The View from the Street – Katie Harrison makes a personal plea for living, breathing, streets

Pollution – exhaust from cars, motorbikes, vans and lorries – affects us all. But some of us more than others.

I had asthma when I was a very young child, it went away and I forgot about it. It suddenly came back when I was 32, just over a year ago.

I went from being someone who had finally got really fit and cycling everywhere, to struggling to breathe just walking down a street.

I noticed immediately that if I was walking along pavements on busy streets it felt so much harder to breathe – just walking as I normally would, let alone cycle.

This pandemic has been an awful thing, but one silver lining that everyone seems to agree on is how much fresher the air feels, that we can hear birdsong all day, and that people are taking to walking around the part of the city they live in and even getting out a bike for the first time in years.

Some people are scared to cycle in traffic, some people can’t breathe when they are in traffic. And if there’s one thing we could take away from this terrible time is that we can choose to have cleaner, safer streets and have the cleaner air all the time. It has huge health benefits for everyone, not just people with lung disease.

I commend the building of cycle superhighways,  but for people with lung issues, it’s not enough as these superhighways are all placed along the roads with the worst traffic. It’s not enough for children, and it’s not enough for people who feel a bit nervous about cycling.

What we need is a network of car and pollution free roads across London which allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the whole city without breathing in dangerous fumes and being afraid of cars.

As we rebuild our lives after Covid, it seems that there is support for this network to prevent gridlock on the roads and dangerous overcrowding on public transport. Let’s build upon the ideas in the Mayor’s StreetSpace Plan and London Living Streets’ Central London Walking Network to make this a reality.

Central London Walking Network Map
Museum St Bloomsbury Re-imagined

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