London Neighborhoods Are Banning Ice Cream Trucks to Prevent Pollution

Protect Mister Softee at all costs.
Bettina Makalintal
Brooklyn, US
May 3, 2019, 1:00pm
a red, white, and blue ice cream truck on the river Thames embankment next to the Tower Bridge in London
Photo: JKristoffersson/iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

In 2017, a woman bought an apartment in the Bronx, where she soon found herself set off by the springtime sounds of the neighborhood ice cream truck. While that jingle sends most people outside for a soft-serve swirl cone, it sent her complaining to the ice cream man, who gave her the very New York response of “fuck off.” She then reached out to the police precinct, 311, the Mayor’s Office, and the district’s Congressman, who all basically said the same thing.

When the internet caught wind of this, she was called a “Harlem gentrifier” and “white lady from Hell.” Similar controversy arose earlier this month on Scottish social media, after an Edinburgh woman claimed she was “fed up” with “how loud [the truck] plays its music.” Clearly, plenty of people’s allegiances lie with their good bud Mister Softee.

We’ve gotta wonder, then, how Londoners will feel about a recent council ban on ice cream trucks. As the Guardian reported, parts of the city including Westminster and Camden are banning ice cream trucks—and more strictly enforcing existing bans—over worries about air pollution. The argument in this case is less about sensitive ears and more about the environmental effects of idling vehicles. Most ice cream trucks in London have diesel engines that need to stay running in order to keep the freezers cold and the soft-serve machines swirling.

That idling pumps “harmful chemicals like nitrogen dioxide and black carbon into the air,” a spokesperson for the Westminster city council told the Guardian. Idling wastes an estimated 6 billion gallons of fuel annually. Those emissions aren’t just bad for the environment, but they’re also bad for people, according to the American Lung Association, since smog and soot can cause lung damage and irritation and exacerbate health problems like asthma.

Camden council already bans ice cream trucks on dozens of streets, according to the Guardian, but it’ll be enforcing those rules more strictly this year with increased patrols and fines. Other councils, like Richmond and Tower Hamlets, are considering powering stations for the ice cream trucks, instead of an outright ban.

Please, everything is bad. Let us have just this one thing.