There has been much debate about the rights and wrongs of the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations but Londoners seem united on one aspect: life without cars has made central London a far more pleasant place. As anyone who has been in Oxford Street or Whitehall over Easter has seen, the takeover of the streets has created a joyful atmosphere. Suggestions that this has meant lost business for local stores are not borne out by anecdotal evidence.
City centres were never designed to have unlimited numbers of cars thronging their streets. The introduction of the congestion charge should have been the start of phasing out cars in the area but the opportunity was lost when Boris Johnson reduced the area covered by the charge. It took the activities of the IRA to make the City of London erect the “ring of steel” (in the form of plastic road bollards), which drastically cut car use in the Square Mile, and there are plans to reduce it further. The City of Westminster should learn from this experience and stop blocking the mayor of London’s plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street.