A battle is taking place on British roads. In the red corner, those who want to tackle road danger, air pollution and climate change. In the blue corner, those willing to tolerate the status quo. The current skirmish involves Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), schemes that use bollards or planters to stop rat running and create safe spaces for walking and cycling. However, they have attracted vocal opposition.
The road blocks – or modal filters as they are also called – that create LTNs have long been used in The Netherlands and other countries that actively promote walking and cycling. Here in Britain, their widespread and rapid installation has been prompted by the need to provide alternatives to public transport following Covid-19 restrictions and a desperate need to reduce traffic levels – especially given the link between coronavirus deaths and air pollution.
The schemes make use of new government funds and use emergency traffic orders to bypass the conventional planning process – public consultation happens over the first six months of operation. That hasn’t stopped a vocal minority from protesting against the LTNs and in some cases vandalising them – or simply driving on pavements to avoid the road closures. In the case of Conservative London borough, Wandsworth, they reacted to objections by swiftly scrapping their LTNs.
It’s tempting to assume that everyone wants clean air and safer streets, but, as in so many other areas of politics today, the subject of LTNs appears to have become a polarised argument – a culture war between those who believe they have a right to drive whenever and wherever they like and those who believe that the part of the answer to climate change, obesity, air pollution is the promotion of active travel. And surely that is the point – LTNs are only part of the answer. There are echoes of the debacle which saw speed bumps ripped up because of fears of increased air pollution – LTNs will only be truly effective when part of a holistic approach to the reduction of road danger – in all its forms.
Do LTNs work?
Research carried on impacts of active travel interventions in Outer London between 2016-19 has found decreased car ownership and use and increased active travel in intervention areas where Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) were introduced. Decreased car ownership and use was found only in such areas. The research suggests that to reduce car use as well as increase active travel, LTNs are an important part of the intervention toolbox.
Co-author of the research Rachel Aldred is a professor in Transport at the University of Westminster with over 25 peer reviewed papers to her name and appears in our documentary about road danger Stop Killing our Children.
Protect your bicycle
One cycle insurance policy appears much like another, but the devil is the detail. How much excess you will be charged is just one of the things that varies between providers. Another is so-called ‘new-for-old’ replacement – many insurers use this term, but if your bicycle is more than a few years old, devalue it severely. This means you are left out of pocket when you come to replace it.
ETA cycle insurance has a low excess and offers new-for-old for life – however old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model. And every cycle insurance policy you buy from us helps support the work of the ETA Trust, our charity campaigning for a cleaner, safer transport future.