Paul Wheeler: Last rites for the Covid LTNs

Paul Wheeler: Last rites for the Covid LTNs

The first action of the newly-elected Labour leader of Ealing last month was significant. Peter Mason announced the immediate ending of the West Ealing LTN (Low Traffic Neighbourhood) and a guarantee that any future LTN would be subject to popular consultation and support. Part of the reason was the imminent closure of the adjacent roads on Hounslow for road works, but a 2,000-strong protest march to the Town Hall by angry local residents may well have influenced the decision. As Ealing deputy leader Deirdre Costigan acknowledged, “implementing active travel initiatives without community support is unsustainable”.

Ealing’s about turn mirrored that of Labour-run Harrow (slightly lost in the run up to the mayoral election), which removed not only its LTNs but also its Transport for London cycle lanes, citing a clear lack of local support for either. To these two can be added Labour Redbridge, which, perhaps wisely, withdrew support from proposed LTNs in early 2020. Liberal Democrat-controlled Sutton also stepped back from its programme of road closures and it is noticeable that not a single Conservative-run council in London has supported their own government’s “active travel” policy.

So, has London fallen out of love with the campaign for more LTNs and what comes next?

Advocates for LTNs – and there are many at senior levels of London governance – remain insistent that the policy has been beneficial. But the problem, in part, is that it was never clear what were the benefits were and for whom. At various times it has been claimed that LTNs would reduce traffic, increase cycling, cure childhood obesity, enhance road safety and improve air quality and often a modern miracle cure for all these ills. 

Part of the reason for the adverse reaction to LTNs for many Londoners was how they were implemented. Many of the campaigns for road closures were long standing (the controversial West Greenwich LTN had been kicking around for over 20 years) but had failed to progress pre-Covid as they had to meet high standards of public consultation, and many neighbours were concerned about the inevitable traffic displacement. The new “Covid LTNs” simply avoided that problem by ignoring local opinion and using emergency powers to impose them unilaterally. 

What made this worse was the attitude of LTN advocates, most notably the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), which treated any dissent with disdain. On occasion it was worse than that: Christian Wolmar, a member of the LCC board of trustees, took it upon himself to write to the Director of London TravelWatch (LTW) describing as “nonsensical” opinions about cycle lanes expressed on his personal Twitter feed by Hackney councillor Vincent Stops, who worked for LTW at the time. “I hope that you can take action on this…” Wolmar’s email said.

As a seasoned campaigner, I was amazed to observe the influence the LCC exerted on the policy process within Transport for London and the majority of London Labour councils. Rather than responding to the legitimate concerns of many local residents, especially those who live on the main roads to which most traffic was displaced, Labour leaders doubled down and simply repeated dubious statistics, such as that only 10 per cent of Londoners live on such roads and, in any case, they were built to cater for large increases in traffic.

Such campaigning failed on two levels. Firstly, although the main residential roads, principally the Red Routes controlled by TFL, account for less than five per cent of the network, they carry over 30 per cent of all traffic. By deliberately forcing more motor vehicles onto them, they increased congestion and delay for millions of Londoners on a daily basis. Naïve polling that points to big majorities favouring LTNs never ask follow-up questions about resulting congestion and delay.

Perhaps most significantly for long-standing Labour supporters, those councils ignored the reality that LTNs primarily displace traffic from the roads of the prosperous to the roads of the poor and disadvantaged, which already suffered from the highest levels of air pollution. The additional congestion and stalled traffic offered no alleviation. It was a policy that went against all the principles of social justice.

While some LTN advocates point to the recent mayoral elections as a justification for pushing on with LTNs, I suspect seasoned Labour politicians will be hesitant. A more detailed electoral analysis shows that in several Outer London Labour seats such as Eltham the less-than-perfect Conservative campaign scored the most first preferences. If London Labour is not careful, it faces being squeezed between a newly-resurgent Green Party advocating even more anti-car measures and emboldened London Tories positioning themselves as the party for hard-working Londoners. 

Thankfully, there is a solution. The forthcoming Environment Bill, due in the autumn, is likely to see legally- enforceable air quality limits in our major cities. For the Mayor and London councils, this offers an opportunity.

Firstly, TfL should commit to reducing air pollution and congestion on the Red Routes as its main priority. The original purpose of these designated roads in the 1980s was to keep traffic moving and, given that congested traffic adds considerably to poor air quality, TfL should return them to that purpose.

