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Richmond Park Update May 8: Air Quality Ideas Special Edition

I think most people are aware that one of the silver linings to the Covid-19 crisis is that we are enjoying much cleaner air across the city. In a previous newsletter I asked residents to email my office with ideas for how we could maintain this good air quality even after lockdown ends. I had a huge number of interesting emails with novel ideas, for both government initiatives and personal ones.

The ideas I received about what people could do as individuals included a lot of suggestions around choosing public transport or active travel over driving, and for trying to car share if driving is genuinely necessary. I also received messages about people trying to work from home more, and for teleconferencing instead of travelling for business meetings. One correspondent also suggested businesses should look at ways to reduce the miles their customers have to travel to get to them. I'm seeing an Ikea satellite store, there...

One of the residents who wrote to me, Sarah from North Kingston, offered this positive insight: "By getting people to walk straight after the lockdown it might just be possible to create a virtuous circle whereby it becomes less harmful and unpleasant to walk in the streets.". It has certainly become more enjoyable to walk in this area with fewer cars on the road, and if we all keep walking it will stay enjoyable.

I think the overall message I received from these constituents is that, lockdown or no lockdown, it is really important that each time we decide to go somewhere we consider both whether the journey is necessary, and whether we are making it in the greenest way possible. One constituent, Chris from Ham, suggests this "How about a ‘fresh air pledge’ – If my journey is less than a mile I will walk. If my journey is less than three miles I will cycle." I think this is a great idea and will be looking at how we could implement something like it when the crisis has passed.

Another good idea is for parents to work now towards getting children ready to cycle on their own someday, so we can keep more of them cycling past primary school age. Our now-quiet streets are an ideal training ground to learn to cycle safely in the road. Let's take the opportunity to teach them how to signal, check junctions, turn right off a busy road etc. so that they feel confident riding their bikes alone when they get to the right age.

I also received some great suggestions about turning down the thermostat by one degree in winter, and about planting trees anywhere you can. Trees have amazing air filtration abilities, as well as being beautiful and wildlife-friendly. Green roofs are another beautiful way to use the forgotten space above your head to improve air quality. And I was asked by several residents to request neighbours not to light bonfires or burn their garden waste.


A number of you wrote in with wider initiatives that government could implement. I sent emails to various government officers enquiring about some of them and wanted to share some of the feedback with you:

Better support for active transport, especially cycling

Kingston: Kingston is in the middle of an extensive cycling infrastructure project right now. The Go Cycle programme is a £32M transformation that will "upgrade Kingston’s major highway routes to accommodate the latest cycling infrastructure, while improving the flow of road users, cyclists, and pedestrians, and enhancing the environments through which they travel." Completion of this project depends on continued funding post-Covid. You can see the latest information, plans and maps here:

Kingston is also working on installing additional bike hangars and a bike rental scheme.

Richmond: Richmond has been working since 2018 on the development of a strategic cycle network, with works currently planned for lightly segregated cycle lanes in Strawberry Vale in Twickenham and Kew Road in Kew. However, the funding for this was to be provided by TfL, so there is a question mark over it now. They are also working on introducing bike hangars on residential streets and a scheme that enables residents to rent-to-own a bike. And they are hoping to be able to consult soon on the introduction of the first ‘School Streets’ which will have temporary road closures outside of schools during pick-up and drop-off times.

London: TfL has just launched a London Streetspace programme that will transform London’s streets to accommodate significant increases in cycling and walking when lockdown restrictions are eased. This will involve: