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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Air Pollution Data in London Does Not Support Mayor’s Claims

Yet again the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has used school children to promote his policies to expand the ULEZ in a photo-shoot. He said “In central London, the world-leading Ultra Low Emission Zone has already helped cut toxic roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution by nearly half and led to reductions that are five times greater than the national average”.

But in fact a recently published report by the London Borough of Lewisham shows that air pollution has fallen dramatically in recent years even in outer London boroughs. This is clearly the result of changes to vehicles and in 2020 by Covid lockdowns reducing traffic.

This is what we have said to supporters of our campaign against the Lewisham LTNs:

There is major public concern on the impact of the road closures in the LTN on air pollution because they have diverted traffic onto surrounding roads. Such roads as Burnt Ash Road, Lee High Road, Lee Road, the South Circular and others are residential roads and there are reports of increased air pollution.

A useful report (at least to some extent) has just been published by Lewisham Council. It contains their “Air Quality Annual Status Report for 2020” (available from this page: https://tinyurl.com/pmhsu6up ).

The report contains measurements of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulates (PM2.5) over the last few years up to the end of 2020 from about 50 sites across the borough. An additional 51 sites were added in September 2020, many located within the LTN such as on Manor Lane and Burnt Ash Road, but that was of course after the Lee Green road closures were instituted. It is therefore impossible to see the impact of the road closures as no proper “before and after data” has been collected and the Covid lock-down measures will also have complicated any analysis. The biggest reduction occurred in the last two years but that might be due to reduced traffic volumes.

However the data shows that there have been consistent falls in pollution since 2014 (an average decrease of 38% for the seven year period). The levels reported are now all within the National Air Quality Standards, although some people argue that those standards should be raised.

It is no doubt the case that the falls in air pollution levels that have taken place prior to 2020 and continued in that year have occurred due to cleaner vehicles. Older vehicles have been scrapped and standards for new vehicles have been raised by Government regulation – for example by the move to Euro 6 standards. 

The borough supports the Mayor of London’s commitment to reduce the PM2.5 limit but as the report says “a large percentage of PM2.5 in London comes from regional and other transboundary (non-UK) sources”. It is clear that action on particulates, which is probably more important in health terms than NO2, needs to be taken at a national or international level.  In other words, local LTNs in Lewisham are not going to have a significant impact on background levels of air pollution.

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London Transport Commissioner and Mayor’s Special Pleading

The Evening Standard has published an article by London’s Transport Commissioner, Andy Byford (see Reference 1). In it he welcomes the £1 billion in Government funding to keep Transport for London running for another few months.

But like Sadiq Khan’s press release over the deal (see Reference 2), it complains about the lack of a “long-term settlement”. The Mayor even called it “yet another sticking plaster”. They do not seem to understand that the basic problem is that they are looking for taxpayers (i.e. you and me as represented by the Government) to fund an uneconomic business called Transport for London.

Andy Byford does spell out where some of the money will go which includes this: “And it means we can continue with innovative and creative schemes to decarbonise transport by 2030 and to clean-up London’s air through the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, further electrifying the bus fleet, promoting active travel — including more Santander cycles — and improving road safety”. In other words, they are spending taxpayers’ money to expand the ULEZ (a very ineffective scheme on a cost/benefit analysis) and provide more cycles. Clearly the approach seems to be to spend their way out of trouble in the socialist paradise of London.  

The Mayor says that TfL only needs emergency funding from the Government because the Covid epidemic cut fare income by 90%. That might have been true in the short term and over a few weeks but the details do not seem to have been disclosed. Usage of public transport is fast recovering so this may be only a temporary problem and the financial problems of TfL are a long-standing failure to run a prudent budget that takes into account not just operating costs but capital expenditure and financing costs in addition.

Regrettably the Mayor is acting like the animal that bites the hand that feeds it with his attacks on the Government.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: Evening Standard article: https://tinyurl.com/2fc4vtut

Reference 2: Mayor of London Press Release: https://tinyurl.com/82uwfr38

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Pushing Ahead with the ULEZ and Making Motoring Unaffordable

As expected, Sadiq Khan is pushing ahead with expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North/South Circular in October. Signs warning of entering into the zone are already being put up (see above).

