Low Traffic Neighbourhoods bring benefits to local streets, but could be more effective and less controversial, finds Centre for London report
London’s low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) benefit local streets, but the next generation of schemes could be made more effective and less controversial with good design, community engagement, and tailored support for those who are most impacted, says a new report from think tank Centre for London.
The report, Street Shift: The Future of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, reviewed the rollout of LTNs by London local authorities over recent years. It found that LTNs can benefit local streets by reducing car traffic, increasing walking and cycling, and making roads safer for all users. But the report argues that LTNs alone can’t address reliance on the private car because they do little to reduce the traffic on main roads and, in some cases, there has been an increase in traffic outside of the LTNs. The think tank sees LTNs as part of the solution to reducing private car use in the capital, but argues they should be introduced alongside complementary measures including promoting cycle training, introducing new public transport options, and establishing a denser network of bike and scooter hire and car clubs.
Centre for London calls on Government to give new powers to the Mayor of London and the boroughs to help achieve the behavioural changes that reduce the use of private cars. With these powers, funds can be raised for the delivery of complementary changes such as protected cycle lanes, financial incentives such as mobility credits, and investment to improve public transport.
The report makes recommendations to improve the design, experience and outcomes of LTNs. Reviewing schemes that were introduced during and after the pandemic, the report found that:
Councils and Transport for London need to take action to minimise traffic displacement, including across borough boundaries. Reviewing monitoring data from nine schemes, Centre for London found there were big reductions in car traffic inside the low traffic neighbourhoods (ranging from 76 per cent reduction to 25 per cent reduction) but the picture is more mixed for car traffic on boundary roads (ranging from 11 per cent decrease to 21 per cent increase). The report highlights these schemes were implemented as emergency measures and couldn’t follow usual standards in terms of consultation and design. It recommends that traffic modelling should be done before implementation of the next generation of schemes and must include monitoring changes outside the LTNs early on. Based on the evidence that emerges, incremental improvements could be made to the schemes including the location of modal filters such as bollards, cameras and planters.
LTNs significantly increase cycling levels but more could be done to encourage take up. Reviewing monitoring data from seven schemes, the report found that there were substantial increases in cycling within the low traffic neighbourhoods (ranging from 31 per cent increase to 172 per cent increase). The report argues that more could be done to encourage walking and cycling, from reallocating road space and redesigning junctions, to widening pavements and promoting cycle training.
More needs to be done to make sure road users are aware of changes to road access, including emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles and blue badge holders. The report calls for the introduction of a national open database of planned changes to road access rules and early work to ensure that new measures are mapped onto online source data for satellite navigation systems. Where necessary, the report recommends that local authorities switch from physical to camera-enforced filters that allow emergency services access.
Funding should be made available for consultation and communication. The report recommends that the government should make funding available to local authorities and Transport for London so that they can engage residents meaningfully over LTNs and support those who are most impacted by their introduction.
LTNs are part of the solution to reducing private car use and should be introduced alongside other complementary measures. The report recommends that London should develop a denser network of bike and scooter hire, car clubs, and new public transport options. The Mayor of London should also consider changing current road pricing schemes like the Congestion Charge and ULEZ to distance-based road user charging, accompanied by new charges and controls on workplace and residential parking.
Finally, the report also suggests developing tailored support to encourage people to trade in their cars with the help of scrappage schemes and vouchers that could include public transport, bike, scooter (for hire or purchase), or car club memberships.
Nicolas Bosetti, Head of Data and Insight at Centre for London, said:
“Government, City Hall and local authorities are to be applauded for helping more people to walk and cycle and use cars less. This is critical for tackling congestion, making the roads safer, improving air quality and promoting more active and healthy lifestyles.
“Low traffic neighbourhoods can be very cost-effective ways to create a safer environment for walking and cycling but it doesn’t mean they should be done on the cheap. They should also be complemented by additional measures that discourage driving private cars and provide practical alternatives for both short and long journeys. That means funding for better looking streets, protected cycle lanes and complementary measures such as car scrappage schemes and mobility credits, as well as improved public transport.
“We’re calling on the government to give the Mayor of London and the boroughs new powers to raise funds themselves, for the delivery of sustainable travel measures such as low-traffic neighbourhoods.
“By offering a package of measures and by consulting local people and street users in advance, local authorities can make low traffic neighbourhoods more effective, and less controversial.”
Mark Frost, Trustee of the Foundation for Integrated Transport, said:
“FIT was delighted to fund this work as part of its support for projects to reduce traffic and car dominance. Roadspace reallocation interventions like LTNs to support active travel can play an important role in that – but as the report says these need to be taken forward as part of a wider integrated sustainable transport strategy to minimise the issues that displacing traffic to main roads can cause.”
Andy Bland, Head of Sales for Southeast England and London at Enterprise Holdings, said:
“Enterprise welcomes the focus of this report on the need for integrated thinking about the future of mobility in our towns and cities. If a reduction in traffic is to be achieved, however, then people will need to have convenient, reliable and affordable forms of transport, particularly as an alternative to private car ownership.
Access to rental vehicles is an important part of that mix and Enterprise is already working with local councils and transport authorities on imaginative ways to deliver this. These include a nationwide network of car club and rental vehicles as well as support for trials of mobility credit and mobility hub projects.
We look forward to working with Transport for London and individual Boroughs to provide communities with these services as part of efforts to deliver a greener and cleaner London.”