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Government tried to bury report which found that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are effective and popular

The official report, ordered by Rishi Sunak in an attempt to stop LTNs being installed by councils, concluded that the schemes are “effective in… reducing traffic volumes within their zones while adverse impacts on boundary roads appear to be limited”

An official report into the success of Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTNs) schemes throughout England – ordered by Rishi Sunak last year as part of his “pro-car” plan to stop them being installed – which concluded that they are effective in reducing traffic and generally popular among residents was buried by Downing Street, government sources have claimed.

According to sources close to the Guardian’s Peter Walker, after the findings of the report, which was scheduled to be published in January, pointed to LTNs or active streets schemes being more successful and popular than expected, government advisors requested that it be permanently shelved.

However, another government source has disputed this claim, arguing that the report is expected to be published soon and that it was “categorically not the case” that it had been suppressed.

The Department of Transport’s review into LTNs was commissioned by Rishi Sunak in July 2023, at the time the prime minister declared that he was on the side of motorists, claiming that “the vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and are dependent on their cars.”

After ordering the review, Sunak was accused by Cycling UK of using LTNs as a “political football” ahead of the next general election, with the charity’s CEO Sarah Mitchell insisting that people want to reduce their dependency on motor vehicles and that interventions such as LTNs enable them to do just that, and that it was “lazy to label LTNs as anti-car”.

Cyclist LTN planter, Hackney London (by Adwitiya Pal)

> Rishi Sunak accused of seeking to exploit division over LTNs as he orders review of schemes

However, despite Downing Street’s hope that the review would bolster their anti-LTN stance, its findings, seen by the Guardian, paint a rather different picture.

According to the copy of the report viewed by Walker, polling carried out by the DfT inside four sample LTNs found that in general twice as many residents supported them as opposed.

Of the over 1,800 residents surveyed across the four schemes, located in London, Birmingham, Wigan, and York, and all installed since 2020, 45 per cent supported the traffic-calming measures, compared to 21 per cent who opposed them.

In each of these schemes, the percentage of pro-LTN residents was between 19 points and 31 points higher than the percentage of those against them. Perhaps most notably, 58 per cent of residents polled did not even know they lived in an LTN.

> Government falsely claimed it blocked low-traffic schemes, documents suggest

Meanwhile, the report’s study into the effectiveness of the schemes – which aim to prevent through traffic and increase safety, encourage walking and cycling, and reduce pollution on residential roads either through the use of barriers or cameras – also dispelled opponents’ arguments that LTNs simply displaced traffic onto other roads.

“The available evidence from the UK indicates that LTNs are effective in achieving outcomes of reducing traffic volumes within their zones while adverse impacts on boundary roads appear to be limited,” the report said.

“There are tensions between evidence and perceptions,” it added, noting the vehement opposition against the schemes throughout the UK.

“There appears to be limited evidence of adverse impacts on boundary roads, but residents are more likely than not to think that schemes have added traffic congestion and queues to these nearby roads.”

Cotham Hill LTN in Bristol (picture Adwitiya Pal)

> How to save a Low Traffic Neighbourhood: Overcoming hecklers, “dodgy” data, and political intrigue as councillors prevent early scrapping of active streets trial

Where there have been issues, particularly with emergency services, these tended to be when the schemes had been rushed through or were new, with issues tending to ease over time, the report noted.

According to the report, while the Met Police and one ambulance service reported initial problems, “LTNs do not adversely affect response times for emergency vehicles” overall.

It also found that the schemes have encouraged people to walk and cycle, as well as tending to reduce road danger and street crime, though their impact on the journey times of people with disabilities was mixed.

> Rishi Sunak is “on the side” of drivers – What happened to Britain’s “golden age for cycling”?

At the same time Sunak announced in July that he was intending to review LTNs, as part of his plan to end the so-called ‘war on the motorist’, transport secretary Mark Harper claimed – an assertion which was later found to be erroneous – that LTNs were setting “people against each other”, “banning” cars and “making it difficult for motorists”.

In response, Cycling UK Sarah Mitchell argued that it was “lazy to label LTNs as anti-car.”

