From traffic to tourism, our capital has a lot to learn
The upcoming London mayoral election is an embarrassing joke, with a clear winner and a bunch of no-hopers who aren’t even funny or interesting, some of whom are actual public health hazards. Since there is almost nothing to say about the candidates, here are my suggestions of what we should do to make London a better city, by copying others.
The Japanese capital is home to about a gazillion people but its huge demand for property is matched by an unmatched supply in a deregulated housing market.
Incredibly, increasing the supply of property helps keeps prices down, while London’s restrictive planning rules do the opposite. (Of course, the best way we could increase supply while also making our city more beautiful is by Street Votes.)
The Danish city is the Valhalla of bike users. It achieved this by completely transforming its previous car domination, and by making bicycle use safe and available. As a result, public health and happiness have hugely improved. Likewise Seville has turned itself into a leading cycling city, and even Paris has too.
It seems that if you ignore talk radio hosts and build bicycle lanes, it turns out best for everyone.
Germany’s financial hub is rebuilding much of the medieval city destroyed by Allied aerial bombing in the war.
Overwhelmed by the number of tourists visiting, the Serene Republic has introduced a tourism tax to deter over-tourism and raise money. It was due to begin last summer, but unfortunately something else came along which effectively dealt with tourism, and it won’t start until next year now. Other cities will almost certainly follow suit.
Amsterdam: living streets
Amsterdam is the gold standard for bicycle-based transport policy, all the more impressive considering that in the early 1970s it was heavily car-dominated and had large numbers of pedestrian deaths.
More recently, it has also removed 10,000 parking spaces to create more room for bicycles and pedestrians.
London’s homelessness problem is now a disgrace, and it’s got considerably worse since 2010. The Finns have, so far, tackled the problem better than anywhere else.
Roads are a vital resource and car use has huge externalities for those living near them — where roads are in huge demand, car-users should pay a premium to use them.
Under the Singapore Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, charges for entering the city centre vary by time of day and are periodically revised in order to maintain traffic speeds within the desirable bands.
London’s Congestion Zone reduces traffic and raises money, but it’s insensitive to where the most demand is. (Exceptions should be made for people who needs vans for work.)
The Irish Republic’s cities now have far more relaxed late night licensing laws, and plan to liberalise still further — when and if Ireland ever emerges from lockdown.
In Cork pubs are regularly open until 2am, while in London night life is still in many ways very restrictive.
Vilnius: street dining
The Lithuanian capital turned its streets into vast open-air cafes to help restaurants struggling with the Covid epidemic.
It seems reasonable that, in summer at least, restaurants in non-thoroughfares can take over the streets as standard and traffic diverted. Having seen the scenes of Soho’s streets being turned into open-air restaurants, do we really want cars to have that space back?