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Analysis shows nearly a third of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have been scrapped

The LTNs are removed sometimes without any local consultation

A recent analysis conducted by inews has shown that 28 per cent of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes installed since March 2020 have been discarded in the UK.

105 local authorities responded to the media outlet’s enquiry, which asked regional transport authorities and local councils to provide information on the number of LTNs installed since March 2020, and how many had been scrapped.

In the 105 authorities, 189 LTNs had been installed since March 2020 and 52 (28 per cent) have since been removed. In London, 30 per cent of the LTNs have been removed after negative feedback - some without any consultation period. 

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, told i some councils removed schemes without even waiting for data to show whether they were encouraging more active travel or improving air quality.

“Too often, people wanted to remove things because they thought it would cause more congestion, that it would cause increased air pollution,” he told i. “They didn’t wait for an evaluation. Not every scheme that was put in place was therefore fully consulted on, or perfect. The problem we then had was that too many councils ripped out schemes that weren’t perfect, instead of saying ‘how do we tweak it?’”

LTNs became a major agenda in 2020, when ministers put together a £250m emergency fund for immediate, “experimental” changes to road layouts, as part of a wider £2bn investment in walking and cycling across England.

They boomed in cities as an attempt to encourage more people to walk and cycle instead of using public transport because of Covid-19, but many have also been put in place to permanently calm down the traffic and improve air quality. Ministers titled the initiative often as the “walking and cycling revolution”. 

The planters, bollards and other traffic calming measures have, however, been repeatedly vandalised across the country and those supporting them have become subject to abuse, making them a toxic issue

Opponents of LTNs argue they push more traffic to perimeter roads and cause difficulties for the elderly and disabled. 

Adam Tranter, cycling and walking commissioner for the West Midlands told inews that some schemes failed simply because of a “lack of political will”, with councils conceding too readily to LTN opponents.

“We have across the country many local authorities who have not been prioritising active travel for decades,” Tranter said. “Change is really hard, and you have to bring people with you. But the important thing here is not to mistake bringing people with you as some sort of veto for making the bold decisions we need to in the face of a climate crisis and inactivity crisis.”

Suvi joined F-At in 2022, first writing for off-road.cc. She's since joined the tech hub, and contributes to all of the sites covering tech news, features, reviews and women's cycling content. Lover of long-distance cycling, Suvi is easily convinced to join any rides and events that cover over 100km, and ideally, plenty of cake and coffee stops. 

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34 comments

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Shades | 2 years ago
1 like

From my perspective the LTN concept isn't anything new; I can remember roads being blocked off (properly; not with temporary bollards or anything) 20-30 years ago to stop rat-running.  Normally it was just an isolated road so perhaps when it's done en-masse (ie LTN style) everyone runs around with their hair on fire, or perhaps the countries relationship with the motorcar has become so addictive that any tiny attempt to restrict it results in hysteria.  Just reminded of a recent road-trip to ride in S Wales; stopped at a cafe and was staggered by the amount of working-age grossly overweight people, some needing sticks and crutches to walk, so good luck with LTNs around there.

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Rich_cb | 2 years ago
11 likes

Unexpectedly negative spin on this story.

Nearly three quarters of LTNs installed during the pandemic are still in place.

As others have said some of those installed so rapidly will have been poorly thought out, others will not have been popular with residents.

For nearly 3/4 to remain despite all the supposed opprobrium is a positive.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
9 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

Unexpectedly negative spin on this story. Nearly three quarters of LTNs installed during the pandemic are still in place. As others have said some of those installed so rapidly will have been poorly thought out, others will not have been popular with residents. For nearly 3/4 to remain despite all the supposed opprobrium is a positive.

I think the negativity is warranted. It took the Netherlands about 15 years to switch from being car dominated to having some good infrastructure and it's frustrating how as a society we seem to still be arguing about it rather than just going ahead and doing it. Yes, we're making progress in places, but I just feel that it's two steps forward and one step back.

