Car Free Day 2019 in London: Map, road closures and everything you need to know ahead of this weekend

Georgia Chambers, Harriet Brewis
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London will hold its largest ever Car Free Day on 22 September in a bid to tackle climate change, mayor Sadiq Khan has announced.

The event will draw awareness to the dangers of toxic air and encourage city dwellers to explore the capital without the use of a vehicle.

The aim, according to the mayor, is to encourage Londoners to “reimagine” their city as car-free, and get around by either walking or cycling.

But which areas will be most affected by the temporary car-ban? And what will the day entail?

Here’s everything you need to know about Car Free Day:

Sadiq Khan hopes more than 150,00 Londoners will take part in car-free events across the city. (Matt Alexander/PA )

When is it?

London's Car Free Day will officially take place on Sunday, 22 September, but road closures or bus-only zones will only be enforced between 10.30am and 5pm.

Will the whole city be affected?

Twenty kilometres of roads – the equivalent of nearly 200 football pitches in length – will be closed in central London around Tower Bridge, London Bridge and the City of London.

Cycling and walking will be encouraged, but some areas – including London Bridge up to Bishopsgate will have buses but no other vehicles.

So far, 18 boroughs across Greater London have also confirmed they will close more than 200 streets to traffic, transforming them into “Play Streets” for community events..

Boroughs including Ealing, Brent, Greenwich, and Tower Hamlets have announced plans to organise their own activities, while others have pledged to support residents who would like to hold a Play Street on the day.

Communities across the city can apply for a designated Play Street. Residents are advised to contact their borough council for specific information on plans for their area.

Taxi drop off points will be allocated around the route for people with accessibility issues to attend the events.

Plans include a car-free zone in central London, shown in pink on this map. Some areas like London Bridge up to Bishopsgate will have buses but no other vehicles. (Transport for London)

What will these closed ‘Play Streets’ be used for?

Free activities and entertainment will take place in traffic-free roads across the city.

The events – collectively named ‘Reimagine’ by the Mayor of London – will include:

  • Cycling opportunities like e-bike rides and spinning activities;
  • Exercise and fitness activities including a BMX and skate ramp and pop-up playgrounds;
  • Guided walking routes and treasure hunts around the City of London and Southwark;
  • Live entertainment for all ages including roaming performers;
  • Children’s activities, arts and crafts marquees, a storytelling stage and a themed school sports day.

The mayor’s office said Reimagine’s aim is to “allow children to play and communities to get together.

Around 20km of roads will closed around central London on 22 September, Sadiq Khan has announced (Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images) (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It is also intended to “support the Mayor’s work to enable more Londoners to cycle, walk and use public transport to help improve health and reduce car emissions.”

How many people are expected to take part in the events?

The Mayor of London hopes more than 150,000 Londoners will join in Reimagine activities.

In a statement, Mr Khan’s office said the turn-out “will help encourage the change in behaviour needed to meet the Mayor’s ambitious target of 80 per cent of all journeys to be taken via sustainable modes of transport by 2041, compared to 63 per cent today”.

The risk of dying from long-term exposure to London’s toxic air has risen for a second year running (PA)

Why is a “change in travel behaviour” considered necessary?

The mayor has repeatedly warned of the dangers of air pollution, calling it “one of the biggest health emergencies of our generation”.

Government statistics suggest more than two million Londoners currently live in areas with illegally dirty air, including more than 400,000 children.

Research shows that more than 50 per cent of London’s toxic air pollution is caused by vehicles, but a recent TfL survey found that almost half of all Londoners did not realise vehicles were the main cause of air pollution.

Mr Khan said he wants more Londoners to walk, cycle, use public transport and opt for electric vehicles to help reduce harmful emissions from older petrol and diesel vehicles.

Jaanaki Momaya, General Manager at Lime UK, seemed to echo the Mayor’s sentiments.

The transportation company, which has locations across Europe, the US and Asia, runs electric scooters, electric bikes, pedal bikes and car sharing systems in various cities all over the world.

“Car Free Day is the perfect time for us to think about the future of travel in London because poor air quality is the public health crisis of our generation,” said Ms Momaya.

“London is the fourth most polluted city by nitrogen dioxide levels in the world – behind Beijing, Delhi and Paris, and pollution contributes to around 9,000 premature deaths per year in the capital.

“On demand e-bikes make this easier than ever by being accessible to a wider range of ages and fitness levels, which is why Lime is trying to help change how Londoners travel with our dockless electric bike. Over the past two years, our riders avoided about 25 million mile of car travel and prevented 9,000 metric tons of carbon emissions globally.”

Where did the idea for London’s Car Free Day come from?

London resident Marco Picardi came up with the idea of a car-free day in the capital in 2017.

He started a petition after becoming concerned about the health risks of pollution in cities.

“Studies show that almost 10,000 people a year are dying from air pollution in London,” he wrote on Change.org.

Mr Picardi's petition, which was signed by 10,350 supporters, led to London’s first Car Free Day on Saturday 22nd September 2018.

However, other cities around the world – including Vancouver, Canada, and Indonesia’s capital Jakarta have been hosting the event for years.

In 2000, the Environmental Transport Association agreed to make September 22 its designated Car Free Day.

It was originally intended as a pan-European day, coordinated by the European Commission, but soon took off across the world.