Traffic congestionBMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7385.402/a (Published 15 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:402
The introduction of congestion charging on the streets of central London, the subject of an editorial in this week's BMJ (p 345), has already polarised public opinion. And supporters and opponents of mayor Ken Livingstone's brave scheme, which is set to take effect from 17 February, already have a formidable web presence. Among the more colourful anti-charge sites are Sod-U-Ken.co.uk, whose petition has so far collected several thousand signatures, and http://www.london-congestioncharge.co.uk/, which flaunts the slogan “Kill Kenny's New Poll Tax.” Lining up in favour of the charge are, not surprisingly, Friends of the Earth (www.foe.co.uk/campaigns/transport/news/congestion_charging/) and campaign group Transport 2000 (www.transport2000.org.uk/).
But London's congestion charging is of far wider interest: civic leaders around the world will be monitoring the progress of the scheme to see whether they can implement something similar to beat gridlock. Until then, the internet can offer drivers, town planners, and public health workers the chance to monitor traffic flows. The Athens Real-Time Traffic Map (www.transport.ntua.gr/map/), which is updated every 15 minutes, displays congestion on the city's streets using a spectrum of colour, from green for light traffic to red for heavy. There are similar sites for other built up areas, such as Gary, Chicago, and the Milwaukee Corridor (www.gcmtravel.com/gcm/maps_chicago.jsp) and Seattle (www.cityofseattle.net/html/traffic.htm).
Some great cities, such as Venice, Siena, Parma, and Groningen in the Netherlands, are almost completely car free or have already gone much further than London towards restricting traffic from their streets. At carfree.com you can find out more about car free cities and how they can be built, as well as a valuable set of international links to sites about urban planning, bicycle advocacy, and a range of social and environmental issues.
Meanwhile, those who think they can run London's transport better than Ken Livingstone should try the virtual learning arcade at Biz/ed (www.bized.ac.uk/virtual/vla/transport/index.htm). Here you can select various options (for example, increase road pricing and introduce bus lanes) to see what effect this has on traffic flows. Whatever you choose to do, few disagree that something has to be done to ensure that not only is there no more jam today, but that there is no jam tomorrow.