The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) have created the ‘Stop Shutting Streets’ campaign to protest against the emergency road closures that were brought in by local councils early in the Covid-19 crisis. The trade body argues that they are causing chaos and inflicting additional undue stress to their members nationwide.
The LPHCA is challenging the logic of funnelling the 40 million vehicles on the UK’s already congested roads onto even fewer routes. It’s argued that the authorities’ actions have increased traffic and in turn emissions. They’re also said to have significantly delayed journeys costing many people money in a time of hardship as well as risking lives, as emergency services are also being hindered.
The ‘Stop Shutting Streets’ is supported by a video that outlines the issues caused by the blocked off streets. It is being promoted in Private Hire News magazine and across various social media channels with the hope of gaining substantial support from: within the private hire and taxi industry, affected passengers, sympathetic members of communities and other road users that have been negatively impacted.
Measures have been imposed right across the UK. As a result Aqeel Arshad of Street Cars based in Manchester, Pam Coskun of Sam’s Cars London and Steve Lumsden of Strathclyde Chauffeur Services in Glasgow were all willing to contribute to the video.
Fears regarding the long term impact to tourism are highlighted in the short film. Travellers that are still prepared to visit the UK during the pandemic will return home with a lasting impression that the UK’s roads simply don’t move. Private hire operators also point out that their businesses are struggling to reach passengers and provide the door to door service that should be expected. The restrictions, in their opinion, also present a clear safeguarding risk for the public especially for vulnerable passengers.
Steve Wright of the LPHCA has called for the measures to be reversed. He states, “We are absolutely nonplussed at the bizarre decision to block streets and restrict roads and pathways in the midst of a pandemic.” “Taxi and private hire vehicles are door to door services that the elderly, disabled and vulnerable need on a daily basis.” He expressed dismay at how the longer journey times are harming businesses at an already difficult time.
One supporter of the petition highlighted a number of “road rage incidents” caused by the closures “as tempers fray and anxiety increases”. They also pointed to additional consequences of that they had witnessed with, “more dangerous driving as people see the road closure signs too late and mount pavements or do dangerous turns” .
Normally, councils that wish to close access to streets for motor vehicles must follow procedures and construct impact assessments. However at the height of the coronavirus crisis red tape was removed to allow faster implementation of initiatives aimed at encouraging people to walk and cycle in order to remain social distanced whilst travelling. People continue to be advised to avoid public transport unless its entirely necessary. Health and environment bodies argue that as well as promoting a healthier lifestyle the measures will contribute to tackling climate change and poor air quality. The Department of Transport’s communication to councils in England was that ,“This is temporary guidance and will be withdrawn once conditions allow.”
In the meantime the LPHCA would argue that chaos ensues for motorists. Their sentiments are echoed by many of London’s black cab drivers. Their union representatives have met with TfL to voice similar objections. Although the private hire industry and the black cab trade rarely see eye to eye this is one cause that they might be able to unite behind. The LPHCA have said that they wish for “Stop Shutting Streets’ to be a unified campaign, shared amongst a coalition of road-users from all backgrounds.
The trade body is imploring people to share the message on their social media channels with the #stopshuttingstreets and to sign their petition. It is hoped that enough pressure can be placed on the powers that be in order that they remove the restrictions.
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