Khan insists he’s ‘not anti-motorist’ during first grilling by new London Assembly

In the first Mayor’s Question Time since the City Hall election Khan was quizzed on whether he was at “war” with car drivers, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan at Mayor's Question Time
Sadiq Khan at Mayor’s Question Time

Sadiq Khan has insisted he is not “anti-motorist”, as he ruled out making any further changes to the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez).

In his first Mayor’s Question Time session since winning re-election this month, Khan was challenged on the issue by several London Assembly members.

Alessandro Georgiou, a newly-elected Tory assembly member and also the leader of the Conservative group on Enfield Council, said: “There has been a war on the motorist – whether it be by the Ulez expansion, low traffic neighbourhood or 20mph zones.”

The mayor expanded the Ulez to cover all of London in August 2023. Georgiou asked the Labour mayor: “Do you understand that in outer London, we do need our cars for travel?

“The disabled need their cars, parents on the school run need their cars, because not everyone lives within or under a mile to a primary or secondary school. Do you understand that the elderly also need their cars?”

He stressed that the public transport system is much poorer in the suburbs than in the inner city.

Khan said: “I’m well aware that the Conservatives tried to portray me during the [mayoral election] campaign as being anti-motorist – and that was a theory and a thesis rejected by Londoners on 2nd May.

“I’m not anti-motorist. I am in favour of cars driving where they can at 20mph rather than 30mph. Why? Because you’re five times more likely to kill somebody and cause them serious injury if you’re driving at 30mph rather than 20mph.”

He added that he was also in favour of improving safety for cyclists and in bringing about “clean air”.

“But I also accept that there are parts of London where public transport is less good,” he said.

The mayor pointed to his plans to expand the Superloop network of express bus services as one example of his work to make it easier for people not to travel by car.

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Khan admitted however: “Everyone often has a good reason to use their cars. We’ve got to recognise that people are going to carry on using cars, because they’re important. Whether it’s for shopping, whether it’s because you’re older, whether it’s because of childcare issues, or whatever.

“So nobody is saying ‘ban the car, or prohibit the use of the car’. It’s about recognising we’ve got to be encouraging others to use active travel, to walk and cycle as well, and to give people alternatives.”

He said that when the Tories accuse him of being anti-motorist, “the results are, Londoners reject that, and vote for me in record numbers”.

He later added: “I drive. The idea that people who drive are the boogeyman, is not coming from me.”

The mayor committed in his re-election manifesto “to keeping the London-wide Ulez standards the same over the next four years,” adding that he also rules out “a move to any form of pay-per-mile smart road user charging system”.

This means that Khan has effectively pledged not to change the definition of a ‘Ulez-compliant’ vehicle.

Alex Wilson, recently elected as Reform UK’s first ever assembly member, pressed Khan on whether he can be trusted on those promises.

He pointed out that the mayor had previously said in July 2021 he had “no plans” to expand the Ulez across London, before announcing the expansion just eight months later.

The mayor reiterated that no changes would be made on either Ulez or the introduction of a pay-per-mile system.

He added: “It’s important you asked me that question, because people understandably were nervous, because they received leaflets that were blatant lies, and Londoners rejected that deceit from the Conservatives.”

Khan was also challenged by his Tory mayoral opponent, Susan Hall – newly re-elected as an assembly member – on whether he would be amending his official transport strategy to enshrine his promise not to bring in pay-per-mile.

The mayor said this would be “a pointless distraction”, because he had already been explicit in his manifesto about his intentions.

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