Published 28 July 2020; updated 6 February 2021; updated 27 February 2021
There are many people that need and use cars, whether for mobility or their livelihood. As with all change, our first instinct is to doubt. It's hard to believe that we can have low traffic streets without undermining car use. Luckily, Islington Council is not doing anything new in our borough - it is following in the footsteps of amazing success stories across other London boroughs, based on hard facts and evidence from all kinds of surveys and studies, by impartial groups as well as supporters and non-supporters.
Here are some of the concerns about Low Traffic Networks (LTNs) aka People Friendly Streets and the evidence to dispel your doubts and uncover the reality.
Some of the best hard data is from areas where schemes have already been implemented. Take a look at Waltham Forest's mythbusters - we have taken the liberty of including some of their facts and figures here.
People Friendly Streets will improve everyone's health
There are two main ways in which traffic damages our health: the pollution in the air caused by road traffic, and our over-reliance on cars to get us around.
"Inactivity is an ongoing pandemic" - is the headline from a Guardian article which refers to research carried out by Sport England, a report in which simple walking is included in the definition of "activity".
See FAQ: health for more details.
People Friendly Streets are not unique to Islington
These schemes are old and have been implemented successfully many times before. Hackney has been putting them in since the 1970s (nearby De Beauvoir Town is a good example), and most London boroughs, including Tower Hamlets, have done "modal filters" before. Waltham Forest is a more recent example. After a difficult trial (which we are starting to see in St Peter's) the Council fixed the problems, and it is a roaring success.
Sources: The Bethnal Green Liveable Streets scheme: fears, myths and worries Independent studies find people in Waltham Forest are living longer and getting more exercise Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign: Mini Holland
People Friendly Streets are good for business
We all want our local businesses to thrive and some people worry that if the cars go away then so will the customers on which local businesses depend.
Actually, retail businesses do well in low-traffic neighbourhoods, as people like shopping on streets with less motor traffic. In our post-Covid world we will all live more local lives and people will spend time and money in their local shopping street if they are pleasant places to be.
Evidence from many places has repeatedly shown that businesses over-estimate both the number of customers arriving by car and the revenue that those customers bring in. The customers that businesses should value most are those on foot and on bicycles. See FAQ: People Friendly Streets are good for business for more details.
Traffic will reduce overall and main roads are expected to be no worse than before and probably better
There is usually a six month period are SatNavs update and driver habits adjust. That can cause some extra congestion on nearby main roads in the short term - however, once the scheme settles down the result is just a couple of minutes extra on some resident journeys as they have to drive further around the edge of a LTN cell before entering. There is little or no change to main road congestion. A huge proportion of motor traffic is gone from inside the LTN cell, called "traffic evaporation", leading to around 10% to 15% reduction in overall motor traffic in the area. This leads to safer residential streets, less pollution, higher footfall for businesses and fewer high-speed cut-throughs. The Waltham Forest survey provides hard data showing the reduction in main road traffic.
February 2021: Lambeth Council reported on how their Railton LTN has caused traffic to reduce both inside and outside the LTN:
- Car traffic levels are down on the majority of roads that bound the LTN including Effra Road (-18%), Dulwich Road (-9%), and Milkwood Road (-14%). Car traffic levels rose only 6% on Coldharbour Lane.
- Traffic levels are significantly down on the vast majority of the roads inside the LTN (e.g. car traffic down by 62% and goods vehicles down by 51%).
Sources: Disappearing traffic? The Bethnal Green Liveable Streets scheme: fears, myths and worries Waltham Forest: Comparison of vehicle numbers before and after the scheme and during the trial Lambeth: New independent analysis shows traffice levels cut by over a quarter in Railton area
People Friendly Streets work for the disabled
Drivers often assume that all disabled people drive everywhere, but our survey shows this to be untrue – they are no more likely to use cars than the rest of us. People who use some form or wheelchair or mobility scooter generally find getting around within an LTN much easier than on streets with traffic (read Carly and Steven's views on this topic), and the same is true for anyone who has trouble walking (read Alex's comments). Learn more in FAQ: People Friendly Streets work for the disabled.
The Council is carrying out extended, iterative, consultations on each scheme
The LTNs are being introduced by a democratically-elected Labour Council who were elected on a promise 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. 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 fears and half-truths. We have lots more information in our FAQ: consultation.
Emergency services themselves ensure the schemes work for them
Access for emergency vehicles is an understandable concern. Residents can trust the emergency services to ensure that response times are not adversely affected. The services are statutory consultees which means they must be consulted before the schemes are put in and can, and do, request changes both before and afterwards.
The results from Waltham Forest's Mini-Holland give information about the London Fire Brigade's engagement with the scheme. Residents were initially worried but after the scheme had been in place for a year the worry had gone, and for good reason – the attendance statistics show that the scheme had had no impact at all. See FAQ: emergency service access for more details.