Campaign for a car-free York boosted with hire of £25K activist

Traffic queuing on Bootham in York. Photograph: YorkMix
31 Aug 2020 @ 5.30 pm
| Environment

Climate change activists are launching a new car-free campaign in York, aiming to tackle gridlock and air pollution and improve people’s health.

The pressure group Possible has identified York as a priority area for its work to change transport habits, building on City of York Council’s announcement of its own plans last December.

The organisation, formerly known as the 10:10 Climate Action, is appointing four car-free cities campaigners across England, with one focusing on York and Leeds.

The York campaigner will be expected “to develop and promote a private car-free vision” for the city, “as well as helping design and deliver bottom up, street level changes to reduce traffic in the short term”.

The posts comes with a salary of £25K pro rata.

Possible says the money comes from funding it has secured for a campaign to “reduce private car dominance in cities”.

It says: “The ‘new normal’ post-covid cannot be one where people shun public transport for private cars, or our climate goals will be impossible to meet and gridlock and toxic air will continue to blight life in Britain’s towns and cities.”

Why choose York?

Traffic on Queen Street, York. Photograph: Richard McDougall

The successful candidate will design a local campaign plan, work with people on citizen science projects supported by academics, and design and deliver resident-led changes to reduce car use, to “improve the public realm to help tackle climate change, air pollution, congestion and road danger.

Leo Murray, co-director of Possible, told YorkMix: “We chose York / Leeds because both cities have really exciting things happening on this frontier, but with very different contexts.

“As a medieval market town, central York’s geography predates the motor car by thousands of years, and is almost uniquely unsuited to handling large volumes of cars and trucks.

“So the recent recognition of this by city authorities, laying down bold (and I think UK-leading) plans to reallocate road space away from private cars, and to manage traffic to exclude it from the city centre, is incredibly welcome, and could be a beacon to other historic cities across the country which are also struggling with unmanageable levels of congestion and air pollution.”

Meanwhile, Leeds is the base for the Decarbon8 project to decarbonise transport in the North, and the home of the Institute for Transport Studies where many internationally renowned experts teach, Leo said.

“Both cities have thriving ecosystems of local activists as well. We don’t have specific goals defined for any of the locales we’ll be working in yet, but this will be one of the first tasks for each of our new community campaigners.”

The other areas prioritised by the group are London, Birmingham and Bristol or Bath.

Stop car journeys

City of York Council agreed last December to work towards becoming a “car-free city”. It committed to:

  • stop all non-essential private car journeys within the city walls by 2023
  • work with disability groups and Blue Badge holders to ensure they can still get into the city
  • ban non-essential cars from accessing roads around the city’s primary schools at drop-off and pick-up times
  • work with businesses to make sure deliveries continue and companies are not negatively impacted.

The council has also already bid for funding to create the country’s first fully-electric bus fleet, and has also said it will apply for a Government grant to create the first zero-emissions city-centre.