Mr Khan has issued a press release announcing this which you can read here: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/ulez-to-be-expanded . He claims to have a mandate from Londoners to put environment and climate policies at the heart of his second term despite the fact that only a minority of Londoners actually voted for him. He also claims his policies will “improve London’s air and halt the climate emergency”. The former is not true and the latter is a figment of his imagination.

What he does spell out though is that 100,000 car owners, 35,000 van owners and 3,000 HGVs will be affected although the AA estimates the total number of motorists affected at more like 350,000. Owners of cars will have to pay £12.50 per day and most are still blissfully unaware of the impact this will have on them. But it will raise as much as £1 billion per annum in the next few years. The financial gain is what is driving this new taxation, not the environmental benefit.

The claims about the improvements in London’s air quality from the existing ULEZ zone are erroneous. It has improved because of national regulations on vehicle emissions and the change to the vehicle fleet as older vehicles are replaced. The recent changes have been solely down to the fact that with Covid epidemic lockdowns in place, the number of vehicles on the road of all kinds has been much reduced.

Such “environmental” taxes and the demand by Government that we all move to electric vehicles are likely to make the ownership of private cars something for the rich alone in future. Carlos Tavares, the leader of Stellantis (they own Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall brands) said recently that “The brutality with which change is imposed on this industry is an understatement. It’s completely top down and completely brutal. How do we protect freedom of mobility to the middle classes that may not be able to afford to buy €35,000 battery electric vehicles where today for the same conventional product they pay half for it?”

In effect, private mobility may become something only available to the wealthy with everyone else having to use public transport or cycle. Is that a world you wish to live in?

Roger Lawson

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Congestion Charge Rise to be Scrapped?

In June 2020 the central London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) was raised to £15 per day and made effective for 24 hours per day for 7 days per week. This was declared to be a “temporary” change to cope with the impact on TfL finances of the Covid pandemic and to discourage car use which might rise in the short term as people avoided public transport. Mayor Sadiq Khan blamed the Government for forcing him to make the change although Government Ministers said it was solely his decision.

But on the 26th April Khan said in a hustings meeting that “I will be negotiating with the Government so we don’t have to have it [the increased congestion charge] seven days a week or up until 10pm”.

But Conservative Mayoral Candidate Shaun Bailey said this to City AM in response: “Sadiq Khan is making things complicated. But the truth is very simple.

The Mayor decided to raise the Congestion Charge and the Mayor can choose to reverse it – today. The fact that he isn’t tells us everything we need to know.

Khan is trying to win votes by promising to cut the very taxes he raised. That’s like an arsonist trying to get out of jail by promising to put out the fire he started”.

Bailey went on to reiterate a pledge he made last June, saying: “As Mayor, I’ll reverse the Congestion Charge hike on day one, no consultation, no studies, no ifs, not buts. This is the fresh start that London needs.”

Comment: From my personal experience of driving into central London for hospital visits in the last few weeks, the raised congestion tax made absolutely no difference. When nobody was going to work in central London the traffic disappeared. When they returned the traffic was worse than it was before the lock-downs.

This looks like another attempt to win votes by bribing the electorate from Sadiq Khan which he has been so adept at doing in the past. But will he actually remove the “temporary” increase and extended times? His statement is ambiguous to say the least.

I suggest Shaun Bailey is more to be trusted on this than Sadiq Kahn, something to bear in mind when voting next week.

Roger Lawson

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Mayor Spells Out His Policies in the Times

Sadiq Khan has reiterated his policies on cars and air pollution in an article in the Times. He repeated his call for drivers to give up their cars and said: “Where you can give up using cars, I would encourage that. We can avoid a health crisis that is around air quality and obesity but [it] will also mean that those who do need to use the roads for good reason, be that you are a black-cab driver, electrician, plumber, blue-light services, delivery driver and so forth, are not stuck in traffic and frustrated about productivity when others who have alternatives aren’t using them.”

He repeats his gross exaggeration of the dangers of air pollution to the health of the public as a justification for the expansion of the ULEZ and the proposed charge for entering London from outside. In reality, the expansion of the ULEZ will have minimal impact on air pollution and in just a few years’ time the benefit will have completely disappeared. But there will be massive costs imposed on London’s vehicle owners. See this previous blog post for the data: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/04/15/ulez-the-latest-information-including-poor-financial-outcome/

However you look at it, it’s about raising taxes not improving the health of Londoners.

