England’s historic York bids to become first zero-emission city

The Roman-era city wants to be carbon neutral by 2030

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The ancient city of York in northern England, founded by the Romans well over 2,000 years ago, could become the UK’s first zero-emission city centre under plans put forward by its council.

The Labour Party’s York branch is backing the move and could enter into an unlikely alliance with the UK’s ruling Conservatives, who are throwing their weight behind efforts for people to use green transport.

As train and bus services in the UK are reduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, the government wants people to revolutionise the way they travel.

Amid fears that the coronavirus could spread rapidly across public transport as individuals slowly return to work, the government is investing £2 billion in a package to create a “new era” for cyclists and walking.

The government has conceded that has conceded that its target to be carbon-neutral by 2050 would be difficult without major intervention.

Britons are being encouraged to choose alternative forms of transport to ease the pressure on buses and trains, and reduce the risk of catching Covid-19.

York believes it is perfect placed to seize upon the opportunity, having already made reducing emissions a top priority. It is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Last December, York council announced plans ban non-essential car journeys within the city centre by 2023. Drivers who do not switch off the engine of their parked car also risk being fined.

Labour councillor Jonny Crawshaw said it was important York retained the environmental gains it has made during the lockdown as people have resorted to exploring the city on bikes rather than by car.

“Lockdown has given us a glimpse of what significantly quieter, more peaceful streets can be like," he told York Press.

York council has also introduced £15.3 million, 180 vehicle fleet of green vehicles to cut its emissions by a third.

It’s deputy leader and Green Party member Andy D’Agorne says the council wants to move towards an electric fleet within four years.

“We want to set an example within the city and lead the move of commercial vehicles to ones with zero carbon emissions at the tailpipe.  We want this to be the catalyst for other fleet operators within the city to start to change their fleets to zero emission vehicles.”

He has also backed the move for York to have a zero-emission city centre.

The Conservative government in London wants to set up new pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cyclists and wider pavements across the country in a matter of weeks.

It has also asked councils to relocate road space for “significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians”. The government envisages some roads becoming bike and bus-only, and the creation of low-traffic neighbourhoods.

Transport minister Grant Shapps said roads risk becoming  overcrowded because of restrictions to public transport and has asked people “to stay on their bikes” when they return to work.

“We know cars will continue to remain vital for many, but as we look to the future we must build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.”