I don't mind so much when it's the very poorly thought out ones that get re-designed (it's best to recognise failures and fix them quickly), but I suspect that quite a few good schemes have just failed due to short-sighted councils opposing them.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
2 likes

The Netherlands started reversing the "bulldoze it for the car" policy in the 70s (history at BicycleDutch and David Hembrow / BicycleDutch).  They started from a base of still having quite a bit of infra.  Interestingly I think the countryside had quite good provision.  Plus they started from a much higher cycling modal share.  They're still not perfect - just the best - and we're almost 50 years on.  If it's worth doing we better get cracking.  It won't happen on its own even with government "encouragement".  Any more than mass motoring happened on its own.

With LTNs I suspect there are 3 things which may need doing: 1) a clear definition of what expected outcomes are - and measuring them.  So that means e.g. traffic surveys before and after.  2) Factoring in a suitable time frame to allow for traffic adaption.  3) Having provision for making some sensible adaptions as part of the plan - without ripping out the whole thing.

Currently the definition of "poorly thought out" sometimes seems to be "changed things for the motorist".  Or rather "changed things for motorists so got negative publicity and a noisy - but possibly small - number of objections".

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Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
2 likes

Not a particularly helpful headline or research without understanding in better detail why the are gone. It highly plausible that some were just so badly thought out they needed to go.   For others it's likely the council deserves pillorying and fining. 
Unfortunately we can't tell the difference unless there are more details to this "research". 

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Awavey | 2 years ago
7 likes

I know LTNs catch the headlines, most likely as Ive complained before because of the near permanent focus on the ones in London, its alot harder for councils to remove LTNs if they never bothered putting them in, in the first place.

But theres a bigger story here I think about how much of the Active Travel funded schemes actually exist anymore, what has happened to all that money that was allocated, has it all been spent ? are those schemes that are left (as Im assuming not all have survived) working?  is there a measurable growth in cycling as a result ?

Its been pretty much exactly 2 years since the DfT launched this programme of active travel funding, youd think people would be questioning how much of a success it is by now.

Especially since round 3 of the funding allocating a further 161million pounds was announced just 9 days ago to great fanfare well basically tumbleweed, and unlike previous rounds theres scant detail of what local authorities actually intend doing with the money theyve been allocated this time, very few have detailed plans beyond they intend doing something in an area. For all we know alot of them  may be looking to add a bunch more LTNs, only to then take them out again later because they havent learnt anything about how to do this stuff properly yet.

Which is clearly the case because in round 3, some councils bids were downsized because they still werent following the guidance.

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
7 likes

“We have across the country many local authorities who have not been prioritising active travel for decades,”

This.  All councils have wonderful, idealistic pro-active travel policies, it's just that they are decorative, and most emphatically not for putting into practice.  I'm sure that all the readers of road.cc are assiduous in their scrutiny of their local councils, but just in case, hassle them.  Hassle them day after day, week after week, month after month until they eventually get the message that cyclists and pedestrians matter, not just the loud, shouty petrolheads.

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chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
3 likes

True in a snarky way.  Being more charitable you could say it's utter ignorance plus negative feedback.

Council members and indeed their designers / those charged with actually implementing this don't know what they don't know about how this is actually made to work (more here, and here and UK detail here ...).  It's not even "this is what it looks like - copy that and off you go".  Some (re)education is needed - they've been told to do it the opposite way for generations.  Send them all to the Netherlands for a weekend's "study" and I'm sure people would return and enthusiastically implement canals and windmills.  Or just hand out dutch bikes.  And given where we are starting from in the UK they probably need sending to Paris, Seville, Malmo etc. first as a warm-up else the advanced streetscape would be incomprehensible.

By volume (loudness and amount) the feedback they receive - from their business partners, from the government and even their residents - will be "we don't want this" or "don't make life / business difficult by restricting motor vehicles". Why waste limited money on things that annoy people?

I'm sure it will come as a shock to this government (or any previous government) too after all the years of "encouraging active travel".  They even occasionally dole out a fraction of a percent of the travel budget too. Most likely think "British people just don't want to".  They're right. The fault is not honestly asking "why don't they want to?"

