How ULEZ, 20mph limits and LTNs became the latest frontline in UK culture wars

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There’s a whiff of desperation surrounding Rishi Sunak’s recent pro-driver posturing. After all, measures like 20mph limits, LTNs and low-emission zones stand to benefit us all – however we travel. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about the weaponising of motoring issues.

During a decade of New Labour at the turn of the century, a pledge to halve road deaths was very nearly achieved. The downward trend would undoubtedly have continued had Cameron not fought back against a supposed ‘war on the motorist’ by removing many of the speed cameras introduced by the previous administration. It’s worth noting that since 2010 the number of UK road deaths has plateaued.

As Sunak knows, pro-driving rhetoric plays well with a significant proportion of the electorate not least because motoring is tied-up with whimsical notions of self-identity and personal freedom.

LTNs, 20mph limits, cycling infrastructure and, most recently, the idea of the 15-minute city have become a lightning rod for a host of broader (and often completely unrelated) frustrations. Perhaps some people object to these measures so viscerally because they challenge the status quo – signs of a tide that’s finally turning against decades of car-centric town planning.

Rather than fuelling another culture war, Sunak could be guiding the UK towards a the greener, liveable future that we all need and deserve.

As part of our crowdfunded documentary about road danger, we spoke to Chris Boardman during his time as Greater Manchester’s first Cycling and Walking Commissioner about how Britain can move away from its car-dominated culture without alienating swathes of drivers.

Watch our documentary about road danger Stop Killing our Children

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