Times Article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/c71af668-a4ff-11eb-be8f-c06519de93dd?shareToken=88c7f827c16cd944a33cd315efb17e2d

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Mayoral Race Hotting-Up

The campaigns to get elected as the next Mayor of London are getting more active. For those who are considering voting for Sadiq Khan, an article published in the Independent makes it look like an ominous choice for anyone who wants to drive in London.

The article said that he vows to press ahead with controversial plans to get Londoners out of their cars.  The current Mayor said to the Independent that we “need to make sure we don’t go from one health crisis of Covid, to another one – even worse – of air quality”. Of course this makes for good political banter but it is untrue that air pollution is a major health crisis. It is certainly worth improving what air pollution there is in London as it might tackle some health issues but it has been steadily improving for years and years in most areas. Londoners have been living longer which puts a lie to the claim of major health crisis. Air pollution has only been highlighted in some locations recently because of the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) which has made things worse, while sources of air pollution other than vehicles are ignored.

Sadiq Khan said this in the article: “Our roads should be limited to blue light services, to electricians, to plumbers, to commercial drivers, to taxis, to those that need to use our roads – delivery drivers and so forth – rather than individuals that could be walking, cycling and using public transport”. So it seems those who wish to drive their family to their friends or relatives elsewhere in the country should be banned from using London’s roads. And doing a week’s shopping and carrying it home or visiting doctors should also be banned. Meanwhile the hypocrite that he is drives around in an armoured Range Rover (cost: £300,000 according to the Mail OnLine).

The Independent article is a classic example of how to throw mud at your opponents and to ignore the desires of the residents of London to have the LTN roads re-opened. See article on the link below for the full horror of what Mr Khan believes which includes some very misleading comments about his opponent’s policies.

To read about all the candidates and their policies in a less biased form, read this previous blog post:  https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/04/10/london-elections-runners-and-riders/

The Independent Article: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/london-mayor-sadiq-khan-traffic-b1834758.html

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Tories Abandoning London?

There was a good article in the Telegraph by Allister Heath yesterday about the Tories abysmal showing in London politics (they are likely to lose the Mayoral vote to Sadiq Khan in May if you believe the latest poll results). This is some of what he said under the headline “The Tories have abandoned Sadiq Khan’s London to a doom-spiral of permanent decline”:

“The reality is that while the Tories will happily take your tax money, they won’t lift a finger to help you. They prefer to help Khan: refusing to criticise the Met Police’s deplorable performance, which the mayor is ultimately responsible for; handing over billions for Transport for London, chaired by the mayor, without seizing genuine control; and promoting Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and anti-car measures that infuriate Tory voters. Covid should have been a chance to force an insolvent London mayoralty into special measures, and engineer a renegotiation of the dysfunctional devolution settlement; instead, Labour has been handed victory on a plate.

London’s “agglomeration economics” model is based on a massive, almost self-financing public transport infrastructure ferrying workers into central offices. Much of that will return, but even a 10 per cent permanent decline in commuter trips will bankrupt the transport system, forcing higher taxes and user fees, further discouraging demand.

At some stage, remote working will trigger Beeching-style cuts, tipping central London into a spiral of decline and dispersing economic activity across the nation and even the world.

Dense cities generally require more state intervention, planning and spending than exburbs. Instead, the Tories are pursuing an urban policy indistinguishable from Labour’s, have fallen in love with neo-communist ideas such as the 15-minute city – good for childless 20-something Deliveroo addicts, terrible for extended families, religious and cultural life and school choice – and transport policies that lock in ever greater levels of public subsidy.

The Government appears oblivious to all this, and has decided that it wants to win Hartlepool, not Harrow. Why not both? In abandoning Londoners to long-term decline, while simultaneously and mindlessly embracing Left-wing urbanism, it is betraying not just its electorate but also the country’s long-term interests”.

Comment: Many London boroughs are now so dominated by extreme left councillors that they pursue extreme policies with glee and without opposition. There is no active local democracy in such circumstances. Some London councils have only Labour councillors, i.e. no other parties represented and no independents.

It certainly seems that support for Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey is waning although there are a number of other contenders for the job of Mayor. My position is that Sadiq Khan has done a very poor job. His policies have been divisive and he has not tackled the big issues in London of housing, crime and transport while running up massive financial deficits. The road network is becoming paralysed by the growth of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, a policy actually promoted by central Government and Conservative ministers.