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eburtthebike replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
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chrisonatrike wrote:

True in a snarky way.

Possibly the most backhandedest of all backhanded compliments ever; I think.

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chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
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I can hardly deny that some of the authorities are actively against this and some are happy to "encourage" things while in practice letting them fail or simply ignoring them.  I was merely suggesting some other explanations.  "It's a complicated pitcture" isn't a good slogan though, I'll grant you.

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Secret_squirrel replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
7 likes

Of all the poisonous legacies of Thatcherism and capitalism is that individual things have to run at profit or break even. 
 

my council keeps putting up bus fares and reducing frequencies inspite of declaring a climate emergency. 
 

id like to see some concerted education in this country as to what a public good is. 

 

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Rich_cb replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
1 like

It's all well and good saying that we should be running bus services at a loss because 'environment' but somebody has to pay for those losses.

You have to either put up taxes or cut other services.

Neither of which will be popular.

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chrisonabike replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
8 likes

Well we're still subsidising motoring, both ICE and battery-driven.  Since part of the point here would seem to be to reduce motoring why not just subsidise that less and public transport / active travel more?

No doubt the chancellor can ensure that the extra funding doesn't just go into tax-free / offshore profits.  He's been making noises about "investment" by companies recently so that should be perfectly in line with government thinking.  Hand it off to the councils and let service be their problem - ideal for government!

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Rich_cb replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
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Unfortunately motoring is only 'subsidised' if you arbitrarily assign values to externalities that are incredibly difficult to accurately quantify.

In reality this means that to reduce the 'subsidy' you'd actually have to hike taxes which brings us back to my original point.

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chrisonabike replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
4 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

Unfortunately motoring is only 'subsidised' if you arbitrarily assign values to externalities that are incredibly difficult to accurately quantify. In reality this means that to reduce the 'subsidy' you'd actually have to hike taxes which brings us back to my original point.

Have you missed out?  Direct subsidies here (electric vehicle, domestic electric charging point). Is the government also assisting electric car companies too?

I agree numbers are difficult.  (Overview article Wikipedia - and the Danes have had a go)  However I think this is exactly the kind of "incredibly difficult to quantify" thing that e.g. government-sponsored research engages with and we decide policy on ... all the time.

At the political level people choose whether to measure certain things at all, or to measure things in certain ways and to how much detail ... all the time.  As a follower of Brexit details I'm sure you'll be aware of some examples!

What we have done is reduce a vast number of things (measured or not) to a couple of numbers - "road tax" and fuel duty.  And we have encouraged motoring and car dependence (multiple decades).

I agree that a) we pay more for petrol than the US, or indeed lots of European countries.  b) As for "you'd have to put up taxes" - to shift people away from ICE vehicles at a rate we want we may need to do just that. (Along with lots of other interventions of course).  Is there ever a good time to put up a tax?

We also seem to be able to find enormous sums of money on a regular basis.  Some of this may just be in the reporting (e.g. "extra billions for active travel" turned out ... not to be extra etc.), we've had windfall taxes, some may be borrowed, some shifted about the books...  I'm frankly ignorant of most of the detail.

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Rich_cb replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
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Are EVs subsidised? Or just taxed at a lower rate?

I'm pretty sure VAT still applies so I doubt many EV sales fail to generate a positive return for the Exchequer.

IMO something is only subsidised if it is provided at below the market rate.

If something is taxed at 5%, for example, then it will always be provided at above the market rate as its price is 1.05 X the market price by default.

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Simon E replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
3 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

Unfortunately motoring is only 'subsidised' if you arbitrarily assign values to externalities that are incredibly difficult to accurately quantify.

I don't think all of them are difficult to quantify e.g. the cost of road building and maintenance, the resources required in the wake of a road death.

What may be tricky for us to accurately put a figure to is that the wider burden, e.g. premature deaths due to poor air quality or the negative health effects of traffic noise, where the blame cannot be quantified or laid solely at the door of motor traffic. However, it is clear that traffic contributes massively to these issues.