“Rather than attempting to pit drivers, cyclists and pedestrians against one other through divisive rhetoric, and turning low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) into a political football, the government should be celebrating their popularity and success,” she said.

> “Extreme, undemocratic, and dangerous”: Council scraps majority of low traffic neighbourhoods – despite “overwhelming” public support for cycling and walking schemes

“Evidence shows LTNs are overwhelmingly popular, and their support only increases once they’ve been implemented and people see the benefits.

“It’s lazy to label LTNs anti-car, people want to be less car dependent. Liveable neighbourhoods give people the opportunity to drive less and cycle more, consequently enjoying cleaner air, safer streets and less traffic and congestion.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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25 comments

Avatar
Safety | 3 months ago
18 likes

Good piece of journalism from the Guardian. From their article- "the DfT plans to launch a consultation on denying councils access to centrally held data from automatic number-plate recognition cameras if it is felt that they are enforcing road rules too vigorously."
What an astonishing statement from the supposed party of law and order. Presumably that's how we've got to a situation where bike theft is effectively decriminalized.

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grOg replied to Safety | 3 months ago
0 likes

Councils can enforce road rules in the UK? in Australia, councils can only enforce parking rules; I once got a ticket in the mail for an illegal left turn from the local council in Melbourne, so I rang the local police station and was told to throw it in the bin, which I did; when the council sent me a follow-up notice, I informed them of the police advice and that I wouldn't be paying; never heard any more about it..

Avatar
Born_peddling | 3 months ago
2 likes

In all honesty you can't trust any politician all self serving snakes look at the labour leader knighted for doin a default job (I'm certainly no means a Tory) but starmer don't care about the bottom workers because he was a desk rider himself as for his right hand that ginger hypocrite (think that says enough). As for rishi I say we make him do a weeks worth of physical labour pretentious toe rag.....such a slappable face don't you think? No matter the issue they will always find a reason to hide data look at the refusal to show disability data to the human rights court, as they knew the damaging nature of personal information already provided.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Born_peddling | 3 months ago
6 likes

Born_peddling wrote:

In all honesty you can't trust any politician all self serving snakes look at the labour leader knighted for doin a default job (I'm certainly no means a Tory) but starmer don't care about the bottom workers because he was a desk rider himself as for his right hand that ginger hypocrite (think that says enough). As for rishi I say we make him do a weeks worth of physical labour pretentious toe rag.....such a slappable face don't you think? No matter the issue they will always find a reason to hide data look at the refusal to show disability data to the human rights court, as they knew the damaging nature of personal information already provided.

I'm certainly no fan of Keith and his policies but I would hope that he would adjust policies if the facts showed that they were wrong or harmful.

As for Rishi, I'd agree that his face does look a bit slappable, but he can't help what his face looks like (aside from surgical intervention), so I'd rather criticise him for his policies and lies. He's clearly a very weak PM with a party full of idea-less cronies that are hunting around for any way to ignore facts and instead pursue a meaningless "culture war".

It's particularly annoying as traffic flows/density/congestion/collisions are things which are clearly measurable and shouldn't be subject to the whims of the car industry, but instead we should be applying the best workable ideas that have been shown to work in other countries. If it makes economic sense to subsidise car journeys, then I can accept that, but I'd certainly question the involvement of the big corporations' involvement in the economic analysis.

It's clear to me that promoting Active Travel has a huge effect on the health of the population, reduces pollution and generally makes areas much nicer for people. Why should we continue paying the price of car-oriented design just so that the oil billionaires can make even more money?

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Secret_squirrel replied to Born_peddling | 3 months ago
3 likes

Born_peddling wrote:

babble

You do get this isnt facebook or twitter yea?

Avatar
don simon fbpe | 3 months ago
4 likes

Quote:

However, another government source has disputed this claim, arguing that the report is expected to be published soon and that it was “categorically not the case” that it had been suppressed.

I have no question regarding the veracity of this statement, once an honest tory, always an honest tory.

