Extinction Rebellion Demonstrates In Putney

At one of the most polluted junctions on World Car Free Day


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On Tuesday (22 September), World Car Free Day, local Putney supporters of Extinction Rebellion demonstrated at the junction of Putney High Street and Upper Richmond Road – one of the most polluted junctions in London.

The demonstration took place from 8.30 to 9.30am and from 3.30-4.30pm – the times when traffic is heaviest. Protesters held banners across the roads during the "green man" pedestrian right of way saying “Another World is Possible” and “NO2IDLING”.

No traffic was restricted from moving. However the local community policing team did attend. Upon understanding the format of the protest they stood aside and monitored the general area for safety.

"It was great to see supporters of clean air for all and a city designed for people not cars. Several of the group had come for the first time and were buzzing from the energy of a positive, engaging demonstration," said Diana McCann.

A spokesperson for the demonstrators told PutneySW15 that, most people were unaware of World Car Free day. However, they found many were supportive, including one young mother who felt she was choking on pollution after walking her buggy down Putney Hill.

The groups aim was to raise awareness of what life could be like if the council showed some leadership in prioritising pedestrians and encouraging cycling. At present, roads throughout Putney are at capacity due to closures at Hammersmith and Wandsworth Bridges, so we are seeing the dystopian reality of a car-dominated world today.

Meanwhile, the message from the demonstrators is that car use is damaging both because of the high levels of carbon emissions it produces, contributing to global heating, and because of the harmful health impacts of air pollution. These include worse outcomes from COVID, increasing frequency and severity of heart, brain and lung conditions, and reducing the lung capacity of our children by 5%. They believe that electric vehicles are not the answer because it is tyre and brake wear that produces the most dangerous PM2.5 particles – which unfortunately Wandsworth Council doesn’t measure. As a society we need to change our behaviour.

In addition, gridlock is a drain on the economy. It wastes people’s productive time, while active travellers can bypass traffic while getting healthier. Active travel is literally getting the economy moving!

“A future prioritising active travel and walking is a big change from the status quo. To manage this the council needs to show leadership and engage the public to explain the vision,” says local resident Lee Fennell.

The group cites that cities in the Netherlands that are harmonious with active travellers show what is possible with a sustained commitment to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over cars, despite facing resistance from the car lobby.

The recent Citizens Assembly on Climate Change proposed a national ban on sales of SUVs to cut pollution and traffic. This group believes that this clear appetite from the UK public for change should be harnessed by Wandsworth showing leadership to reduce SUV numbers in the borough.

September 25, 2020

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