Final Frenzy – 5 days to go

Dramatic developments in the final week of the Anti-ULEZ campaign, probably not enough to stop ULEZ before 29th, but a lot can happen in 5 days.

Last weekend saw two big protests – on Saturday 19th Orpington saw a lively, good natured crowd spend a couple of hours in the sun on the War Memorial roundabout. The Anti-ULEZ support vehicles were all there again and didn’t suffer the vandalism of the previous week. Howard Cox was there to support the campaign and the local farmers brought their tractors out and did a couple of orbits of the roundabout before trundling off to make hay. We also had the horse and traps doing their bit. A few online news articles suggested that we brought traffic to a halt but they obviously weren’t there and got the facts wrong, just a minor delay as tractors are not fast vehicles – but generally the reporting was positive. “Wendy” turned up just as we were finishing.

The Sunday protest was the Bikers to Rykers – Ride for Freedom. This was organised incredibly well by Phil Elliot of U.K. Unites, himself a keen biker. There was a big meet at the start point of the Ace Café in North London, and Anti-ULEZ support vehicles met bikers at service stations all around the M25 then set them off to the final destination of Rykas Cafe at Box Hill in Surrey. The car park was taken over by bikes, trikes a few chosen classic cars and Kingsley Hamilton’s bus, with support from Howard Cox and the Motorcycle Action Group. The morning meet clashed with the Women’s World Cup final which was shown on screen for those who didn’t want o miss either event. (shame about the result). The event was very well attended and it is estimated that around 2,500 bikes dropped by throughout the day.

The big news that we woke up to on Sunday morning was the Telegraph report showing that they had obtained emails from the Deputy Mayor Shirley Rodrigues to Imperial College asking them to reword their investigation into the effect of the ULEZ expansion on air quality. The Mayor’s office was not happy that the original research – which they paid around £800,000 for – was published and used to show what little improvements were possible. We have known all along that the air quality claims are exaggerated and have been revised for maximum impact. A later report this week shows Shirley even tried this with a Lancet report back in 2018, and The Lancet refused to change the findings, good on them, or maybe they weren’t being paid enough. There are issues with the scientists being too cosy with the Mayor’s office and this can lead to us having less confidence in all government funded research. Shirley Rodrigues pulled out of all subsequent media appearances, the investigation is ongoing.

The next news item is that the government looked into using Section 143 of the 1999 GLA Act as a legal way of stopping the ULEZ expansion, but advice from government lawyers suggested they wouldn’t win at court. This is interesting point, and maybe there are other legal avenues to explore regarding the ULEZ policy as being introduced using deceitful information.

A smaller but excitable protest took place in North Cheam on Tuesday lunchtime with around 70 attendees along with the Anti-ULEZ vehicles, placards, leaflets and noise. It had that mischievous atmosphere you get at the last week of summer term! We had a few reporters there, even one from Canada. BBC Radio Surrey made a pre-recorded interview that was played out later in the afternoon and Eddie Nestor from BBC Radio London had a 15 minute discussion with one of us live from the protest. “Wendy” made a more timely appearance at this one!

More to come I’m sure – there will be protest at Tooting on Saturday and maybe Downing Street on 29th if the government don’t do what’s right.

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