The government’s new funding package for TfL requires that £100 million is spent on further “active travel” initiatives. TfL should be imaginative and engage with campaign groups such as Choked Up to see how measures such as green walls can provide rapid improvement in air quality for the residents of Red Routes and the millions of Londoners who have no option but to travel along them on a daily basis. It could also focus more attention on cycle “quietways”, which many cyclists prefer to the motorway-style cycleways – formerly cycle superhighways – on the main roads (although how much money will be left for this, given that this part of the funding package must also resolve the Hammersmith Bridge quandary, is a matter for debate).

Secondly, those boroughs which have introduced LTNs using emergency powers should follow the example of Ealing and commit to restoring local democracy by reverting to established processes of public consultation. This should include an assessment of the impact of any proposed LTNs on traffic levels on the main residential roads in the borough, both in terms of the well-being of the residents who live on them and the impact on public transport and emergency services. To recover public confidence and avoid “Covid LTNs” becoming a huge electoral issue in the May 2022 local elections, the whole paraphernalia of planters and traffic cameras associated with them should be removed immediately, and only re-introduced after due process has been followed for all those impacted.

London is going to face many challenges in the next decade over issues of air quality and transport. We need to get a commitment from the government to move towards road-user pricing, a rapid shift towards electric vehicles and hydrogen buses, and a serious discussion about how we end our dependency on road freight, especially with the explosion in home deliveries. 

If London Labour is to be part of this debate it needs to rediscover the lessons of coalition-building and engagement. A party transport policy dictated by covert groups of aggressive cyclists and well-heeled residents using emergency powers for their own ends is not a good look – and frankly a divisive distraction – for a progressive party motivated by social justice.

Paul Wheeler is a very long standing member of the London Labour Party and a founder member of London Cyclists with a Conscience (#realLCC). Photograph of Ealing demo by Joshua Neicho. This article originally mistakenly described Christian Wolmar as being on the London Cycling Campaign “executive” when he is in fact a member of its board of trustees. Apologies for that error. It has also been updated (at 20:45 on 3 June, 2021) with more information about Wolmar’s complaint to LondonTravelWatch.

On London is a small but influential website which strives to provide more of the kind of  journalism the capital city needs. It depends on financial help from readers and is able to offer them something in return. Please consider becoming a supporter. Details here.

Categories: Comment


  1. Trevor Harvey says:

    This is an excellent article. Unfortunately Enfield labour is totally refusing to listen to massive protest against the so obvious ill effects of LTN’S which it has undemocraticly imposed upon us. Theh even rebuffed in a most disgraceful manner a no confidence special meeting. Our only hope now of normally and sanity being restored is for them to be vote out in no uncertain terms at the next council elections

  2. Stella says:

    I live in Lambeth and is one of the best pieces I have read regarding the last year of LTN madness.
    Hoping that the court action against Lambeth Council next week will be successful.

  3. Eamonn says:

    At last a Labour member and cyclist penning a true full non bias story,Labour councils need to listen to the majority or they will pay in the next council elections

  4. Daniel Howard says:

    Now this is what you call real journalism.

    Absolutely fantastic article – Paul has so concisely, comprehensively and overwhelmingly evidenced how awful these hated, unwanted and undemocratic “Local Traffic Nightmares” are, especially how they counter-intuitively exacerbate pollution and congestion, hamper emergency services and create huge disruption for local residents and businesses.

    The problem was that authoritarian local councils (with the connivance of TfL) cynically and despicably exploited the CoVID-19 pandemic to force through these cash-cows under the fake guise of “Social Distancing”.

    I agree completely (with the headline) and strongly believe that LTNs should be dead and buried.

    We all want cleaner air but why aren’t TfL and councils planting thousands of air-cleaning trees for example? (instead of extorting their local residents for millions of pounds)

  5. Sue Worley says:

    The new leader of Ealing council, Peter Mason, is unjustifiably credited with ‘removing LTNs’. He has removed ONE, because of Hounslow’s road closure, as stated. But the rest of Ealing is still imprisoned in littl mazes, and Mr Mason has intimated that the one he ‘removed’ is likely to be reinstated.

  6. Brenda says:

    Excellent, well written and balanced article highlighting the divisive nature of LTNs, the questionable ‘benefits’ – for whom and where, and highlighting that there is indeed work to be done on improving air quality, but living in Lambeth, LTNs are certainly not the solution here.

