LGO Spineless Over LTN Complaint

There was an interesting article in the Sunday Telegraph on 10/10/2021 over a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). This was a complaint on how two Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) had been installed in Hounslow without proper consideration of the impact on older residents. The complainant who is aged in his 70s said he relied on his car to take shopping home and road closures obstructed the route.

The LGO upheld the complaint to the extent that the local Council had failed to produce evidence to show they considered the potential impact of the proposals and criticised some aspects of the decisions by the Council. But it appears that the only result might be an apology from the Council to the complainant although one of the road closures complained of was subsequently removed.

Comment: This is a typical example of the outcome of any complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. I advise people not to waste their time on such complaints but to threaten legal action. From past experience the LGO seems to favour councils and rarely upholds complaints in full or gets action taken. The LGO is a very ineffective organisation probably because many of its staff are former local government officers.

Roger Lawson

Telegraph report: https://tinyurl.com/ju5kt898

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Do LTNs Cut Accidents?

A study on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) by Anna Goodman et al, which has been widely reported by the Guardian and the Mayor of London, suggests that road casualties have fallen dramatically in London after LTNs were introduced. The fall is as much as 50% overall with large falls in pedestrian casualties.

One might say that if roads are closed and traffic reduced (the main objective of LTNs by their advocates although the Covid epidemic was used as the excuse to do so) then accidents are bound to fall. On the logic that the end justifies the means then to reduce the high road casualty toll, all roads should be closed. But that would not be very practical.

But if you look at the study, you will realise that it is hardly a scientifically accurate study of the impact of LTNs.

The key measure to look at when considering road accidents is the Killed and Seriously Injured (KSIs) where the data in this study seems to be very small, as minor injuries can suffer from under reporting. That is particularly so in the pandemic as people would be reluctant to visit police stations to report accidents.

In addition it seems a lot of the reduction is to pedestrians who were probably much reduced, particularly on busy shopping streets where most casualties take place, because of the pandemic. Few people were going shopping other than via the internet during the pandemic (many shops were closed), and the elderly and young, who are most prone to road accidents were particularly avoiding going out (schools were closed for example). The data has not been adjusted to take account of these factors.

The other issue is that road safety professionals consider that a three-year before and three-year after comparison is best used when considering the impact of road changes. This is because if road layouts are changed there tends to be a significant but only short-term impact on road user behaviour.

This is very selective data over a short period of time and not likely to reflect longer term trends. It is a great pity that Sadiq Khan has promoted this report without thinking. There are many good reasons why LTNs are opposed by the majority of people and LTNs are not a good way to reduce road accidents. All such simplistic solutions will fail because the reasons for accidents are complex and scientific studies need to have proper “controls” in place before conclusions are drawn. In this study, why were pedestrian casualties much reduced while other types were not and what features of the LTNs may have reduced accidents? There are several ways to implement LTNs but the report tells us nothing about those issues.

Reference: https://findingspress.org/article/25633-impacts-of-2020-low-traffic-neighbourhoods-in-london-on-road-traffic-injuries 

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The Mayor of London’s Agenda and New York’s Congestion Charge

Our new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a tweet that spells out his priorities. This is what he said:

Okay—here’s the plan:

🔨 Create + protect jobs
💰 Help businesses grow
🌳 Tackle the climate crisis
🏠 Build new homes
🚓 Invest in policing
🎬 Create opportunities for young people
🏆 Celebrate diversity
💪🏽 Root out inequality
⚽ Deliver an amazing Euro2020

<END>

These are all fine words, but rather like the Government’s policies as outlined in the Queen’s Speech, rather short on detail. It also contains phrases like “celebrate diversity” that are not just meaningless, but do not lead to specific actions or budget allocations. Many people would argue that there is too much diversity in London and that leads to social incoherence, and why should the Mayor be spending time or money on celebrating it anyway? We all know that the population of London is now very diverse and we have all come to accept that. So what is there to celebrate?

One big issue is certainly the comment that he plans to “Tackle the Climate Crisis”. Is there one? If you look at many London boroughs who have introduced Low Traffic Neighbourhoods they have justified this on the basis of tackling climate change. They argue that it is important to cut emissions from vehicles when doing so will have minimal impact on the climate. Climate may be influenced by man-made emissions (although some dispute that) but cutting vehicle emissions in London will have a negligible influence. Emissions in London come from many different sources and directly relate to the population of London and their requirements for buildings, heating and transport. The Mayor’s policies imply more businesses, more buildings to accommodate them, more homes for the workers and more infrastructure to support them so this is all contradictory.

