What do smoking and People Friendly Streets have in common?

David Harrison's wife. He is spokesman for Living Streets Islington

People Friendly Streets make the air healthier for people to walk - Credit: David Harrison

Fourteen years ago, parliament banned smoking in public places.

What has this to do with People Friendly Streets? More than you might think. The industrial cigarette machine and the motor car were both invented in the 1880s, and over the 20th century became very popular. But in recent years, attitudes to both and policy have changed.

In 2006, if you were in a pub, you were engulfed in smoke. Your hair and clothes would reek. Cigarettes were a well-known health hazard, but proposals for a smoking ban had fierce opponents. It was an attack on freedom. Surely people would not comply.

David Harrison says shops will benefit from People Friendly Streets.

David Harrison wants more 'parklets' created - Credit: David Harrison

Yet risking these dangers wasn’t a matter of personal choice. Passive smoking was dangerous. Children in the back of a smoker’s car, and non-smokers in pubs, inhaled toxic fumes. The ban proved a huge success. People enjoyed smoke-free spaces, and smokers found it easier to quit.

This experience is relevant to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Vehicle pollution inflicts similar health dangers as smoking. Restricting the liberty of the few benefits the many. Drivers and passengers may not smell the pollutants, though they inhale them. Children in cars suffer like passive smokers. It is suggested Electric Vehicles (EVs) are the answer, but this is a little like adding filters to cigarettes. While an improvement, EVs produce dangerous particulates from tyre and road wear and have the other disadvantages of cars.

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We can’t stop the traffic on all our roads, but there are now cleaner, healthier, streets in Islington, which means more people will walk and walk further. This is particularly important for the majority of residents without a car, those with respiratory problems and children. And if more people walk, there will be fewer vehicles on the main roads.

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