Cars Could Be the Latest Instrument of Assault to Be Banned in London

London already has restrictive gun and knife controls. Could cars be next?


Stefan Rousseau/ZUMA Press/Newscom

In the aftermath of a car attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K. officials have proposed making the area a car-free zone.

On Tuesday, the driver of a silver Ford Fiesta hit multiple pedestrians and cyclists, injuring at least three people, before crashing into a security barrier. Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu says authorities are treating the incident as an act of terrorism.

Now some politicians and police officials are suggesting that parts of Westminster, where the attack took place, should be closed to cars. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told Sky News it's important not to "take an on-the-hoof response to what was a very disturbing incident." But he said "there may well be a case for pedestrianization" of parts of Parliament Square.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan agrees. "I've been an advocate for a while now of part-pedestrianizing Parliament Square, but making sure we don't lose the wonderful thing about our democracy, which is people having access to parliamentarians, people being able to lobby Parliament, visitors being able to come and visit Parliament," he said, according to The Telegraph.

Nigel Evans, a Conservative member of Parliament, told TalkRadio that "filtering traffic" in the area could add an extra layer of security. "I suspect this will reignite the debate on whether the whole of Parliament Square should be pedestrianized to ensure that anybody can't weaponize a vehicle and disrupt and indeed destroy our democracy," he said.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick doesn't want Londoners to let terrorists "completely change our way of life." At the same time, she told the London radio station LBC it's important to take "reasonable measures" to protect the public. "Whether that area outside should be pedestrianized further is a matter that will be discussed, no doubt, between the parliamentary authorities, us, the intelligence agencies, the local authorities, and the mayor," she said.

London has a history of banning any sort of weapon that criminals could use to attack civilians. For decades, restrictive gun laws have kept the vast majority of Londoners (and all U.K. citizens) from legally obtaining firearms. But gun laws haven't stopped criminals from killing. In February and March, London's murder rate even exceeded New York City's.

Khan's solution was to launch a knife control campaign, even though carrying a knife in public without "good reason" has been banned in the city for years. But prohibiting people from carrying guns or knives did not stop Tuesday's car attack. And banning cars, even if it's only a partial ban in certain parts of London, probably won't do the trick either. People who really want to commit crimes will find a way, bans be damned.