Why I marked International Car Free Day

The St George's Roundabout is one of the busiest parts of the city

by Graham Gladman

On Saturday I cycled around the outside of the city of Canterbury in the rain with only six other hardy individuals to mark International Car Free Day

We did so because we felt it important to draw attention to the deteriorating quality of the air in the city.

There were one or two other groups of cyclists which appeared not to be connected to any organised protest, but nevertheless might have felt moved to honour the spirit of the day.

I must admit, however, that there did not appear to be any fewer vehicles on the roads.

Before setting out, my wife drew my attention to a media report on the decision of other local authorities to close inner-city roads for the day.

Our own council’s attitude to cleaning up the environment appears mixed.

On the one hand, we have a somewhat tokenistic plan to reduce air pollution. On the other, this is contradicted by the plan to build a multi-storey car park on Station Road West, a plan which cannot fail to increase pollution in the St Dunstan’s and North Lane areas of the city.

During the ride I was taken by the idea that we are missing the fundamental danger regarding worsening air quality: namely, that jostling for our attention, it is an issue that is often lost between rival daily problems.

I cannot, however, think of any other issue that is more important than the quality of the air we are breathing in.

All of us need breathable and non-toxic air to sustain our lives. This means we need to focus our attention, now as well as in the future, more directly on its preservation and purity.

Graham Gladman is a retired mental health nurse, training manager, counsellor and lecturer. He is a member of the  Labour Party and the Sustainable Adisham group.


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