A lot has been said about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and we’d like to present key discussion points on LTNs and facts to substantiate them.
LTNs are necessary
Initially Ealing Council focused on the exclusion of through traffic from residential areas, but there’s so much more.
By reducing traffic volumes on many local streets LTNs are giving people of all ages and abilities greater freedom to walk and cycle safely, and this is a good thing – an essential thing – because more walking and cycling, and consequently less motor traffic, is vital if we’re serious about:
- cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that are fuelling the climate crisis;
- improving air quality on every street;
- making all streets safer, especially for the young and old;
- enabling more active travel (walking, rolling and cycling) to improve public health;
- reducing congestion, less non-essential traffic helps essential journeys; and
- giving our streets back to people for shopping, socialising and playing.
The simple truth is that less motor traffic is key to achieving all the objectives listed above, which is why traffic reduction is a stated aim of political authorities of almost every colour – from the Conservative government :
to London’s Labour Mayor :
Another simple truth is that huge numbers of existing car trips are short enough to be walked or cycled, as the graph below shows, using data from the latest London Travel Demand Survey.
We know a car is essential for some trips, but not nearly all; and the more that people walk or cycle shorts trips instead of using cars, the better it is for their health and for essential traffic, including buses and delivery vehicles. That’s a win-win, isn’t it?
There was a problem with through-traffic
Some streets in the larger LTNs, like LTN21 West Ealing South, did indeed have very little through traffic before the LTNs were implemented.
However, in the case of some of the smaller LTNs, like LTN08 Olive Road, LTN48 Adrienne Avenue, and LTN34 Bowes Road, as well as the Montague Avenue area of LTN21, the chief purpose of the filters was to exclude through traffic that used residential streets to avoid a particular queue on a main road.
Indeed, some residents of the Olive Road area have been lobbying for an LTN for this reason since at least 2016.
For the larger LTNs, we think the Council’s original letters announcing the schemes were wrong to make the removal of through traffic seem the chief or even sole purpose of LTNs.
Yet even within these bigger neighbourhoods, some streets such as Leighton Road, Elthorne Park Road, Coldershaw Road, Midhurst Road and Haslemere Avenue carried enough through traffic to make them too noisy, unsafe and congested.
Residents of such streets recall regular stand-offs between drivers going in different directions, often involving horn-blowing or shouting, indeed with the removal of LTN21 this is returning to those streets.
LTNs are popular
Separating the facts from the noise can be difficult. It’s true that there’s been a good deal of angry opposition to LTNs in Ealing and elsewhere, on social media and on the main consultation platforms. But could this be, as so often in similar circumstances, the result of action by a committed minority who know how to play the system?
We’ve also heard local groups – the Conservatives and CAMTAG – use the results of surveys they’ve done to claim that there is substantial or even overwhelming opposition. The local Conservative group are clearly not unbiased on this matter, however, and if you look at CAMTAG’s website and other material you’ll see that they also have a clear anti-LTN agenda.
Both surveys (especially that from the Conservatives) were calculated to attract responses from opponents; and anyone experienced in open consultations will know that they always disproportionately attract dissenting voices.
If you look at the results of the CAMTAG survey published in April, the headline was that 78% of respondents wanted LTN21 to be removed, and 19% wanted it to remain.
Putting aside the fact that a binary yes/no choice is inappropriate for a scheme that could plainly be changed, not simply done away with, the response rate to the survey leaflets distributed to 5,807 households was 23% (only one response per household was allowed). On this basis, all that can definitively be said about opposition is that someone in 18% of households leafleted (78% of 23%) said they wanted LTN21 removed.
Sadly, although we understand it had plans to do so, the Council has yet to do a proper, randomised door-to-door survey of opinion. In the absence of reliable information locally, we’ve found the results of unbiased surveys of London-wide opinion on LTNs, undertaken by a reputable research company:
Results published in October 2020 and in January and March 2021 show that, in answering the question “To what extent, if at all, do you support or oppose the introduction of LTNs in London?”, the proportion of those supporting LTNs was successively 52% (Oct), 44% (Jan) and 47% (Mar). The corresponding proportion of those opposing LTNs was 19%, 21% and 16%.
The LTN trials themselves are the consultation process
The LTNs were undoubtedly introduced somewhat hastily, because of the Covid 19 pandemic, and there certainly wasn’t a prior consultation process of the type we might be familiar with, such as that for Controlled parking Zones. However, the issues with LTNs are far more complex than those with CPZs. Apart from anything else, if parking is displaced from one residential street to another residential street, that’s a matter of convenience; whereas if moving traffic is displaced from one residential street to another residential street, that’s a matter of safety and pollution.
Because of the complexities involved, no-one could really say, hand on heart, exactly what the effects of the larger LTNs would be. Consequently, and bearing in mind the need for rapid action, the Council took the view that trials would be the most effective form of consultation, with Experimental Traffic Orders being made for each LTN allied to a review and, as necessary, amendment process.
We think this made sense under the circumstances, and we certainly refute the allegation that there was an inadequate consultation process. The LTN trials are in themselves a key part of the consultation process. The alternative would have been to ask people a question along the lines of “What do you think about a proposed scheme that you have no experience of and involves many streets you never use?” or “Where do you think we should put the filters?”.
