London Assembly members have welcomed Boris Johnson’s apparent u-turn on the benefits of car-free days.
Over the weekend the Mayor said he would consider introducing car-free Sundays in parts of central London after seeing them in operation during a trip to the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
He told journalists: “I will certainly be asking Transport for London to dust down those old ideas and let’s have a look.”
“I was blown away by the popularity of the car-free Sunday here.”
Despite his enthusiasm for the Jakarta scheme, the Mayor has previously rejected introducing car-free days in London and last month claimed they damaged business by reducing footfall.
Responding to a question from Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Stephen Knight about the axing of the annual Oxford Street VIP day, the Mayor said: “when they have the traffic-free days there, their footfall goes down.”
The Mayor’s comments contradicted his past support for the days which, in 2012, the New West End Company claimed helped retailers clock up “the strongest weekend’s trading of the year”.
At the time Mr Johnson said: “The VIP Weekend is now a well established, much heralded date in the seasonal shopping calendar and a great way to celebrate the best the West End has to offer in the run up to Christmas.”
Commenting on the Mayor’s latest remarks, Mr Knight said: “Car free days in central London are certainly worth looking at.
“However let us be quite clear about the real facts in London.
“On the very weekend that Boris Johnson, from the other side of the world, was waxing lyrical about traffic free days those of us in London were missing out on the immense benefits that pedestrian free days in Oxford Street used to bring every year in the run up to Christmas.
“It is highly regrettable that Londoners have been deprived of VIP Day for the second year in a row.
“It is shameful that Boris Johnson not only stands by and defends this regressive step, but appears to have no vision to make Oxford Street a safer and more attractive place for pedestrians.”
Green party AM Jenny Jones says the Mayor rejected her 2010 call to introduce car-free days “despite all the benefits to the economy and air quality.”
Welcoming his “rethink”, Ms Jones commented: “The Mayor often talks big about reducing air pollution, but there has been little delivery on car free days.
“In the meantime, he is planning to make things worse by spending £32bn expanding the road network in London. That will negate any benefits from car free days and improvements to cycling.”