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Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are often claimed by their promoters to be popular with most residents. They produce figures from surveys that claim to support that view, but it very much depends on who you survey and what questions you ask (and how). It’s very easy to get support for such schemes by asking “would you like traffic to be reduced on local roads?”. As most people don’t like traffic congestion which delays their journeys they will answer Yes to that question even if they don’t want roads closed and their own journeys delayed by the typical measures used in LTNs.
Lewisham Survey Results
We recently undertook a survey of Lewisham residents who had responded to our campaign on the LTNs in the borough. We tried to ask unbiased questions and which did not lead the respondents to give a particular answer. About 550 people answered the survey before the changes to roads were introduced on November 9th and here’s a brief summary of the responses:
- We asked them whether they supported the existing road closures and other traffic measures introduced by the council? 97% answered No.
- The main reason for answering No was increased journey times or traffic congestion but increased air pollution, delays to emergency service vehicles, problems for service providers and difficulties faced by the elderly/disabled all rated highly at over 86%. There were also numerous individual negative comments supplied.
- For the few respondents who supported the road closures the main reason given was because they thought it might help climate change.
- The use of temporary traffic orders and without public consultation was deplored by 96% of respondents, and 97% said they were unnecessary because of the Covid-19 epidemic.
- Some 93% also said it was both unnecessary and impractical to restrict access to vehicles although 57% said it was important to encourage walking and cycling (“active travel”).
- A surprisingly large number of respondents (28%) said they suffer from age, infirmity or disability that inhibits their mobility and 13% said they suffer from medical conditions as a result of air pollution. This reflects other surveys of the health of the population in London where an ageing population and particularly past unhealthy life styles such as smoking are creating social problems. But such people have often come to rely on motor vehicles.
- 95% of respondents said they owned a motor vehicle and 37% own a cycle. Clearly respondents to the survey were mainly those who have been badly affected by the road closures in Lewisham which may not be surprising.
If anyone would like more details of the survey and its results, please contact us.
LTNs for all?
For a contrary view you can read a recently published paper entitled “LTNs for all”, subtitled “Mapping the extent of London’s new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods” (see https://tinyurl.com/yy5gdg4y ). It’s published by an organisation called Possible which is a charity working toward a zero carbon economy and promotes car free cities. The lead author is Rachel Aldred who is a Professor at Westminster University and Director of their Active Travel Academy. Needless to say it is an extremely biased document as it ignores all the objections reported to LTNs in London. But it does give a good overview of the number of LTNs that have been installed and those boroughs who have installed a lot, or in other cases none at all. The installation of LTNs does not seem to depend on local traffic problems or the wishes of the community but on the enthusiasm of some local councillors for them.
The evidence given in the paper for support of the LTNs and the “evaporation” of traffic is very selective when other surveys have shown the contrary. Of course opposition to LTNs depends on how they are installed and what measures are used. Simply closing roads to stop traffic as done in Lewisham, Waltham Forest and some other London boroughs creates major problems and surveys such as ours and the LibDems (see https://tinyurl.com/y5ttyd92 ) in Lewisham show how much opposition there is to badly conceived schemes that are installed without public consultation.
There is a discussion of “equity” in relation to transport in the paper. It suggests that where people have no gardens or nearby open space that it is justified in limiting access to roads. After a lot of muddled discussion, it says “While these differences [in street type] are relatively small (e.g. 90.2% of low income Outer Londoners live on residential streets, against 91.5% of the richest group), they suggest that in terms of social equity, it is more important in Outer London to introduce main road measures alongside LTNs, and ensure that high streets within an LTN area are included where possible”. In other words, after diverting traffic from side roads to main roads, they propose to introduce measures on main roads in addition to limit traffic!
It is unfortunate that the Possible paper does not look in any detail at the objections to road closures which is the main way LTNs are introduced at present.