Ice Cream Trucks to Be Banned in Central London

CC BY 2.0. jwilsson

Concerns over air pollution have led city officials to crack down on these controversial vehicles.

The city of London is cracking down on ice cream trucks. Starting this year, the beloved bearers of frozen sweet treats will be banned from various neighborhoods, due to concerns about air pollution.

The trucks run on diesel fuel, which emits harmful black carbon linked to respiratory diseases and nitrogen dioxide. When parked, they continue to idle in order to run the freezers that keep ice cream cold and to power soft-serve machines. According to a London bylaw, they are supposed to change locations every 15 minutes and not return to the same location in the same trading day, but this rule is not always enforced.

An additional concern is that ice cream trucks gravitate to areas such as schools, playgrounds, and parks, and that is precisely where city officials are working to reduce traffic congestion and pollution most promptly.

City regulations have evolved in recent years to reflect air quality concerns. The implementation of the Low Emissions Zone meant that many drivers had to invest in newer, cleaner vehicles; and now the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone, or ULEZ, which took effect on April 8, means that trucks operating in central London have to pay a daily fee. Camden has already banned them in 40 streets, and the Guardian reports that it's going further this year:

"It is putting up 'no ice cream trading' signs and increasing enforcement officer patrols in these areas, with fines for drivers caught selling ice cream there."

Caroline Russell, an assembly member of the Green Party, recognizes the disappointment that both children and truck-owners will experience. She told the Standard,

"No one wants to be the fun police or see people lose their businesses. But people don’t want a side order of asthma with their ice cream. This is a serious health issue. The ULEZ charge has helped but we can't have a situation where you can pay to pollute."

Some areas, such as Richmond and Tower Hamlets, are looking at installing power points where ice cream vans could plug into a power source, rather than keeping their engines running. This seems like a decent solution to the problem, although there's still the issue of blasting jingles that are apparently driving many urban residents crazy.

Perhaps city officials should take a lesson from Brazil, where the ice cream vendors hawk their wares from unpowered freezer boxes on wheels, which they either push like a wheelbarrow or attach to a bicycle, always with a sun umbrella overhead. There's also the adorable Wheely's cafe, powered by sun, wind, and biogas from recycled coffee grounds. Both are proof that it doesn't have to be complicated to get an ice cream fix.