Four years ago the London Mayor introduced a congestion charge in the capital. The scheme, operated by Transport for London, charged vehicles £5 to enter the congestion charge zone in Central London between 7am and 6.30pm on weekdays. Recently the charge went up to £8.
Today the congestion charge zone expanded westwards, almost doubling in size.
I live less than half-a-mile from the new western boundary. This means 95 per cent of my commute route is now in the congestion zone.
That blue squiggle is a rough approximation of my route.
This morning I was anxious to see how the new extended zone would affect traffic levels, especially on the busier roads of my route — namely Kensington High Street and Kensington Gore.
I left the house a little earlier than normal and was on the road at about 7.40am. The traffic did seem a little quieter, although whether that’s due to the congestion charge or the fact that it’s mid-term break right now, I’m not sure. (School holidays always mean the traffic is considerably lighter.)
But the thing that struck me most — and I’m not sure if I was imagining it or not — was the number of new cyclists on the road. You can always tell new cyclists by the BRIGHTNESS of their new hi-viz coats. They just GLOW more brightly because they haven’t yet been tempered by mud and rain and pollution and god knows what else.
Tonight’s return journey was particularly quiet. I especially noticed the difference in what I’ve dubbed the "danger zone" — the area, including feeder roads, around the intersection of Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street. This evening I zipped on through with barely a car in sight. It felt liberating!
But I guess we won’t get a better picture of the impact — or otherwise — of this congestion zone expansion until next week when it’ll be back to business for schools. If it was anything like today then I’ll be a happy woman!