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Levels of motor traffic nearly halved within London LTNs, new study finds

Researchers who analysed dozens of schemes across 11 boroughs say little evidence of traffic being displaced onto surrounding roads

A new study on low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) introduced in London in 2020 and 2021 has revealed that motor traffic levels within those zones fell by almost half, but found little evidence of such schemes resulting in traffic being displaced onto surrounding roads, a claim regularly made by opponents of such initiatives.

Conducted by the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy, the study was commissioned by the climate change charity Possible, which says it is “the biggest ever study into the impact of LTNs and the evidence is in: they work.”

Researchers analysed traffic data relating to 46 LTNs in 11 boroughs across London. The boroughs (and, in brackets, the number of schemes) analysed were Hackney (11), Islington (6), Brent, Camden, Lambeth, Southwark (5), Waltham Forest (3), Enfield (2), Greenwich, Hammersmith & Fulham, Newham (1), plus one LTN straddling the boundary between Newham and Waltham Forest.

They found that there had been a mean reduction in motor traffic within the schemes studied of 46.9 per cent, with two thirds of the LTNs studied now seeing fewer than 1,000 vehicles a day, compared to two fifths of them beforehand.

The study found that, contrary to one of the claims commonly put forward by opponents of LTNs, that the data did not suggest that motor traffic had increased on the roads surrounding them, with an increase of less than 1 per cent of the mean average of vehicles there.

The average decrease in motor traffic inside LTNs was almost 10 times higher than the average increase in it on the roads around them, which Possible said “suggests that not only do LTNs have substantial benefits inside their boundaries by creating an overall reduction in traffic, but they can also contribute to wider traffic reduction goals.”

> Low traffic neighbourhoods encourage a quarter of Hackney’s residents to cycle more, poll finds

Possible said that the study “shows that most streets within low traffic neighbourhoods see reductions in traffic, improving the experience of walking and cycling.

The charity underlined that the report “emphasises the need to consider that boundary roads are still highly likely to still be polluted, unsafe, or difficult to cross or cycle on.

“Removing LTNs is unlikely to alleviate these issues so it is vital for local authorities to consider other measures that could (such as expanding low emission zones, urban greenery, increasing public transport provision etc).

“In this climate crisis, we need our policymakers to make bold, data-led decisions; this report gives them that information.

“Now we need action to drive down traffic, make our cities happier and healthier, and directly address the climate crisis.”

Saying that the schemes “are good for people and planet, “Possible urged councils “to use the report’s findings to introduce more LTNs and to challenge misinformation about the direct impacts on boundary roads as well as to call for further measures to address traffic on these boundary roads.”

While LTNs, which use filters to stop residential areas being used as through routes to avoid congestion on main roads, while allowing access to people who live within them, have been around for decades, they came to prominence during 2020 as a number of councils across the capital introduced new schemes as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hackney, Islington and Lambeth were among the most active London boroughs in rolling out new LTNs, despite opposition that included vandalism of both CCTV cameras and planters and bollards used as filters, as well as legal challenges being mounted, unsuccessfully.

> High Court judge rejects challenge to Lambeth’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

In some cases, councillors even received death threats, and LTNs in Hounslow were claimed by one local politician opposed to them as creating a situation comparable to that in apartheid-era South Africa.

> Tory councillor apologises for comparing LTNs to South Africa’s apartheid era pass laws

Elsewhere in the capital, some councils did not introduce any LTNs at all, while in Ealing in west London, the Labour-controlled council halted plans to introduce them across the borough and removed several that had already been put in place as a result of opposition that included the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Dr Rupa Huq.

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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