Hackney’s voters go to the polls on 5 May to elect the borough’s next mayor, and the Conservative party’s candidate hopes to prevent a Labour “coronation” by promising to scrap Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in the area.
19-year-old Law student Oliver Hall says that he will, if elected, immediately put a stop to the introduction of new LTNs and will consult with residents about the removal of current ones.
Hall, however, has also pledged to help make cycling and other environmentally sustainable forms of transport “the norm” in Hackney, a borough which currently has the highest levels of cycling in London.
While LTNs in London are nothing new, Hackney (in common with other boroughs across the capital) has used emergency active travel funding to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians during the pandemic.
With just 30 percent of Hackney households owning a car, LTNs have also become a major focus of the council’s attempt to reach net-zero emissions by 2040.
As elsewhere, however, the initiatives the council has brought in have been opposed by a small but vocal minority.
This time last year, an anti-LTN group called Horrendous Hackney Road Closures had its application for a judicial review of the recently introduced schemes, brought in through experimental traffic orders (ETOs), refused by a High Court judge as the challenge was submitted too late. The group claimed that the measures, designed to stop rat-running drivers from using residential streets, were “unlawful.”
Much of the local opposition to the introduction of LTNs or cycleways in London has been led by Conservative politicians, despite the Tory government’s policy of encouraging more active travel and less reliance on cars.
However, Tory candidate Hall has claimed that LTNs are a “flagship policy of not only Hackney’s Labour administration [led by Mayor Philip Glanville], but also of Sadiq Khan in City Hall.”
“LTNs have displaced traffic onto already heavily congested roads and into less prosperous areas – and where the most vulnerable and lower-income families are more likely to live,” Hall said. “They have a disproportionate effect on those who simply cannot afford to live in the areas that LTNs are designed to benefit.
“Stamford Hill road is at an almost-constant gridlock, preventing residents from accessing vital services and making travel nigh-on impossible in a time where Covid has already increased the strain on working families.
“Without a change in leadership of the Borough, LTNs will continue to negatively impact residents and small businesses without any accountability to the people they affect most.”
Hall claimed that Tory councillors are “already working hard to resist the Labour Council’s plans for even more LTN expansion, and if I am elected Mayor of Hackney, I will immediately put a stop to the introduction of all new LTNs while we launch resident-led consultations on whether to remove the ones that already exist.
“I’m committed to ensuring that Hackney leads the way on fixing the climate crisis, but LTNs are not the answer to this.”
According to Hall, who says he speaks to people who oppose the schemes “every day”, if he is elected LTNs “would be gone. Some will work but then others, I think it is time to look again.”
The politician, who advises the government on student affairs, also said that the council was using the income generated by fines given to drivers who breached LTN rules – which totalled £2.7 million in the year after they were introduced in June 2020 – “to plug the holes in their public finances”.
Despite his resistance to LTNs, Hall said that he wants to see further investment in infrastructure to help make cycling “become the norm for those living in Hackney”.
“Our cycle lanes remain unsafe and in a state of disrepair,” he claimed. “I cycle most places when getting around the borough, and it is shocking how badly maintained our roads have become. Potholes plague our streets, making it dangerous to cycle and forcing people into taking other forms of transport that only result in higher levels of pollution across our borough.”
According to analysis published by Transport for London in November 2020, Hackney’s LTNs did not result in higher traffic levels on five nearby A- and B-roads in the months after they were introduced.
Cycling UK expressed concern that the “loudest voices” have undue influence on decisions relating to new LTNs and cycle lanes, with claims that a scheme is somehow exacerbating congestion the go-to argument for those against new infrastructure.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.