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Low traffic neighbourhoods in London are not mainly introduced in more affluent areas, researchers find

New paper disproves one of the key argiuments employed by opponents of such schemes

New research into recently installed low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in London shows that contrary to one of the chief arguments deployed by opponents of such schemes, which are aimed at curbing traffic in residential areas, they are not implemented primarily in wealthier areas, thereby displacing motor vehicles to less affluent ones.

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Across Greater London, people residing in the most deprived areas, according to Census and other data, were found to be nearly three times more likely to live in a new LTN than residents of the city’s least deprived areas, researchers found – although there were big variations by borough.

Led by the University of Westminster’s Professor of Transport Dr Rachel Aldred, who is also Director of its Active Travel Academy, the results of the research have been published in a paper entitled Equity in New Active Travel Infrastructure: A Spatial Analysis of London’s New Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

In the paper, researchers assessed the impact of LTNs introduced by boroughs across the capital in response to the coronavirus crisis between March and September last year, and which were still in place at the end of October, typically using modal filters such as planters and bollards.

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“Such approaches to traffic management are traditional in the Netherlands, but relatively new in London and other global cities such as Barcelona,” researchers said.

“LTNs are often controversial, with one criticism being that they are implemented in affluent areas and hence benefit richer residents.

“London represents an excellent opportunity to investigate the extent to which these rapidly introduced schemes have so far been equitably distributed.”

They matched LTN locations, and the roads forming their boundaries with Census output areas (OAs), which according to the Office for National Statistics reflect “the lowest geographical level at which census estimates are provided,” and comprising around 300 residents.

Researchers were then able to analyse “the extent to which LTN implementation was associated with age, ethnicity, disability, employment and car ownership (Census 2011) and small-area deprivation (Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019).”

Analysis showed that “across London as a whole, people in the most deprived quarter of OAs were 2.7 times more likely to live in a new LTN, compared to Londoners in the least deprived quarter.

“While overall Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people were slightly more likely than White Londoners to live in a new LTN, this varied by ethnic group.

“Specifically, Black Londoners were somewhat more likely, and Asian Londoners somewhat less likely than White people to live in a new LTN. Car-free households were more likely to live in a new LTN.”

“Wide variation” in the results was found when analysing them by individual borough – referred to in the paper as “districts” – however. 

“In the median (‘typical’) district, people in more deprived areas were more likely to live in an LTN than people in less deprived areas, suggesting that, on average, individual districts have prioritised their more deprived areas,” researchers said.

“However, in the median district, BAME residents were slightly less likely to live in an LTN than White residents. Finally, at the micro level, residents living in LTNs were demographically similar to neighbours living in OAs that touched an LTN boundary road.

“We conclude that LTN implementation has been broadly equitable at the city level and at the micro level, but not always at the district level,” they said.

“Such metrics should be used in policy and research to monitor and improve the equity of active travel interventions.”

Commenting on the findings of the research in the Guardian – whose article includes graphic analysis of the results – London Cycling Campaign Infrastructure Campaigner Simon Munk said it “adds to the growing body of evidence that demonstrates how important low-traffic neighbourhoods are to improving Londoners’ lives.

“The boroughs and the mayor must ensure all of these measures are delivered equitably, and this research shows that most schemes delivered in the last year have been.”

He added: “The damaging impact of unnecessary motor traffic across London is felt unequally, and schemes like these help address this.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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EddyBerckx | 2 years ago

Well done to Dr Rachel Aldred for disproving this but as we all know, they never, ever believed this lie to be true, it was just another tool (lie) in their toolbox they wanted to be used against this. 

The only real opponents come from outside london. They dont give a f**k about the damage they cause. They dont even care LTN's make no real difference to their income/job. They just hate change. This has been proven over and over again.


Pedal those squares | 2 years ago

Some of the point is also missed on "displacement of traffic".  One of the ideas, is that walking / cycling replaces trips in the car in and around the LTN.

Hirsute replied to Pedal those squares | 2 years ago

I'm afraid the sorts of journeys below must be made by car


brooksby | 2 years ago

OMG - someone needs to tell that Cristo bloke off the radio!!

Mark B | 2 years ago
1 like

This is interesting, but I don't think anyone was saying that LTNs are mainly in affluent areas. Rather the issue is that the residential streets within the LTN tend to be more affluent than the main roads that traffic might be displaced onto, regardless of how affluent they are in absolute terms.

Now I'm strongly in favour of LTNs anyway, but that's a potentially valid criticism which this research does not address.

(But what actually is the impact of LTNs on main road traffic? If it's the same or even reduced due to reduced overall demand as more people choose to cycle, then LTNs are good for everyone)

the little onion replied to Mark B | 2 years ago

It does address it - it's the second research question in the study. to quote from the study itself "in conclusion, the first wave of LTNs in London has been broadly equitable across London as a whole, and also at the micro-level comparing residents within LTNs to their immediate neighbours". So they directly set out to test the 'displacement' theory, and found that the evidence did not support the hypotehsis you lay out.

Mark B replied to the little onion | 2 years ago

Does it? That's great. I guess I should have read the study rather than relying on the coverage on and the Grauniad, neither of which mentioned that aspect of it - odd since to me it's a more interesting question.


the little onion replied to Mark B | 2 years ago

One criticism that could be levelled is that the immediately adjacent areas were defined as areas within 500m of a LTN. Whether or not that is the right distance to be considered a 'displacement' is unclear to me. 


The thing that really gets me is the graphs of traffic volumes on minor residential roads over time. There is a gradual rise that suddenly steepens in about 2010 when sat navs became standard. The rise in traffic on C-roads between 2010 and 2020 is over twice that of the period 1993-2010. Traffic was being displaced FROM mainroads onto residential roads at an alarming rate in the preceeding rate. LTNs are an attempt to slow or reverse this trend.

data here: 

mdavidford replied to the little onion | 2 years ago

Not sure that really holds up - 'A' and 'B' road use starts to rise steeply at about the same time. Seems more likely it's reflecting a general love affair with the car, compounded by economic recovery.

the little onion replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago

It's more accute for C and B than for A or motorways.


The real shocker is the graph for London -

Motorway, A and B road traffic is pretty much constant over the last 10 years.

C road traffic has just shy of doubled.


Now, show any LTN-sceptic that graph, and ask them about displacement of traffic between main roads and residential roads! 

mdavidford replied to the little onion | 2 years ago
1 like

Fair enough - London does seem distinctly atypical (probably not much of a surprise). In the rest of the country it just looks like general growth across all road types, but in London it is much more on the 'C' roads.

Even then, though, if you look at total motor traffic, that begins to rise steeply at the same time. So it's not so much displacement as a large amount of extra traffic being created on the 'C' roads.

AlsoSomniloquism replied to mdavidford | 2 years ago

I agree with Onion.  The link here (which works) shows a considerable rise on C and unclassified then on A and B. Some of that is probably also more people moving to Villages and out of town new build sites but the fact that most cars come with GPS built in and apps like Waze means an accident on a motorway / A road means people try to find their route via other roads rather then wait in the queue. 

Edit: slow post meant I was replying to first posts before Onion clarified. 

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