The Council, the Mayor, the Government
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are not a random whim of our Councillors. This administration was elected in 2018 on a manifesto that promised they would promote walking, cycling and the environment, to the extent that funding was available. In 2019 it was clear that the Mayor and TfL were on the same page. Then COVID-19 hit and the Government instructed all Councils to quickly implement schemes that would discourage people getting into their cars, and would encourage walking and cycling and, crucially, provided funding. Islington responded rapidly and responsibly with a number of measures, one of which is the introduction of LTNs.
The Council, the Mayor, the Government – they are all properly elected bodies. LTNs are being introduced in a constitutional, democratic way.
2018 Council elected on this ticket
The current Islington administration was elected in 2018 on the explicit promise in their manifesto to continue their actions to improve and protect the environment including, among others, closing streets outside schools, building new protected cycle routes and banning HGVs on residential roads. Quoting the manifesto:
... we fully support the Mayor's 'Healthy Streets' agenda, and, subject to external funding, will implement a programme of healthy streets at Clerkenwell Green, Central Street/Golden Lane and at Angel. We will submit a bid to the Mayor's Liveable Neighbourhood scheme at every opportunity.
At the election Labour won all but 1 of the 48 seats and that seat is held by the Green Party.
The Mayor's Guidance
Even before COVID-19 hit us, the Mayor's and TfL's policy was Healthy Streets, which included LTNs. Quoting from the 2019 Liveable Neighbourhoods Programme Guidance:
London's future success relies on reducing our dependency on cars in favour of increased walking, cycling and public transport. The shift away from the car will address many of London's health problems, by reducing inactivity and cleaning up the air. It will help to eliminate the blight of road danger. It will limit the city's contribution to climate change and help to develop attractive local environments. And importantly, it will revitalise local high streets and attract international businesses and their employees to more pleasant urban centres.
Government Guidance and Funding
At the 2019 election Conservatives won 43.6% of the popular vote – the highest percentage by any party since 1979. Then in May 2020 the government mandated LTNs as one of the tools that local authorities should (not "could", but "should") use to facilitate the return to work in a post-COVID, physically distanced, London. And funding was made available.
To quote from the relevant Statutory Guidance:
With public transport capacity reduced, the roads in our largest cities, in particular, may not be able to cope without it… Indications are that there is a significant link between COVID-19 recovery and fitness. Active travel can help us become more resilient. … The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. … Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect. … Measures include: … Modal filters (also known as filtered permeability); closing roads to motor traffic, for example by using planters or large barriers. Often used in residential areas, this can create neighbourhoods that are low-traffic or traffic free, creating a more pleasant environment that encourages people to walk and cycle, and improving safety.
Given the importance of speed, the Statutory Guidance goes on to explain various interventions by which these measures can be introduced without the usual pre-implementation consultation. For example:
Experimental: these are used to trial schemes that may then be made permanent. Authorities may put in place monitoring arrangements, and carry out ongoing consultation once the measure is built.
People are in favour of LTNs
Surveys in advance
A YouGov survey in 2020 found that 65% (rising to 79%, when people with no opinion are excluded) believe children should be able to play in the street without danger from cars cutting through.
Residents generally, including drivers, are in favour of keeping through traffic out of residential streets. For example Sustrans' 2019 report on Scotland found that of the people who live and drive in cities and towns in Scotland, 53% support restricting traffic that passes through residential streets (22% oppose).
In 2017 residents were consulted on a traffic scheme which would keep through traffic out of Clerkenwell Green. The 2018 report announced that of the 425 individuals that responded 82% indicated support for the proposals.
Surveys after implementation
Prior to its introduction, the 2015 LTN in Waltham Forest attracted a lot of opposition including accusations of improper consultations, but a judicial review in late 2015 concluded that the Council had consulted properly. The LTN was subject to an extensive review which found that
... all of the visitors surveyed had a positive opinion of the overall scheme with 84% stating it was very good. Only 1.7% of residents would scrap the scheme and revert back to the former layout.
In October 2020, after Lambeth had introduced five LTNs the Council reported being "inundated" with requests for more LTNs across the borough.
Attitudes long term
LTNs have been around for a very long time and, where they do exist, there are no efforts to remove them. This applies to large-scale LTNs such as at De Beauvoir in nearby Hackney, and also to smaller areas. The streets around our own Thornhill Square form an LTN and the residents there are not clamouring to receive through traffic again. The same is true for all the single streets which have been closed to through traffic (Brooksby Street, College Cross, Stonefield Street, Cloudesley Street, etc.). Anyone buying or renting a home would consider a cul-de-sac a big plus. It was noticeable in our own 2020 survey how many people, when asked what they liked about the street they lived in, referred with delight to living in a cul-de-sac. This was true even among those responders who strongly opposed the Council reducing the through-traffic in the area.
Once the Council understood the Government's approach to avoiding post-lockdown road chaos, they reached out to residents asking us all to share our local knowledge so that changes to the streets can be the best possible. This is managed through the Commonplace map set up in May 2020. As of today (17 October) they have received over 5,400 comments from people who care about the streets in Islington.
As the Council designed the LTNs they began an on-going consultation with all three emergency services and they continue to listen to feedback from police, fire and ambulance services. The Council are also ready to meet with any group with concerns about the LTNs. One of the benefits of the temporary nature of the LTNs is that where there are real issues changes can swiftly and easily be made.
Due to the speed required, the Government recognised that full consultations in advance of implementation are not feasible. Experimental Traffic Orders are recommended and that is what Islington is using. 12 months into each scheme the Council will formally consult the people local to each LTN, giving them the chance to say whether they would like the measures to stay in place permanently (and in addition, the Commonplace consultation will continue throughout that period). It is known that any traffic scheme takes time to settle down, while the SatNavs and the drivers learn the new road layouts and people change their habits accordingly. Initially there will be vehicles holding up traffic while they hesitate or turn around; and other drivers will be confused and going through filters where they shouldn't. But experience tells us that this will all settle down and then we can all assess the new normal on our local streets. Do we like it, or do we want to return to how it was before? It will be different from how many will have imagined it. This process means that everyone will have seen the effect of the LTN and can respond from a position of knowledge rather than half-truths and scare-mongering. After a total of 18 months the measures will be amended, made permanent or removed depending on feedback from the formal consultation. If people decide to keep the measures there may be an opportunity (depending on funding) to enhance the public space with permanent features such as greening, tree planting and play-spaces.
The LTNs are being introduced by a democratically-elected Labour Council who were elected to carry out measures of this type. Our democratically-elected Conservative Government is urging the Council to implement LTNs. Wherever and whenever they are introduced, LTNs, big and small, receive strong popular support. There is no reason to believe that Islington will be any different. Our Council is implementing the LTNs exactly as recommended by the Government: installing the schemes quickly and then consulting formally. And from day one, and all through the process, they are listening to residents and essential users of the streets to ensure these schemes are the best they can be. Each scheme will be the subject of a formal consultation after it has been in place for a year. This process means that we will have seen the true effects of the LTN and can respond from a position of knowledge rather than be guided by speculation.
Mayor and TfL: Livable Neighbourhoods Programme Guidance May 2019
YouGov Survey 2020 shows the public is overwhelmingly in favour of measures to encourage walking and cycling
London News Online 9 Oct 2020 reported: Lambeth council "inundated" with requests for low traffic neighbourhoods across borough
Enter pins into the Commonplace map