Friday 16 October 2020

Photo of the day - 16: Low Traffic Neighbourhoods - Are they working?


Planters in the low traffic neighbourhood in Wandsworth Town
As a way to help social distancing and encourage sustainable ways of transport around London, councils were given the go-ahead by the government to set up Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). Basically it means blocking off residential roads (often used as cut-through routes by motorists) with boxes of plants (planters) so that only cyclists and pedestrians can use these roads. In principle, these sound a great idea. I really enjoyed cycling along this road in Wandsworth Town along with other cyclists, and being able to stop and sit at one of the many cafes with outdoor seats. It definitely gave a continental feel to the road. It was also nice to see families with young children cycling, just like you would see in places like Amsterdam or Copenhagen. The problem is that all the motorised traffic has now been displaced onto main roads, so there is horrendous traffic on the roads surrounding these LTNs. On the facebook group for my local area there has been a massive outpouring of outrage and disgust at these LTNs in Crystal Palace. People report spending half an hour to make a car journey that previously took 5 minutes. Then the car haters turn out and advise people to travel by bicycle - which inflames matters even more as folks very sternly retort that it is totally impractical to work as an electrician, builder, ferry children around or provide community care on a bicycle. I had the "pleasure" of experiencing an LTN as a motorist today when driving back to Crystal Palace after buying some gardening items. I must say, as someone who is solidly sold on the matter of travelling by bike, these LTNs have not been helpful. I did so many U-turns to find alternative routes just to get out of the horrendous traffic jam. All routes into Crystal Palace were chock-a-block. In the end, I chose the least worst option - which was still 20 minutes when it would have taken me 3 minutes. I could have got home quicker if I'd run. But then I would have made myself ill with all the thick pollution generated from the traffic jam. So, unfortunately I have to give these LTNs the thumbs down. I have heard that Wandsworth Council and Lewisham Council have decided to remove the LTNs. My local borough, Bromley made a decision not to introduce them. However, Croydon have been so zealous about them that at times it almost looks as though those folks who live within an LTN may never be able to leave their neighbourhood by car ever again! These LTNs were a nice idea, but I think there needs to be a rethink.

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