomfortable – no wonder Romans tried to build smooth, even roads!

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 30, 2023 2:15 pm

I’d hate to be a pedestrian on roads where chariots were flying by at 20 to 25 mph.

Richard Page
Reply to  MarkW
July 30, 2023 4:22 pm

It’s probably no coincidence that the Romans were the first to use slightly raised pedestrian walkways on each side of the road, at least in some urban areas. The modern idea of pavements is not so modern.

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
July 30, 2023 9:00 pm

Even Messala would have problems maintaining that speed on corners.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
July 31, 2023 3:19 am

The movie Ben-hur showed chariot races. Now that looks extremely dangerous. I think I read that even making the movie had its causalities.

Mike McMillan
July 29, 2023 5:03 pm

“… the speed of a Roman chariot was likely around 20 to 25 miles per hour on well-maintained roads in ancient Londinium.”

Yeah, and that was on only one or two horsepower.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
July 29, 2023 5:56 pm

Usually four .. from the movies, anyway 😉

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  bnice2000
July 30, 2023 12:45 am

That was the sport model.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Mike McMillan
July 30, 2023 4:43 am

and probably many carts running on one donkey power 🙂

Richard Page
Reply to  Mike McMillan
July 30, 2023 4:24 pm

True but the emissions were fairly noxious!

July 29, 2023 10:42 pm

“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 not noble to prevent ordinary folk from going about their business and enjoyment of life and freedom, quite the opposite.

July 30, 2023 1:14 am

‘These ambitions, though noble,’

Noble??? Really???

July 30, 2023 5:36 am

ULEZ is nothing to do with environmental protection – a quick look at the air quality data on the Governments DEFRA website shows the whole of the UK has very low air pollution
Its everything to do with taxation, pure & simple
If Khan was worried about air pollution, he would clean up the UG system first, which is very polluted & toxic

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