Grant Shapps’ greener roads revolution could increase pollution and cases of childhood asthma, campaigners have claimed.
The Transport Secretary’s £250 million scheme to promote a “new era for cycling and walking” has led to complaints that road closures, new one-way systems and banning cars from high streets increase or merely shift traffic congestion.
The warnings come in the lead-up to “Week 38” next month, when the number of hospital admissions of children suffering asthma reaches a peak just as schools reopen.
Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella died from a rare form of asthma thought exacerbated by pollution near her south London home, said: “I’m not against green traffic measures or Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, but where I live in Lewisham it has become a nightmare.
“Unless something is done, it is going to get worse when schools reopen and more people return to work.”
The schemes, funded via Mr Shapps’s emergency Covid-19 transport measures, resulted in claims that traffic congestion has been shifted elsewhere, with reports of tailbacks on the South Circular and Hither Green Lane.
Ms Kissi-Debrah, now a World Health Organisation advocate for health and air quality, said: “I have seen miles and miles of traffic backed up and going nowhere on main routes.”
She fears new road closures in the run-up to Week 38 could create the “perfect storm” and increase child asthma cases, putting further pressure on the NHS.
Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London, said cities needed a unified approach to tackling pollution.
“The lack of joined up thinking as well as these short term measures are very worrying,” he said.
Last week, it emerged road traffic had exceeded pre-lockdown levels for the first time.
Cllr Sophie McGeevor, responsible for environment and transport at Lewisham Council, said local air quality had improved by up to 33 per cent but that the schemes were under review.
A spokesman for Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, said Londoners had shown “record breaking demand” for cycling since the pandemic.