Only if the Mayor adopted a policy of reducing the population of London while providing more infrastructure – particularly in terms of transport – would the environment be improved.

New York, New York

It’s interesting to look at another major city which has similar transport problems – a heavily congested road network and a public transport system in deficit. Just like the impact of the Covid epidemic on the budgets of Transport for London, New York is facing a major problem. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) budget (which covers the subway and some bus services and is equivalent to TfL in London) is projecting a deficit of $16 billion for the period 2020 to 2024, even after major cuts in services.

New York is planning to introduce congestion charging to cut traffic and of course generate some income for the MTA – as much as $15 billion by charging $10 to $15 dollars per day for those entering Manhattan. But the adjacent state of New Jersey, from which many people commute into New York City, is threatening retaliation. Senator Laguna and Assemblyman Tully are developing legislation that would impose tolls on non-residents driving between New Jersey and New York. Mr Tully said “We should not be used to fund the MTA”.

This is equivalent to Essex or Kent imposing a tax on Londoners who drive into their counties if Sadiq Khan imposed a toll on those who drive into London from outside the M25 – as he is proposing. This is surely a very good response to such a threat!

County Councils that border the M25 should surely be asking the Government for such legislation, or asking the Government to stop this taxation without representation.

Roger Lawson

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Another London Borough Scraps LTNs

The London Borough of Harrow is to remove cycle lanes and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) after a formal review and public consultation.

LTNs in the Headstone South, Francis Road and Vaughan Road schemes were opposed by between 65% and 80% of respondents to public consultation. The Council also claimed they increased congestion, increased air pollution and delayed emergency services.

The decision to remove the schemes was taken at a Cabinet Meeting on the 29th April. This is what the Leader of Harrow Council Graham Henson said:

“It is clear from the statutory consultation undertaken over the past six months that there is little support for the cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods implemented as part of the national initiative.

And so, the decision to remove these experimental schemes is the right one for Harrow – we will keep residents informed about when this will take place.

We have listened to and understand residents’ concerns about how the schemes were implemented. Going forward the council will do things differently – engaging with our residents to shape projects before they are implemented.

We have some difficult decisions ahead of us to make our streets safer for all road users and reach our Climate Emergency pledge to lower emissions in the borough and be carbon neutral by 2030 but we will approach this challenge together in partnership with our residents.”

The Council is still persisting with their plans for School Streets.

Harrow Council Announcement: https://www.harrow.gov.uk/news/article/10913/council-to-remove-cycle-lanes-and-low-traffic-neighbourhood-schemes

A good report by the Daily Telegraph on events in Harrow is here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/04/17/green-road-schemes-ripped-council-landmark-decision-following/

Comment: Harrow Council is Labour controlled but by a slim majority over the Conservatives. It is remarkable how quickly the above decision was taken and it seems clear that the public opposition to the schemes had a big impact on the views of Councillors. It is good that Councillors did pay attention to the views of their electorate unlike in other London boroughs where dogma has overridden common sense.

Roger Lawson

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Why LTNs are Failing, and Deserve to Do So

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are still spreading over London but opposition to them is growing. Some have even been removed or substantially reduced already due to local opposition. It’s worth reviewing why they have failed or generated such opposition, and why they are even being installed in the first place.

The support for LTNs comes from a desire to reduce traffic, particularly on residential streets. This is promoted by their supporters as a way to reduce air pollution and to tackle climate change. A number of London councils have declared “climate emergencies” which they say justifies an attack on the use of vehicles, particularly internal combustion driven ones. But this has extended to halting the use of all vehicles which it is argued will  reduce traffic accidents, enable children to play in the streets and encourage people to walk and cycle, thereby making us healthier and live longer.

Even those who own vehicles (about 50% of London households own a car) would like to see less traffic as high traffic levels cause congestion and hence extended journey times. Many residents who own cars want to drive via the shortest and least congested routes possible but don’t want folks from adjacent neighbourhoods driving down their street.

There are undoubtedly good arguments for encouraging healthy life styles not just for your personal benefit but because it reduces the cost of the NHS which we all pay for out of taxes. However the introduction of LTNs as a solution to excessive traffic has followed the law of unintended consequences. Firstly they tend to simply redistribute traffic from minor roads onto surrounding major roads. Those roads become more congested and as the traffic is slow moving or stationary, it creates more air pollution for residents of those roads not less.

