Mike Stevens | Sep 17, 2009

FORMER LONDON MAYOR Ken Livingstone, one-time bane of presenter Jeremy Clarkson's existence, visited Sydney this week to give a talk on sustainable cities.

Famous for instituting London's congestion charge, Mr Livingstone said the key to Sustainable Sydney 2030's success lies in its plan to improve public transport, restrict car access and open up walking and cycling access.

Sydney's traffic problems are not dissimilar to London's streets before the city began charging motorists for using and parking on its roads, Mr Livingstone said.

The former London mayor said that while he is hoping his visit will help motivate progress, he could not offer a clear solution for Australia's largest city.

"One thing I can't do is pop into a city and 48 hours later tell them what they need to do," Mr Livingstone said.

"The most obvious step is making it easier for pedestrians to cross roads. Walking and cycling - that is the key."

According to Mr Livingstone, Sydney's troubles are not unique.

"We are talking about whole countries becoming uninhabitable. We are heading towards the biggest single challenge in humanity's history," he said.

"Consumer mentality in the last 40, 60 years has been about buy, use and discard. We have to get back to a society where we value the things we are using."

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore pointed to London's unified public transport network, simpler ticketing system, and improved rail and bus lines as steps Sydney urgently needs to take if it is properly serve the community.

"We have a really serious problem. We need one body responsible for transport, we need one plan for Sydney that everyone understands. We don't have any time to waste," Ms Moore said.

"The state government needs to urgently fund some public transport in Sydney."

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