Sadiq Khan seems to prefer to spend more time on attacking the Government and playing politics than actually doing the job he was elected to do. Only a few years ago the common saying was “Vote for anyone but Ken” in the era of Ken Livingstone after the public became disillusioned with his performance. Now the saying is surely “Vote for anyone but Khan”.  

Roger Lawson

Full Telegraph article here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/03/17/tories-have-abandoned-sadiq-khans-london-doom-spiral-permanent/

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Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and School Streets

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has claimed in a tweet that “closing roads around schools to traffic at pick-up and drop-off times has reduced polluting nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 23%”. He has also issued a press release saying the same thing and giving more details – see below.

But the study on which this claim is based was only launched in September 2020 so the period covered is one where traffic was much reduced due to the pandemic and when schools were closed. It is hardly likely to be representative of the normal conditions.

The press release also claims that School Streets are popular with parents but those affected by the road closures who do not have children were not included in the survey. The Mayor even claims that “18% of parents are driving to school less during the pandemic, helping to clean up London’s air”. That’s surely hardly surprising as the schools have been closed!

This looks like a good example of selecting the statistics and the surveyed population that suit your argument while ignoring the bigger picture and the truth.

School Streets are allegedly so popular that Lewisham Council have introduced road closures on roads where there are no schools under the name of School Streets, simply to stop people driving through the Lee Green LTN area. The Council seems to think they can fool people into supporting the LTN by such dubious sophistry.

Mayor’s Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/school-streets-improve-air-quality

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Sadiq Khan Bailed Out Again and Legal Action Over LTNs

A deal was done over the weekend to keep Transport for London (TfL) afloat – at least temporarily. The Mayor’s Press Release issued yesterday (see below) was headlined “Mayor sees off plan to extend C-Charge as deal reached on TfL funding” which is a typical bit of political point scoring from Sadiq Khan. There was of course an enormous amount of opposition to extending the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) to a wider area as so many people would have been affected. But the Mayor has had to concede to some changes to keep London’s public transport system functioning until next March.

Some of the details are:

£1.8 billion of Government grant and borrowing made available – but note the increase in borrowing when TfL already has too much debt.

Concessionary fares will remain for older and younger Londoners.

Public transport fares will only increase as previously agreed.

Transport for London to make £160m of savings this financial year, and City Hall will need to raise additional income to protect concessions for older and younger Londoners for future years – if the Mayor wants to continue these. But where is he going to make those savings or raise the additional income from? It does not say.

A modest increase in council tax is to be looked at and the temporary changes to the central London Congestion Charge that were introduced in June 2020 will remain, i.e. they are likely to become permanent.

As one commentator said, this looks like kicking the can down the road as it will not solve the basic imbalance between income and expenditure in TfL over the next 6 months so come next March some tougher decisions will need to be made. It is very unlikely that the impact of the Covid-10 epidemic will have disappeared by then.

Postscript: the full terms of the bail-out have now been published in the Government’s letter to Sadiq Khan. See https://tinyurl.com/yyyxnvnp . You can see why he might be furious over the outcome because it makes it clear that TfL will remain under Government scrutiny and the Mayor has to come up with a sensible and “sustainable” financial plan for it.

Legal Action Over LTNs

The Daily Telegraph has reported on the commencement of legal action against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Enfield which we covered in a previous blog post. See link below to full article. It refers to “Emergency Traffic Orders” when I think it is talking about Temporary or Experimental Traffic Orders introduced under the Emergency Procedures introduced in June because of the Covid-19 epidemic.

The Telegraph articles also refers to legal challenges being mounted in Croydon and Lambeth. The OneLambeth campaign are raising funds for the legal challenge – see https://www.gofundme.com/f/OneLambeth . Please support them.

It will be worthwhile to follow these legal cases and we hope to report more details in due course.

Just to show how strongly the residents of Crystal Palace (Croydon) feel about the road closures, see this YouTube video of a demonstration over the weekend:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMrQna7tFmM

Telegraph Article: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/10/31/green-roads-council-becomes-first-taken-court-campaigners-say/

Emergency Traffic Order Procedures: https://tinyurl.com/ybns7rwx

Mayor of London Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-reaches-deal-on-tfl-funding

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