    It also illustrates the blind behaviours of Labour councils across our city who implement these barriers mostly for their own benefit, caring little for the impact on the local residents who they are duty bound to serve. To bully anyone who speaks out against these measures, shows that they know that this is the wrong thing to do.

  7. The research shows that traffic displacement is not “inevitable”.

    Road restrictions usually lead to around 30% of the traffic evaporating—because the closures change the time/speed/convenience equation around car use. But when you research people later about how their behaviour may have changed, they don’t realise that it has.

    Car use remains the largest source of urban pollution—noise, particulates etc. Electric vehicles helps a bit, but half of the air pollution from vehicles comes from brakes and tyre wear.

    And in London about 50% of the population doesn’t have access to a car.

    The anti-LTN campaigns are a nasty form of protection of privilege with a disregard for the health and environmental costs of car use—which tend to fall on other people. Progressive politicians should be fighting for them, not caving in.

    1. Mitch Paydenfull says:

      FACTS! Middle-class “progressives” who want cleaner air, to protect the planet and make neighbourhoods safer…until it inconveniences their own perfect little worlds a touch lol then suddenly…pandemonium! Imagine pretending to be a proponent of sustainability and equality and then opposing reducing the number of cars on our roads to the benefit of the most-deprived in our city. Quite amazing the lengths the privileged will go to in order to justify maintaining that privilege.

      1. Nick says:

        Hey Mitch, your choice of words and use of emotive/hyperbolic themes really just boils down to…

        “People of all sections of the community are unhappy at having their freedom of movement curtailed by schemes which just displace traffic”

        From what I have seen, the demonstrations against LTNs look, demographically speaking, inclusive and representative of London.

      2. Hi Mitch if you read to the end you would see that I want to see both a reduction in traffic including freight and a rapid reduction in polluting traffic. The problem is that LTNs are a tactic rather than a strategy and a bad one at that.

        Not sure what evidence you are referring as LTNs benefitting the poorest in London apart from a couple of Guardian inspired surveys in Hackney.

        Welcome to the debate and no need to use capital letters as happy to listen

    2. John Langford says:

      This ‘Evaporation of traffic’ research I keep seeing mentioned. The only research I can find that uses the word (Braess paradox) refers to studies mainly relating to the closure of urban freeways and major city roads, not large blocks of residential streets.

      The Cairns, Hass-Klau, Goodwin paper that is more relevant is really a lot more nuanced as to what happens when you close roads. I quote from their conclusion: ‘However, any changes are offset, or more than offset, by capacity increases on other routes, or changes in traffic management, or changes in driving style, which pack more vehicles into the same space’.

      In other words, the cars just move sideways onto someone else’s patch or get crowded together. Even your quote of 30% evaporation implies a large fraction displaced.

      The rest of the commonly quoted research seems to be from sources aligned with an agenda and basically concludes that if you block access to cars the pollution level on those roads falls and people walk more.

      Who’d have thunk it?

    3. David Quinn says:

      Where do you get your 30% evaporation. There is no evidence for this. The LTNers quote 15% evaporation for Walthamstow, the only example they quote, yet Walthamstow Council’s report says that traffic has remained the same. On Enfield there has been no evaporation in the 6 months of the scheme which means the LTN peripheral roads are rammed creating more pollution. Wake up.

  8. Stephen B. Poskitt says:

    Finally an article which addresses both sides of the ltn debate.
    So many articles have appeared in the broadsheets. Some written by academics who are very pro ltn abd members of the lcc. Borough councillors have also been given a platform in the same newspaper. All of course have been bias abd in support ltn.
    I walk and cycle mostly. I do not and cannot drive a car. Something has to be done to address air quality and congestion. I’m very much supportive of ways that this can be achieved. However. I will never support a scheme that favours some residents over others. That pro ltn supporters feel it’s ok fir the positive gains for the few massively impacting the many on boundary roads abd residential main roads is sonething I cannot get my head around.

  9. Ltn boundary road says:

    ‘The anti-LTN campaigns are a nasty form of protection of privilege with a disregard for the health and environmental costs of car use—which tend to fall on other people.‘

    These reads true if you drop the word ‘anti’.

    1. Mitch Paydenfull says:

      Unfortunately for you, data shows LTN’s disproportionately benefit London’s most deprived residents :/ That’s the reality. So oppose LTN’s all you wish, but for your own sake do not kid yourself…you are protecting car engines, pollution and privilege. In 5 years when this is no longer a massive issue because middle-class people have become accustomed to driving less, you will regret riding out for Chelsea tractors I promise you.

