Removing through motor traffic


Areas where motor traffic cannot cut through side streets, while walking and cycling are encouraged. By using bollards, planters, or trees, a residential area can be filtered, so that all parts can still be reached by motor vehicle (for deliveries, or to start or end journeys) but direct routes across quiet zones are only possible by non-motorised modes.

Such areas are more pleasant and liveable for residents, without stopping them reaching their homes by car, if need be. However, when an area is made safer, quieter, and more pleasant, walking and cycling become more attractive choices.


The Problem 


People are reluctant to cycle or even take their children on foot on streets with significant traffic flows because they are perceived as unsafe, noisy and polluted. Residents of such streets suffer from noise, pollution and limitations on their movement. 


The Solution 

Most London boroughs include areas made up of residential streets. “Rat-running” may have been reduced by no-entries and one-way streets, but most streets remain open to through motor traffic. This means they are used by motorists who do not live in them as cut-throughs between adjacent main roads. Motorists do this to try to save perhaps very little time, but this turns residential streets into places where motor vehicles dominate and cycling, walking and the ordinary lives of residents take second place. 


The solution is to convert these areas into areas in which motor vehicles can reach every address, but cannot drive through. Many areas of London are already free of through motor traffic. Some have come about by chance or by minor reductions on motor vehicle access, others are a result of careful design and strong campaigning to gain local support. The approach uses inexpensive measures such as barriers and no entries that allow cycles and pedestrians through, but not motor traffic. 


How to do this

  1. Study existing and potential ‘rat-running’. 
  2. Put in enough barriers at carefully chosen points to stop all cut-throughs, but allow people and goods to reach all houses by motor vehicle.
  3. The outcome will be one or more zones free of through motor traffic. 
  4. Car-parking is largely unaffected. While a few spaces may be lost to make room for road barriers and turning places, spaces may be gained elsewhere.




Residents enjoy a more liveable space, easier and safer to move about in by foot and by bicycle. Children’s play opportunities are expanded, particularly important in London where many homes lack private outdoor space. Traffic noise and air pollution are reduced, and residents no longer have to keep doors and windows closed. 

Such areas are usually mainly residential but small parades of shops and cafés are often included, and they may have high streets adjacent to them. While businesses often argue that they get trade from passing motorists, car usage in London is declining and there is evidence that many types of business gain even more from passing pedestrians and cyclists, who are likely to visit several shops in a single trip. 

Creating more pleasant shopping environments will benefit many businesses; for example, cafés and restaurants may be able to offer more pleasant pavement seating. 


What might this mean at ward level? 


It could mean: 

•The adoption of a policy under which residential areas should be regarded as ‘streets without through motor traffic’ - free of motor vehicles that are simply using them for transit. 

•The creation of at least one area like this within the ward. 

•Removing through motor traffic from a key street within the ward (for example, a local shopping street). 

For more detail on modal filters see our "low traffic neighbourhoods" page and briefing documents.