Amy Lamé, Night Czar at Greater London Authority reflects on our Active Travel Summit, discussing London as a 24-hour city and the vision for a safer, healthier, and more accessible city.
The Mayor has set an ambitious active travel goal for London: by 2041, 80% of all journeys will be made by walking, cycling and public transport, up from 63% now. Switching more journeys to sustainable or active modes will make our streets – and Londoners – healthier, and address the triple threat of climate change, congestion, and poor air quality.
While there is no magic wand, active travel helps address all three. It also makes sense to promote active travel both day and night. London has 1.4 million night workers who face huge inequalities compared to day workers. Night workers are twice as likely to be paid below the London Living Wage, they face longer commutes, there is very little healthy food available to purchase, and access to employee welfare and career progression is limited. Shift workers suffer a much greater risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. Historically, walking and cycling infrastructure in the UK has been planned based on day-time usage, and many green spaces are not accessible at night, or are poorly lit or isolated if they are open. Travelling actively and safely around London should be a 24-hour right for all.
When I was appointed London’s first Night Czar I was tasked with ensuring London thrives as a 24-hour city. Almost a third of London’s workforce operates between 6pm and 6am. These are the people who stock our shelves, serve our food and transport our parcels around the city after dark. They collect our bins, pull our pints and keep our hospitals running all night. The Night Tube and Night Overground are a fantastic addition to our nocturnal transport provision, alongside an extensive network of night and 24-hour bus routes. The Mayor has expanded the cycling network over 340km of safe cycleways which can be used day and night and added lighting and CCTV to off-road routes such as the Greenway. TfL’s cycle hire scheme is also available 24/7 in central and inner London. These initiatives have made a difference to the lives of so many Londoners, especially those working at night. If we want to ensure that active travel is available for all Londoners then we must build on the progress made since 2016 to ensure that cycling and walking are safe, sustainable and appealing for evening and nighttime commuters.
As we approach the clock change and acknowledge the critical role of night workers and the rights of all of those who move around the city after dark, particularly women, girls and gender-diverse people, let's illuminate London's streets with a vision of a safer, healthier, and more accessible active travel at night.