This blog post is specifically about the implementation and the initial period of our low traffic neighbourhood or ‘LTN’ (What’s an LTN? Read here. Where is the LTN? Read here…).
In summary: it’s very normal and in fact entirely expected for there to be some disruption whilst things settle in.
Elsewhere in other LTNs, there has sometimes initially been some confusion from drivers who don’t expect the closures to be in place. People living nearby take a while to adjust routes that they have used for some time, and may drive the wrong way once or even a few times before learning a new route. There can also be increased traffic on the main roads around the outside, though experience also shows that this calms down a lot once behaviour starts to change. LBN contacts the emergency services, also the bin lorries etc, but no method of communication is perfect, no one is perfect, and sometimes these vehicles may expect to go through roads which are now filtered.
Simon Munk from the London Cycling Campaign is very knowledgeable about this, and has written a piece for Ham & High, which you can read here:
His opening sentence, ‘When the road changes, we need to wait a bit…’ sums up the whole article. Every time our roads change, there is an initial period where we all get used to it.
‘Wait for schemes to bed in. Every time a water main bursts, and a main road shuts down for months on end without warning, there’s one day of panic, then we all get on with being Londoners and having a quiet grumble.’
He also makes an excellent point about schemes not being perfect, which I think is worth reiterating. Designing ways for people to move around is an art, not a science, and will always be iterative. The schemes we’re putting in and planning now have been as well-planned as we could make them, but they will change over time, will improve and shift and accommodate, will become more ambitious and / or will compromise, and will get better. Allocating space on the road and determining access for vehicles is a balancing act, and there are trade-offs to be made.
The important thing is that the absolute necessity for making changes to our pavements and streets remains. The climate emergency. Covid 19. Air quality. Spaces for children who live in over-crowded accommodation. Our ailing high streets and retail sector. Our low levels of activity and correspondingly high levels of type 2 diabetes and obesity. All of these problems can be partially addressed by the principle of Healthy Streets, which underpins all of London’s transport strategy. (You can read all about Healthy Streets in this document here.) All of these problems require changes to how we live, and how we move around.
I’m evidently a big fan of low traffic neighbourhoods as part of the way that we address these crises. But I’m under absolutely no illusions that LTNs are a complete answer; we need all kinds of other things to happen too: better and cheaper public transport, work on main roads to make them better for all users but particularly for buses, more cycling infrastructure, greater flexibility in working practices, better surfaces on our pavements for all users but particularly for wheelchair users, government requirements for industry to be greener, national action on climate change, a Labour government! … I could go on.
The point is that we can’t wait, and we have to start somewhere, and here we are.
Implementing this LTN and helping it to be as good as it can be, and thinking about complementary work that will increase the impact might not be perfect, but it is the best thing we have for now, so let’s make it happen.
Simon also uses one of my favourite quotes in his article:
‘don’t make perfect the enemy of good‘.