You can imagine how impossible it would have been to draw any meaningful conclusions from such a process.
As it is, the consultation-by-experience model proved its worth when the Council made a number of alterations following comments that people had made based on experience of the first few months of operation. These featured the replacement of removable bollards at filters with enforcement of the regulations by CCTV, and a dispensation for vehicles registered by Blue Badge holders.
The Committee Report demonstrating the democratic process involved in making these changes can be viewed by clicking the link at the bottom of this web-page:
More generally, it’s well worth being clear that the introduction of LTNs was both a specific commitment in the 2018 Ealing Labour manifesto (see page 15 of
The introduction of LTNs is also entirely consistent with the vision and objectives of the Council’s democratically adopted Transport Strategy (2019-2022)
We’ll end this one by observing that, although we think the Council’s consultation process made sense, we think it did a very poor job of communication.
We don’t believe the sense of grievance about the procedure would have been any thing like what it was if the Council had taken the time to explain what was happening, in more detail, with more thorough justification, and with more notice.
A well-produced fold-out leaflet, with explanations, maps, facts and figures was distributed to residents, but not until mid-November – around three months after the trials were begun!
Health and emergency services support LTNs
We know that the Council tried, but failed, to obtain the views of the London Ambulance Service prior to the implementation of the LTNs, and of course we consider this was a grave error. The London Fire Brigade and Metropolitan Police were, nevertheless, properly consulted in advance, and regular liaison with all three services took place in the period after installation. This is covered in section 3.2 of the LTNs Interim Assessment Report dated 8th December 2020.
Despite the eagerness with which some people reported observing emergency service vehicles being unable to pass easily through the filters with removable bollards, no formal complaints were made to the Council by any of the services in respect of instances of crews being unable to meet their response time targets. Arising from the ongoing liaison, however, it was agreed that enforcement of the traffic filters would be switched from removable bollards to CCTV. These changes are described in section 3.5 of the Interim Assessment Report, with further information provided here
Since the changes were made, there have been no credible reports of any concerns about emergency vehicle access in the LTNs.
If you’re interested further reading around this subject, this Guardian article is a good place to start
It cites the following sources:
LTNs reduce people’s exposure to pollution
Social equity is a very important issue, one that’s close to our hearts, and one we’re glad has been raised in connection with LTNs. However, we might be forgiven for being somewhat surprised at the extent to which concern for people living on busy boundary roads has become a prominent issue for people living in LTNs who previously drove on the same boundary roads without seeming to be quite so solicitous.
As we mentioned under item one, the only sure-fire solution to traffic congestion, pollution and danger on any street or road – boundary or otherwise – is less motor traffic. The principal source of all traffic-related concerns on Ealing’s streets and roads is that the amount of motor traffic on them rose from an estimated total of 754 million vehicle miles in 2012 to 885.3 million vehicle miles in 2019. That’s an increase of 17.5% in just seven years.
If you’re really concerned about the negative effects on traffic, the thing to campaign for is action to enable people to use cars less, not action to spread the traffic around.
We often hear people assert that traffic is a ‘zero sum game’ – that there’s a fixed amount of traffic that has to go somewhere – and so if it’s not on residential streets it’s bound to be on boundary roads.
On day one after the introduction of a scheme like an LTN, it is true that few people will have had the opportunity to change their travel behaviour, and the total number of vehicle trips may be broadly the same. But by the end of week one, month one and year one, people will have started to travel differently, especially if it has been made easier and safer to walk or cycle short journeys. As background to this topic, we highly recommend a research paper called Disappearing Traffic
From which we quote the following:
The findings reinforce the conclusion that well-designed and well-implemented schemes to reallocate roadspace away from general traffic can help to improve conditions for pedestrians, cyclists or public transport users, without significantly increasing congestion or other related problems. Moreover, schemes can help in achieving a wide variety of benefits including accident reductions, air-quality improvements, reduced neighbourhood severance, increased business investment, more attractive living and working surroundings and improved retail vitality.
Another consideration in respect of the social equity aspects of driving in Ealing is that 40% of households in the borough have no car and therefore don’t have the option of driving.
Moreover, many people in car-owning households don’t have the option to go by car on a regular basis either, because of the needs of other members of the household.
Do LTNs discriminate on the basis of ethnicity and income?
There are many other factors involved in trying to answer the very reasonable question of whether or not LTNs generally tend simply to displace a problem from richer areas to poorer areas.
Much anti-LTN rhetoric in relation to this is based on the unevidenced assertion that an individual’s wealth is directly (and inversely) related to the amount of traffic on the street they live on; and therefore that LTNs must inevitably be socially inequitable. When you actually look at the evidence, you’ll find that (surprise, surprise) it’s highly complex, but that it just doesn’t bear out the simplistic as-night-follows-day assertions of anti-LTN campaigners.
If you’ve time, we recommend you read the section on London LTNs and Equity in the November 2020 report entitled LTNs for All?
Crime levels have decreased in LTNs
The evidence is here: