Ealing Friends of the Earth

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – Your Surprising Virtuous Friend?

Ealing Council has set up several Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) around the borough. These were installed experimentally to reduce through traffic.

But some car drivers have objected to being prevented from driving across their area claiming that their LTN is causing them to drive further. In some examples they used the journey distance was so short that cycling or walking would have been more appropriate.

Watch Nic Ferriday talking about LTNs

Ealing council is promoting a number of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. So what are LTNs?

Ealing Council says: “Many residential neighbourhoods have through-routes for cars, and so have too much traffic. Residential streets should be for local people to enjoy, not for vehicles speeding through to avoid congestion on the main roads. Less traffic means less air pollution from vehicles, reduced CO2 emissions, less noise and can make the area much more pleasant and safer for walking and cycling, which are proven to be significantly beneficial for health, physical and mental wellbeing.”

“A Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) is a residential area, bordered by main roads (roads that are often used by buses, lorries and non-local traffic), where “through” motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed, while allowing access for pedestrians and cyclists. To close a street [to through motor traffic], features such as bollards are placed strategically to still allow vehicle access to all properties for residents living within the LTN, but LTNs make it harder or impossible to drive through the area from one main road to the next.”

LTNs are being pushed through much more rapidly than normal because they are part of the response to the Covid-19 crisis. Fewer cars on local street means more space for social distancing and less air pollution (air pollution worsens the effect of Covid-19). LTNs also have other multiple benefits – road safety, more exercise (walking and cycling instead of driving cars) and climate change (less CO2 emissions). We can’t afford to wait until Covid is over before acting on these things.

This fast response means there has been no time to consult in the normal way. Instead, the schemes are regarded as experimental. They will be evaluated after 6 months or so and there will then be consultation to determine whether they should be retained, altered or scrapped. This is the plan of the (Labour) council and the (Conservative) government.

Some car drivers have objected to being prevented from driving across their area claiming that their LTN is causing them to drive further or divert to other roads. If they happen to live near the blocked point and insist on using their cars, this can happen. But the research on schemes already in place shows that people’s behaviour changes and motor traffic can reduce overall (sometimes called ‘traffic evaporation’). So people who argue that LTNs will increase traffic and therefore air pollution and CO2 emissions are not correct: that opinion is not supported by the evidence.

With schemes such as LTNs in place, people walk and cycle more and only use a car where really necessary. Reductions in car use can often be achieved by simply planning car journeys more economically (one trip for several purposes). Walking and cycling are, of course, made more attractive and therefore safer, quieter and more pleasant if there is less motor traffic. So LTNs are part of a ‘virtuous circle’.

For all these reasons Ealing Friends of the Earth supports LTNs. We urge residents to also support LTNs so that traffic is reduced, roads become safer, air pollution is reduced, people become healthier and CO2 emissions are reduced.

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