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Muddy Ford | 3 months ago
6 likes

I hope the Tories get so royally trounced at the election, that they can't get back in again in my lifetime. I realise that Labour will hurt my pocket more, but I have had enough of these lying, cheating, self serving scumbags. 

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jaymack replied to Muddy Ford | 3 months ago
11 likes

Labour will hurt your pocket more than 14 years of Conservative choas, carnagae and catastrophe, really? 

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Muddy Ford replied to jaymack | 3 months ago
5 likes

Fair point. At least Labour are open about how they will hurt my pocket to pay for things that are needed.

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Rendel Harris replied to Muddy Ford | 3 months ago
12 likes

You may, if you are quite well off, have to pay a bit more tax under Labour, that's true (and it's nice to hear someone accepting that that's a price worth paying), but maybe you need to factor in a few other costs that hopefully they might address, such as having to go private at the dentist because the NHS dentistry system is in a mess, paying for what used to be routine at the GP such as physiotherapy assessments et cetera, enjoying more subsidised arts rather than having your local orchestras and theatres closing down because they've been stripped to the bone to pay for "Baroness" Mone's yacht and so forth, you might not be so badly off after all.

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Wingguy replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
6 likes

Indeed - there is a massive opportunity cost that comes with tax breaks when they lead to public services and the welfare state no longer functioning, and the drag on the economy not to mention additional direct costs that come from that.

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marmotte27 replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
6 likes

It's so obvious that mutualising costs is beneficial that the sheer existence of tories is a constant bafflement to me.

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hawkinspeter replied to marmotte27 | 3 months ago
9 likes

marmotte27 wrote:

It's so obvious that mutualising costs is beneficial that the sheer existence of tories is a constant bafflement to me.

They exist because wealthy people have disproportionate influence and power and they're greedy enough to want to shift things ever more in their favour, even if it ruins everything for everyone else.

Selfish privilege.

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eburtthebike replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
10 likes

There was a survey this week that said that most people didn't want tax cuts, they wanted public services.  Another poll showed that the tories were the lowest rated that they had ever been with only 20% of people saying that they would vote for them.  Those two things might not be unconnected, but the tories with their extreme right wing ideology, can't see it.

The next election can't come soon enough.

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levestane replied to eburtthebike | 3 months ago
1 like

In the meantime the Boris documentary is quite amusing.

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eburtthebike replied to levestane | 3 months ago
1 like

There's Boris documentary?  Presumably a black comedy.

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eburtthebike | 3 months ago
8 likes

"......it was “categorically not the case” that it had been suppressed."

It was.  The bigger the denial, the more true the accusation.

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zweiblumen replied to eburtthebike | 3 months ago
7 likes

They literally haven't published the completed report. Claiming that it hasn't been suppressed while failing to produce it shows just how gullible the Tories think the public are. They think that we'll believe anything that agrees with our prejudices even if it is demonstrably a lie.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to zweiblumen | 3 months ago
5 likes

zweiblumen wrote:

They literally haven't published the completed report. Claiming that it hasn't been suppressed while failing to produce it shows just how gullible the Tories think the public are. They think that we'll believe anything that agrees with our prejudices even if it is demonstrably a lie.

“But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”
“Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”
“But the plans were on display …”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

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TempleOrion | 3 months ago
6 likes

**** the Tory toe rags.

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Sriracha | 3 months ago
2 likes

If 45% supported whilst 21% opposed their own LTNs, how could 58% not even know they were in a LTN?

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morgoth985 replied to Sriracha | 3 months ago
3 likes

I haven't seen the actual questions but would assume the 45% and 21% are of those who knew they were in an LTN in the first place.

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Sriracha replied to morgoth985 | 3 months ago
0 likes

Indeed, but that is not what is written.

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Pub bike replied to Sriracha | 3 months ago
10 likes

Sriracha wrote:

how could 58% not even know they were in a LTN?

They are looking at their phones?

Avatar
Dnnnnnn replied to Pub bike | 3 months ago
1 like

Pub bike wrote:

Sriracha wrote:

how could 58% not even know they were in a LTN?

They are looking at their phones?

While driving.

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