LTNs do not reduce the demand for travel. They might encourage the use of walking or cycling by the healthy and young cohort of the population but there is very little evidence of a significant change in the habits of existing car drivers. In other words, the claimed “modal shift” generated by “modal filters” and such like is frequently a mirage. The traffic does not “evaporate” as claimed but gets redistributed or delayed as circuitous routes are taken. The elderly and disabled are particularly disadvantaged as they may be unable to walk or cycle far, if at all. But their needs are frequently ignored by council planners who tend to be young and unsympathetic – indeed the Equalities Act which protects minorities is often not properly considered.

Of course it does depend to some extent on how well designed is an LTN. It has been long standing practice to close some minor roads to avoid excessive traffic which should be on major roads. At least that is the theory but in London even major roads are commonly roads on which people live in apartments, i.e. they are residential roads also.

Other roads such as major shopping “high streets” have been pedestrianised to the advantage of shoppers and retailers. This writer certainly has no objection to such measures which remove traffic to other roads as long as the needs of the disabled are taken into account.

Although overall vehicle ownership and traffic volumes have actually not been rising in London in the last few years, the closure of roads, the addition of cycle and bus lanes, and other measures such as removal of gyratories, more traffic lights with reduced timings and more pedestrian crossings have resulted in more congestion. The growth of ride hailing apps such as Uber have also contributed to more congestion in some parts of the capital.

The population of London has been rising rapidly, encouraged by Mayors of all political complexions. This has put more pressure on transport and on housing provision. Even public transport has become heavily congested while buses are delayed and become less attractive to use by the traffic congestion. The rise of deliveries of internet orders by LGVs has also increased markedly leading to higher use of minor roads which has also been supported by the use of Satnavs.

What can actually be done that would really reduce traffic in London and cut air pollution? Here are some more realistic ideas:

  • Reducing air pollution by obstructing traffic (a typical focus of LTNs) simply does not work. The solution is to produce vehicles that generate less pollution. In fact this is well on the way to being achieved by Government regulation and taxation, and by improved diesel/petrol engines.
  • Reducing the population of London would relieve the problem of traffic congestion, public transport congestion and housing insufficiency. Why does no politician advocate it?
  • Investing in expanding and improving the road network would also help while putting in LTNs does the opposite.

Note that none of those measures will actually do anything about climate change, whether you believe in man-made global warming or not. The contribution of road transport to CO2 emissions globally is only 18% and is falling while emissions from aircraft and shipping is rising. Meanwhile other sources such as home/office heating, industrial processes and construction are very big contributors. These emissions do of course directly relate to population levels so that’s another reason for reducing the population.

But global emissions are dominated by the big and populous countries such as the USA, China, India and Russia. The UK only contributes about 1%. So when local councillors such as Councillor Scott in Croydon suggest we are all doomed unless we cut vehicle use, he needs to go tell it to Joe Biden et al. 

The UK is already focussed on achieving net-zero carbon emissions and is well ahead of other countries in that objective. But whether it is economically practical to achieve that, or wise to even aim for it, has yet to be confirmed. But it is certainly the case that putting in LTNs in local boroughs will have absolutely no impact on the outcome.

Regrettably many local councillors seem to think they got elected to save the world rather than sticking to their job of listening to their local electorate and improving their borough by practical steps. Even central Government politicians have fallen into this trap, hence the encouragement with funding from Grant Shapps, Transport Minister, for LTNs.

In the meantime all LTNs are doing is creating enormous inconvenience for many of London’s residents to no purpose. It’s like a religion where supporters of LTNs claim benefits which are unproven but they think all you need to do is believe in them and the world will be a better place. No it will not be.

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LTNs Force Vehicles into Poorer Roads

A good article in the Times on Saturday 13/2/2020 reported on how Low Traffic Neighbourhoods resulted in vehicles being directed into streets where poorer people live. Traffic is diverted onto boundary roads which already have high traffic levels and where residents often live in low-cost housing such as flats.

To quote from the article: “The figures will fuel concerns that the policy of sectioning off certain areas of cities to through traffic is dividing communities and disproportionately benefiting middle-class homeowners.

Residents who live on the edge of the zones say their lives have been blighted by increased traffic, pollution and noise. They point out that many of the cycling and environmental activists who have campaigned for LTNs live in areas that have benefited from the schemes at the expense of their neighbours.

Ediz Mevlit, a bus traffic controller from Enfield who has become a campaigner against low traffic neighbourhoods, said: ‘Our local LTN is in the more affluent part and it is pushing traffic on to the surrounding roads that are less affluent. These policies have completely advantaged the wealthier people where I live including a senior figure in one of London’s main cycling groups. I find it absolutely disgusting’”.

