London’s controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhoods spark fierce debate over their effectiveness following latest DfT figures

London’s controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhoods spark fierce debate over their effectiveness following latest DfT figures
Following their introduction to the capital in spring 2020 with £250m of Government funding, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) have been a hot topic for road users.

Initially brought in by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the aim of the scheme was to reduce traffic in residential areas of the city.

They use barriers, bollards, road signs, and planters to restrict cars, vans, and other vehicles, whilst allowing pedestrians and cyclists through. Other areas use automatic number plate recognition cameras.

Supporters of LTNs believe that they can be useful in tackling climate change, reducing car usage, and increasing the number of cyclists.

Despite Khan’s aim to reduce traffic, recent Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that total miles driven in the ten inner London boroughs that introduced LTNs or similar schemes (such as lane removal or pedestrianisation) increased by an average of 41 million miles in 2021 compared to the previous year – an 11.4% rise.

When looking at Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea for comparison, (the two inner London boroughs in the DfT data that did not implement LTNs in 2020) they saw an average increase of only 29 million miles, or 8.9%.

According to the new data, if the total miles driven in inner London’s LTN boroughs had increased at the same rate as the non-LTN boroughs, it would have saved 89 million miles of driving. This would have reduced thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “If LTNs are successful in reducing overall motor traffic and encouraging more active travel then they can be seen as a positive intervention. If, on the other hand, they are simply causing traffic – and associated air pollution – to be displaced onto other streets not covered by LTNs then they are of little to no benefit.

“Therefore, it’s very worrying that traffic studies haven’t been carried out to definitively prove that existing schemes haven’t just shifted problems elsewhere.

“Councils considering introducing LTNs in the future will get more people on side if they can demonstrate there are benefits for everyone rather than the relative few who no longer have as much traffic outside their homes.

“What’s more, if the objective is to get more people to walk and cycle, councils should also look at other options alongside LTNs – indeed, research for this year’s RAC Report on Motoring shows that 23% of drivers would cycle for some trips rather than drive if there were more dedicated cycle lanes.”

Proving a link between LTNs and traffic growth between 2020 and 2021 is naturally made difficult because the coronavirus lockdowns drastically impacted driving habits in the capital.

Following their introduction in London there have been strong opinions on LTNs from both sides of the debate.

Opponents believe that the schemes are not as green as stated by Khan, and that they make drivers find alternative routes, which increases the amount of time spent in traffic.

However, supporters believe that this is offset by fewer people using cars in LTN areas in favour of alternative transport.

After the DfT data was originally reported by The Times, supporters of the scheme have questioned the validity of recent LTN criticism.

The exchange below between the newspaper’s Andrew Ellson and campaigner Jon Burke highlights the two opposing points of view. Click through to read the full thread.

This is the second time LTNs have hit the headlines in recent weeks, as it was reported that data used to justify the introduction of LTNs was incorrect.

Do you believe that LTNs are a good idea? Should they be introduced in more cities around the UK? Leave your comments below.

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Breakdown cover from just £7.95 a month*. Plus up to £150 of driving savings!

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

^For 1 nominated vehicle when added to Extra or Complete cover. New customers only. Ends 08/12/23. *New, single vehicle-based cover. £7.95 a month for Basic cover.