We are facing the prospect of decades or even centuries of repair or remedial action due to the change to our climate caused by extracting and burning fossil fuels. This 'subsidy' will be far larger than anything we've seen, a vast and permanent burden for many generations.

But you seem determined to argue against changing the status quo regarding transport, taxation and other related issues.

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Rich_cb replied to Simon E | 2 years ago
1 like

If you just measure the easy ones then you end up with cars generating a surplus.

A quick glance at any business case for major roadworks confirms this.

I agree that the wider issues are incredibly difficult to accurately quantify and, therefore, it is incredibly difficult to argue convincingly that car ownership is subsidised.

I'm not sure that your final paragraph is accurate. On this very page I've commented positively about LTNs and I've made multiple previous comments on multiple previous threads in favour of active transport and climate friendly policies in general.

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Simon E replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
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Rich_cb wrote:

I'm not sure that your final paragraph is accurate. On this very page I've commented positively about LTNs and I've made multiple previous comments on multiple previous threads in favour of active transport and climate friendly policies in general.

Perhaps you have but that's not my impression.

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Rich_cb replied to Simon E | 2 years ago
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There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
2 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

...and baby squirrels - they're born blind

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Simon E replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
1 like

Rich_cb wrote:

There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

Very true.

My level of education, eyesight and comprehension of English are more than adequate for the task of forming an impression based on your posts on road.cc. If you are creating that impression then perhaps it may be sensible to consider that the responsibility for that lies at least as much with you as with me.

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rct replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
2 likes

Err Parking, still mostly free in this country, depite the odd CPZ etc., taking up valuble road rreal estate.

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chrisonabike replied to rct | 2 years ago
2 likes

Ah - but we still think of public stuff as "free" or at least "it must be covered by our tax".  So that's the first thing that we discount.  The NHS is in its own box as is "children's welfare" (how do you put a number on that, eh? [1] [2]) so "we refuse to see" those in the accounting for motor transport etc.

Is our economics just focussed on "making money" and "paying the energy bill"?  Sadly if we don't try to put a price on the wider consequences of human activity rather than "cheapening" these "lovely" things (health, welfare) what happens is that they are ignored.

I don't disagree that this is difficult.  But some countries have already attempted this (see links in previous posts). I doubt - when done at a basic level - that it's more "imponderable" and "hand-waving" than doing accounting for e.g. carbon trading.

None so blind / elephants in room etc.  Where we are now is history but moving forward it's all about our choices and where we deploy our (limited) focus. (oh I've gone all Harry Potter)

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mdavidford replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
2 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

I doubt - when done at a basic level - that it's more "imponderable" and "hand-waving" than doing accounting for e.g. carbon trading.

Or, for that matter, 'goodwill', 'brand recognition', and various other intangible things that we're quite happy putting values on.

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Sriracha replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
7 likes

Is that situation not just a product of the accounting used? Surely if the costs of 'environment' were accounted for and paid by the consumer then the arithmetic would favour bus services.

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Rich_cb replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
0 likes

Not necessarily.

An unprofitable route has few passengers. Buses are only good for the environment once they hit a certain occupancy %.

A bus with one passenger is far worse for the environment than a similarly occupied Range Rover.

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chrisonabike replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
2 likes

True - but buses operate as a service - and it's a balance.  If people feel that the service just doesn't run when they need, or doesn't allow them some flexibility, at present they'll probably still buy a car.  As we all know, once you have a car you're likely to run it. (They do plenty of long car commutes in The Netherlands currently too - there are just much better options for short journeys and great support for multi-modal trips).

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Secret_squirrel replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
5 likes

Which is precisely my point. There's been 3+ decades of "tax cuts" all with their consequent transfer of assets to the profit driven private sector.

The lie that we can continue cutting taxes without consequences lies at the heart of pricing out more and more externalities.

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Rich_cb replied to Secret_squirrel | 2 years ago
5 likes

Tax take as a percentage of GDP is the highest it has been for 30+ years. That's before the recent NI hikes come in to the figures.

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