A new study of the rollout of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) by boroughs during 2020 under the Mayor’s “Streetspace” plans, has shown that these schemes delivered positive, socially just outcomes across London. The study was by renowned transport academic Professor Rachel Aldred of University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy, and colleagues.
The study looked at over 70 new LTN schemes successfully delivered during March-September 2020 and still in place in October. Topline results were:
Greenwich only covered 1% of residents, Hackney covered 17%. And Hackney’s schemes were more strongly socially equitable, while Lambeth, Croydon, Harrow, Brent and Waltham Forest’s were clearly socially equitable too. However, Ealing, Lewisham, Enfield, Greenwich and to a lesser extent Hammersmith & Fulham’s were less so, with Islington and Hounslow delivering socially just LTNs on indices of deprivation, but less so on BAME populations.
The report highlights that some of the overall result here is on the basis that those boroughs with the wealthiest residents, with a lower proportion of BAME people, often did no LTNs at all; and that some of the variation by boroughs is down to political approach and on-the-ground specifics. For instance, “the selected areas in Enfield included good public engagement; creating a more coherent cycling network; and 'equity by road type' in the sense that that the boundary roads surrounding LTNs had themselves benefited from interventions… Enfield's planned 2021 LTNs will substantially redress this by focusing on poorer parts” of the borough. The role of implementing schemes in a crisis is also mentioned: “The LTNs implemented first may… have been ones that happened to be easiest… to do quickly, rather than reflecting… fuller plans for further measures.”
This evidence sits alongside evidence on the long-term positive impacts of LTNs and indeed the lack of long-term negatives. Remember, these are schemes that reduce car use and ownership, cut crime, pollution (including on nearby main roads), don’t worsen congestion on nearby main roads and increase walking and cycling rates, as well as community connections.
Probably the most important thing however to take from this study is that there are lots of boroughs failing to deliver LTNs – and the very same boroughs are almost universally failing to deliver other schemes, including main road schemes too. It is clearly vitally important that those boroughs that are delivering LTNs deliver ones in a socially just manner – that prioritise those worst impacted by the effects of motor traffic and least able to avoid such effects. But it’s also vitally important that every London borough gets on with reducing motor traffic across London fast.
How do we best get progress for our communities? Not by fighting for nothing. But by making what is done as good as possible and getting more of it fast. The roll-call of boroughs that failed their residents during Streetspace on LTN delivery is: Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Haringey, Havering, Hillingdon, Kensington & Chelsea, Redbridge, Wandsworth and Westminster. Of course, that roll call is almost identical to the roll-call of boroughs that have done virtually nothing to curb car use and enable more walking and cycling for many years.
Of those boroughs, Barnet did implement the A1000 cycle tracks, but TfL does appear to have done most of the work on that; Haringey are now beginning to move on schemes, but during Streetspace thus far delivered a small amount of cycle track with car parking in using “mini orcas”; Kensington & Chelsea ripped their cycle track out etc. The reality, clearly, is those boroughs with the political will to deliver LTNs are generally moving to do so in a socially equitable manner – the boroughs without any political will don’t just fail to deliver LTNs – they fail to curb motor traffic for any of their residents.
As our Senior Infrastructure Campaigner, Simon Munk, says in The Guardian today: “The damaging impact of unnecessary motor traffic across London is felt unequally, and schemes like these help address this.”