PedBikeTrans started 2021 off by hearing about the UK's Low Traffic Neighbourhoods that are transforming neighbourhoods to be more people-friendly by reducing or stopping through traffic. Tom Holcroft, from WSP's London Office, gave us an overview of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, what their benefits are, the good and bad response to them, and what lessons have been learned in their implementation. PedBikeTrans members can access the webinar by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we can provide a web-link to the files.
Tom provided a great case study overview of the London Borough of Lambeth's implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in 2020. They had been planning these prior to COVID, but accelerated their delivery in 2020 to take the opportunity presented, and in response to the need for better community open space. This meant that the implementation of measures started before consultation was completed.
What was really interesting was the use of proactive community engagement which clearly showed community benefit and debunked the main apposing arguments. But is wasnt just government telling the community what to like, it was the community saying what the problem was, and how the solution met their needs for safer, healthier and more liveable communities. Through the use of viral media they were effective in showing how community members responded to the issues the program addresses (rat running, air quality, lack of open space). Negative campaigns were inevitable, but the positive community support and feedback was already out there, reducing the effectiveness of the negative campaign.
Key to the success of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is obtaining community involvement and ownership from the planning, through construction and into operation. When the community are empowered to have ownership of what happens in their street, the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods thrive and have potential to create liveable neighbourhoods.
Lambeth have ongoing monitoring of the initiative and some of the initial findings are:
Car traffic levels are down 9% to 18% on the majority of roads that bound the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods
Car and truck traffic levels are down within the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods by 62% and 51%
Cycling trips are up 36% throughout the area
Tom provided some useful resources for reference if you want to find out more:
Public Opinion Survey on Traffic and Road Use published by the UK’s Department for Transport, showing that public support for low traffic neighbourhoods is better than previously thought. The key points are summarised by journalist Peter Walker in these two articles: Despite a loud opposing minority, low-traffic neighbourhoods are increasingly popular and Local councils advised to push ahead with traffic reduction schemes. And another more recent poll with even higher support
The Ideas with Beers web series is a great resource of webinars on innovations in urban transport that can be watched here. One which profiles the positive engagement work in Lambeth is here (from around the 45 minute mark).
The Commonplace site for the Railton LTN in Lambeth is where Tom pulled a lot of his case study and timeline from. If you scroll through the eight ‘proposals’ (they should really be called ‘pages’) you’ll see the story of the Lambeth LTN (although without the anti-LTN pamphlet I spoke about)
The Pave the Way report by Transport for All on the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on disabled people
Two further case studies from the UK (both of which were planned pre-pandemic) with lots of good materials to help locals understand measures:
St Denys Active Travel Zone in Southampton with a useful FAQ page and the commonplace consultation site. And there’s a blog which is worth a read from an air quality advocacy group called Breathing Spaces whose activism in the area paved the way for St Denys being the obvious choice for Southampton’s first LTN
The implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in the UK has shown the potential for the community to be empowered to reclaim urban space from traffic, to create more vibrant communities. The principles of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods don't just apply to existing urban communities, and they should infuse our new development areas.
But to be successful there is a need to create communities where walking, cycling and public transport are a viable alternatives to driving a car to access local shops, schools, and services. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods cannot solve car dependency if everything is too far or inconvenient to access by anything other than a car. The many cul-de-sac suburban developments around Australia clearly demonstrate this. But with supporting land use and connected active and public transport networks, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can support the creation of liveable communities.