Transport Secretary Mark Harper has suggested local authorities review "controversial" or unpopular low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), and blamed the active travel schemes for "banning" cars, "making it difficult for motorists" and setting "people against each other".
Speaking to The Telegraph and expressing his belief in "giving people more choice on how to travel", Harper addressed his government's move to halt funding for new LTNs, adding that the government had to stop backing policies "that are about... banning cars or making it difficult for motorists".
As Transport Secretary, and a Conservative, I believe in giving people more choice on how to travel, not banning cars from places.
That’s why I’ve stopped funding for any new LTNs.
— Mark Harper (@Mark_J_Harper) July 9, 2023
Repeating the often heard criticism that some schemes were introduced without consultation and are not supported by locals, Harper suggested councils "ought to reflect" on their status.
"A number of them were implemented during the pandemic and there was, because of that, a lack of consultation," he said. "So I certainly think local authorities ought to reflect on whether the schemes that they implemented actually do have public support in their areas.
"Ultimately, it's not the government's job to micromanage every single local area — that's for local authorities to decide. For local authorities who have got schemes that weren't popular, were very controversial and aren't very well supported, then it would probably be wise for them to look at them again.
"The schemes that we have supported with money from the department are schemes that are about improving choices, not schemes that are about banning cars or making it difficult for motorists."
Harper also said he found it "unhelpful" that reaction to LTNs has helped "create people who don't like cycling and walking".
"One of the things that struck me with some of the ways those schemes were delivered, is that they then set up a group of people that were then opposed to cycling and walking," he continued.
"It seems to me that that's a slightly weird state of affairs, if you end up doing it in a way that you actually create people who don't like cycling and walking. Setting up different groups of people against each other is a very unhelpful thing to do."
Vocal, sometimes violent, opposition to the schemes has been seen across the United Kingdom, active travel campaigners in Oxford releasing footage of anti-LTN vandals setting bollards alight at the peak of a string of vandalism which had seen bollards being rammed and melted.
Back in March, in Rochdale too, an LTN planter was set alight and overturned on the first day of a trial beginning, while last summer, in Sheffield, a councillor called for "tougher measures" after repeat vandalism.
In May, it was revealed that a petition started by a "keen cyclist" objecting to the Jesmond low-traffic neighbourhood trials in Newcastle had received almost 2,000 signatures, despite the council stating it is factually incorrect in claiming that there was no pre-consultation.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.