Kingston joins World Car Free Day to raise awareness of air pollution

Kingston upon Thames joined cities around the world seeking to reduce air pollution by closing St James’s Road on Saturday.

The borough was one of 14 to mark the annual ‘World Car Free Day’, promoting the virtues of car alternatives.

From 11am to 1:30pm, the street was pedestrianised and featured performing artists and a free bicycle check workshop run by Kingston Council’s ‘Go Cycle’ Team.

Speaking at the event, Kingston Mayor Councillor Thay Thayalan said: “That we are marking this day demonstrates our commitment to the collective effort citizens around the world are making to create healthier environments in which we live, work, and spend our leisure time.”

World Car Free Day has attracted wider supporting including from Kingston and Surbiton MP Sir Ed Davey.

He said: “We’ve seen in other cities, places from Paris, Brussels, Jakarta, Bogata and in London — during events like the London Marathon — when you encourage people not to use cars and in some streets make it impossible, then the air quality dramatically improves and people find alternatives to using the car.”

Campaigners had wanted to go further with the whole of London holding a car free day, an idea promoted via an online petition by urban planner Macro Picardi, who is exasperated by the poor quality of air and the amount of congestion in London.

Although there was no London-wide ban this year, boroughs across the capital held similar events this year including Croydon and Richmond.

The event has been widely praised internationally and credited with reducing pollution.

Paris held its inaugural car-free day in 2015 where only the historic city centre took part, but over the following three years the event expanded to cover the whole city.

Exemptions apply for emergency vehicles, taxis and those registered as disabled, and there are strict speed limits and fines for breaking the ban.

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