See https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/low-traffic-zones-force-cars-into-streets-where-poorer-people-live-6svsbck3k for full story.

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LTNs Collapsing Under Public and Legal Pressure – Croydon the Latest

Several Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes have been abandoned and the latest one to collapse has been that in the Crystal Palace and South Norwood area of Croydon.

This is what local MP Ellie Reeves said in a latter to the Council after a consultation was undertaken:

“The consultation outcome is now known and the results set out below:

– 26% in favour of changing the scheme to ANPR

– 15% in favour of retaining the existing scheme

– 61% in favour of removing the scheme entirely

An overwhelming number, 61% of residents, voted for the removal of the scheme entirely. However, I understand that Croydon Council is looking at implementing ANPR cameras instead. This is not what local residents voted for. This is not what local residents want. There was a high turnout of 25.29% of residents responding, it is important to note that traffic scheme consultation would usually expect a 10-15% response rate. I am surprised that the Council’s report has implied a higher turnout was needed for the results of the consultation to be carried out as expressed by local people who have to live with the decisions they have voted for”.

Yes the Council will be removing the existing scheme almost immediately but they are proposing to bring in an ANPR (i.e. camera enforced) scheme to replace it. Such a scheme will provide exemptions to local residents and other selected groups. They also need to take some legal advice after the recent High Court judgement on the Mayor’s Streetspace plans.

This is what one local resident said about such a proposal: “Where do you draw the line with the permit? Each case looks fair on its own, but you end up with so many permits you might as well not bother”. We totally agree with that view. We are opposed to permit schemes or timed road closures. They are very expensive to operate and camera enforcement just enables the local council to generate enormous amounts of money in fines through accidental infringements.

In Lewisham over a million pounds has been extracted in this way in a few weeks. Above is a picture of signed bus gate enforced by ANPR in Manor Park which shows how confusing the signs can be. The “No Entry” sign in theory stops buses going through making it the shortest bus lane on record.

The opposition to fines in Lewisham, where many people have collected tens of them racking up thousands of pounds in fines, has resulted in multiple appeals to the London Tribunal and surprisingly it is reported that many have been upheld.

The quote above from a local resident in Croydon comes from a publication I shall call “Insidious Croydon” as they always make abusive comments about us. This publication suggests that the local campaign against the LTN in Croydon called “Open Our Roads” is backed by us and that the Council has caved in to motoring lobby groups. This is simply wrong. We made a token donation to Open Our Roads, as we have to other anti-LTN groups in London. But we have no influence over the Croydon campaign which was created and run by local residents. It’s the ordinary vehicle owners in Croydon (and the neighbouring borough of Bromley whose residents have also been badly affected by the scheme) who hate the road closures and the traffic congestion they have created.

Open Our Roads is still pursuing legal action on the Croydon scheme. See this web page for other anti-LTN campaign groups in London and their funding of legal action: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/london-road-closures.htm

The conclusion is obvious. The majority of local residents oppose LTN schemes where they have been imposed. And that includes people who do not even own vehicles. If it was not for central Government and the Mayor of London encouraging and financing such schemes, using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse, they would never have been adopted. Bear that in mind the next time you vote.

Roger Lawson

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Legal Actions Against LTNs Escalating

There are as many as 10 separate legal actions being pursued by London residents against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). There will be an initial hearing in the High Court on the 12th February to decide how the cases should be dealt with.

The grounds for each legal challenge may vary from borough to borough depending on the actions of the local council. But the possible grounds for a legal challenge may include the following:

Roads can be closed by the use of Traffic Orders but there needs to be reasonable justification for such closures and time given for objections. There are also several Acts of Parliament that might be relevant. For example:

–         The Road Traffic Act 1984 which contains this sentence (in Section 122): “It shall be the duty of the Greater London Council and of every other local authority upon whom functions are conferred by or under this Act, so to exercise the functions conferred on them by this Act …. to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of vehicular and other traffic….”. Road closures aimed simply at reducing traffic appear to be ignoring that duty.

–         The Traffic Management Act 2004 which puts a duty on local traffic authorities to manage their road network to make sure that traffic can move freely. Again this duty is being ignored.

–         The Equalities Act 2010 which restricts discrimination against people with disabilities or based on age when road closure proposals negatively impact those sections of the community.

There is also the issue of the lack of public consultations on many of the road closures to date, or they have been done in an incomplete and biased manner.

Alternatively some of the road closures have been simply irrational, or have been progressed without the correct procedures being followed by councils.

