A Labour Council motion advocates a ban on all non-essential private motor vehicle journeys “within the city walls” by 2023.
The motion, which will be discussed on Thursday, fails to identify which journeys would be classified as “essential” mentioning only special arrangements for disabled people. Although ostensibly positioned as a response to climate change, there is no mention of exceptions for electric cars. Taxis and mopeds also don’t figure in the plan.
The proposal is a simple attack on the idea of personal transport use.
Restricting traffic movement within the “City Walls” is not a new idea. In the past though, advocates of the introduction of a Low Emission Zone have usually referred to the area within the inner ring road as a starting point. The Labour plan would also ban cars from using the inner ring road between its junctions with Rougier Street and Bootham.
Labour have shied away from such restrictions in the past not least because of the increasing number of people who now live in the City centre.
They changed their policy in 2012 when they tried to restrict movements on Lendal Bridge using ANPR camera enforcement. This proved to be hugely unpopular and ultimately impractical.
A 24/7 ban would go much further. Two (Lendal and Ouse) bridges would become inaccessible. Shoppers with bulky goods would look elsewhere. It would potentially destroy many city centre businesses.
Traffic congestion elsewhere in the City would increase.
The motion is based on the premise that – in addition to encouraging more people to walk and cycle – it is possible to ramp up the public transport system to the point where it becomes the mode of choice for residents for 24 hours a day. Maybe so but forcing people to use an overcrowded, expensive and – off peak – infrequent bus service looks particularly half-baked as the country enters a period financial uncertainty.
Of course, the proposal may be a bluff aimed at scaring drivers into accepting the implications of a low emissions zone, with the extra costs that congestion charging would entail.
Such a move would be naive given that most harmful vehicle emissions come from buses (an issue being addressed by the Council and operators) and commercial vehicles.
Strangely Labour have so far not supported making the York Central development part of an ultra-low emission zone although there is the opportunity there to design in alternative transport options from the off.
The Councils own fleet is 90% dependent on diesel power. Climate change activists might want to direct their attention there before targeting residents who simply value the convenience and security offered by personal transport.
This motion was one of the items that the Council decided not to publish before Thursday’s General Election vote.
Had they not done so, then the local Labour vote might have reduced even further.
NB. The motion also advocates banning motor vehicles from roads near all primary schools at drop off and pick up times. That will be easier said than done, we think.