Low-traffic neighbourhoods – supporting sustainable travel or public nuisance?
A low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme aims to reduce traffic and in turn pollution, achieving a lower carbon footprint.
In the recent Covid-19 pandemic, many people felt resistant to using public transport, and in a bid to prevent dependency on private car usage, local authorities have introduced emergency LTNs. Between March and September 2020, 72 LTNs were introduced in London (Goodman et al, 2020). Chetan-Welsh suggests that almost 90% of people live on roads that could be transformed into LTNs (Chetan-Welsh, 2021). Furthermore, the majority of new successful LTNs in London are situated in boroughs of high deprivation, which typically have lower car ownership (Chetan-Welsh, 2021). Sustrans has found that in London, 63% of 345 people have found that the schemes have improved quality of life, whilst only 14% disagree (Sustrans, 2020).
Low traffic neighbourhood in Bristol 04 by samsaundersbristol, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Case Study: Gosforth High Street
At the beginning of 2020, emergency measures were put in place along Gosforth high street to widen footpaths, allowing for social distancing and reducing motor traffic. The intervention was initially temporary but remains nearly 2 years on.
Some residents are happy with the scheme suggesting it has reduced traffic and made the area feel more pedestrian-friendly. However, many residents are unhappy. A key issue was poor signposting of the areas, leaving many residents unsure if the new space was allocated for pedestrians or cyclists, alongside accessibility concerns for people with pushchairs or wheelchairs. Furthermore, there has been an increase in congestion, and in turn car fumes. Due to difficult access by car, some residents suggest that it has meant people outside of the area are less likely to use the amenities along the high street.
Gosforth High Street Pedestrian Measure in response to Covid-19 Pandemic by Louise Huddart
It’s understood that the council are attempting to make the high street, which is one of the most polluting streets in Newcastle, greener and safer. However, more permanent measures might solve current problems and make interventions more attractive to the public. This could include the widening of footpaths and the introduction of cycle lanes.
It seems a key element to a successful LTN is public consultation, ensuring residents are aware of what is proposed and have the power to influence it. When successfully implemented, LTNs provide a valuable, low-cost solution to promoting active travel and reducing car usage in existing neighbourhoods and new developments.
- Saunders, S. (2020) Low traffic neighbourhood in Bristol 04. [online image] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/59993138@N00/49927832177 (Accessed on 10/03/22)
- Goodman, A et al (2020) The Impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Other Active Travel Interventions on Vehicle Ownership: Findings from the Outer London Mini-Holland Programme. Network Design Lab – Transport Findings. Issn 2652-8800.
- Aldred, R. et al. (2021) Equity in new active travel infrastructure: A spatial analysis of London’s new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Journal of Transport Geography. Vol 96.
- Aldred, R. Goodman, A. (2021) “The Impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on Active Travel, Car Use, and Perceptions of Local Environment during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Findings, March.
- Laverty, A. Aldred, R. Goodman, A. (2021) The Impact of Introducing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on Road Traffic Injuries. January.
- Sustrans (2020) What is a low traffic neighbourhood? [online] Available at: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/get-active/2020/in-your-community/what-is-a-low-traffic-neighbourhood (Accessed on 02/03/22)
- Living Streets (n.d.) Low Traffic Neighbourhoods: An Introduction for Policy Makers. [online] Available at: https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/3843/lcc021-low-traffic-neighbourhoods-intro-v8.pdf (Accessed on 03/03/22)
- Chetan-Welsh (2021) Low traffic neighbourhoods: what are they and who are they for? [online] Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org/aotearoa/story/low-traffic-neighbourhoods-what-are-they-and-who-are-they-for/ (Accessed on 04/03/22)
- Wall, T (2020) The New Road Rage: bitter rows break out over UK’s low-traffic neighbourhoods. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/20/the-new-road-rage-bitter-rows-break-out-over-uks-low-traffic-neighbourhoods (Accessed on 06/03/22)