The recent successful action by black cab drivers against the Bishopsgate road closure showed how there may well be successful challenges against LTNs introduced using Streetspace funding from TfL.

Below is a list of those campaign groups who are specifically raising funds for legal action. Please give generously!

Croydon: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/open-our-roads-legal-justice-fund

Ealing: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/oneealing

Enfield: https://www.gofundme.com/f/bounds-and-bowes-voice-bowes-ltn?

Hounslow: https://www.gofundme.com/f/onechiswick-united-against-streetspace-changes?

Hackney: https://www.gofundme.com/f/stop-hackney-road-closures?

Lambeth: https://www.gofundme.com/f/OneLambeth?

There is a more complete list of campaign groups on this page of our web site: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/london-road-closures.htm

Roger Lawson

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LTNs Are Not Popular

The promised survey of residents that was planned to take place in December in Lewisham has been abandoned. It will now be combined with a full public consultation in March, so residents of the borough will have to put up with current road closures for many more months.

But Lewisham Council have published a lot of information recently on Commonplace about the data they have collected so far including the opinions posted on Commonplace. See https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/proposals/lewisham-lee-green-ltn-monitoring for the voluminous data.

The chart above shows that there is clearly a large majority of residents who do not wish the LTN scheme to be made permanent. So much for the claims that LTNs are popular with residents!

Roger Lawson

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Make Lee Green and Croydon Committee Review of LTN

It has come to my attention that a leaflet has been circulated in Lewisham by an organisation (or one person) called “Make Lee Green”. It argues that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are a big part of the solution to make “A safer, healthier, more sustainable Lewisham”. It then quotes some very selective and misleading statistics.

For example it says “80% of journeys in London will be made by foot, bike or public transport by 2041”. That may be the Mayor of London’s objectives as published in his Mayor’s Transport Strategy a couple of year’s ago but the chance of this happening is very low. The recent trends tell us that the Mayor is nowhere near on target to achieve that. For outer London boroughs it is very unlikely to be met. For example, for the whole of London, before the pandemic hit, the figure was just over 60% but with lockdown measures continuing, the overall “active, efficient and sustainable” mode share – public transport, walking and cycling – could in fact be “the lowest seen in London since the early 2000’s, and not be back at 2019 levels until well into 2021″, the latest report concludes (see links below).

A lot of the journeys are by bus and how are buses more sustainable than cars? They are not, and bus users are not participating in active travel and neither are they necessarily “efficient” if people have to go on round about routes to reach their destinations.

Overall traffic volumes have actually been falling in London in recent years, particularly car trips, but LGV and PHV trips have increased as more people use internet shopping and more people use services such as Uber. These both tend to be trips on minor roads to access local premises and homes, but LTNs do not remove those trips.

So who is publishing and circulating these misleading Make Lee Green leaflets? There is no name and address on the leaflet and neither is there any on their associated web site, where they are even using a proxy service to conceal the identity of the web site owners. In summary the leaflets are simply a piece of distorted propaganda from someone who prefers to remain anonymous. Is it more than one person? We should be told.

OnLondon Travel Report: https://www.onlondon.co.uk/latest-travel-in-london-report-details-extent-of-covids-impact-on-capitals-transport/

Travel in London Survey: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2019/12/27/travel-in-london-survey-how-its-being-made-more-difficult/

Croydon Committee Review of LTN

I mentioned previously the report on the LTN in the Crystal Palace and South Norwood area of Croydon. It was discussed by the Traffic Management Advisory Committee last night (12/1/2021). Ian Plowright, Head of Transport, gave a very misleading summary of the report and the new proposals to convert the LTN to an “experimental” scheme using ANPR cameras to enforce. Eliska Finlay, representing “Open our roads” gave a good speech in support of scrapping the LTN altogether (see https://webcasting.croydon.gov.uk/meetings/11439 for a recording of the meeting).

The views of committee members were 2 in support of the ANPR scheme but 3 were against. It will now depend on decisions by the Chair of the Committee and others. But there is a good chance the whole scheme will be abandoned. That is particularly bearing in mind that the funding of an ANPR scheme will require approval of funding by both TfL and the DfT which may not be forthcoming.

In summary this was an ill-conceived scheme which has had very negative consequences for residents of that part of Croydon but also in neighbouring boroughs, particularly Bromley. It should be scrapped as soon as possible.

The public survey responses were quite clear. The LTN scheme in Croydon is not wanted. No doubt Lewisham residents would say the same thing if they were asked about their LTN, as would residents in other London boroughs who have been suffering the consequences of these ill-thought out schemes.

Roger Lawson

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