      1. Chris says:

        Eh? Where do you get that LTN’s benefit the less well off? Here in Greenwich the three main streets of the Hills and Dales LTN have average house prices of over one million quid (on Crooms Hill it’s well over 2 million quid).

        The roads to which the traffic has been diverted are generally lined with HMOs and social housing.

      2. Jeannette Knights says:

        Can you actually demonstrate the facts you are throwing out? Please don’t quote Walthamstow as the data collected is so full of holes it’s less useful than a lace doiley!
        I live just outside an LTN which is in a wealthy area of our borough. Those living in the now ‘gated estate’ with their huge gardens and surrounded by parks have seen a huge reduction in traffic whilst all on the outside have taken on more traffic, more pollution and the journeys are now 3x longer to get round the LTN in idling traffic before one can continue their journey. Not all of us are physically able to walk or cycle.
        Additionally, whilst I also agree that we need to consider car use and of course pollution, you also need to allow people to adjust their lives so they can be part of that reduction and buy into it not just close roads and disenfranchise those who are already living in smaller and less attractive accommodation on main roads who are now being inflicted with even more pollution to their cost whilst the wealthy, in this case, can sit in their nice quiet enclave with £20,000 parklets.

        I would also say that the vast majority inside the LTN don’t want it and are embarrassed that this is being inflicted on others.

  10. John Langford says:

    If you want a world with social justice, you must judge your policies not only on who they benefit, but who they penalise.

    If you are younger, fit, and can afford a nice house on a residential street that is now a restricted private enclave. You win.

    If you can cope with your ‘active travel’ alternatives of walking and cycling during November to February when it is dark and wet. You win.

    If you are older, or have mobility issues that make leaping on your bicycle or humping your weekly shopping back home a non-starter. You lose.

    If you are the young family on the neighbouring road that has just taken all the traffic and pollution diverted around the LTN so that young Timmy and Jemima can frolic in clean air. You lose.

    If you are the person who needs to visit someone (perhaps as a carer) or access a facility (church or toddler group maybe?) in an LTN. You lose.

    If you are a delivery driver or emergency service needing access. You lose.

    If you are a business inside or around an LTN that relies on customers visiting other than by ‘active travel’. You lose.

    If you have a house on the one or two entry roads into and LTN that now has all the delivery traffic shuttling outside your door. You lose.

    And that’s the problem with LTNs. They are inequitable. The benefits (environmental or healthwise) are marginal and limited to a very specific segment of the population. The negative impacts on quality of life and health are dumped on others – most often the less affluent or able part of the demographic.

    You cannot make someone else’s health and wellbeing subordinate to your own when the gains are at best, trivial. ‘The traffic evaporates…..’, I mean, really.

    1. Jonas says:

      Yes, really. Having lived in Holland, it works. 20% vaporisation is no joke. And most of your ‘you lose’ points have been debunked long ago, no need to portray LTN areas as having no access to them. Also, Uni of Westminster study found that about 90% of Londoners can have LTN, so that’s quite a lot of ‘middle-class’!

    2. Abdullah says:

      You do realise that all you have written can also sum up car-dependency and car culture here in the UK/London, and in much higher magnitudes (i.e. increased pollution, congestion, noise, danger, inactivity, cost)

  11. Deborah Dalgleish says:

    This article summarises succinctly, rationally and fairly so many of the issues and problems LTNs have imposed. The creation of far worse problems in an (at best) misguided and (at worst) downright duplicitous claim to be solving other problems, many of which are widely exaggerated or non-existent. The utter lack of democratic process and the wilful ignoring of legitimate concerns. The creation of more privilege for the privileged and worse conditions for the less well off. The lack of consideration of the impact on the vulnerable and on emergency services. And all of this imposed at a time when local businesses are on their knees. If Councils are meant to stand up for their residents, those imposing LTNs without a clear local mandate have failed completely.

  12. Sean says:

    Great article. Living in East Dulwich the imposition of LTNs has created severe congestion on other roads, and as the author noted, appears that only the richer residents are benefiting.

  13. Richard Gooden says:

    This piece is well timed and well-argued. One point that is missed is increase (not decrease) in pollution- and I see it a lot here in the Camden/Islington borders, where there are a plethora of pop-up and, it seems, more permanent LTZs . Although these may shift patterns of use medium to long-term (good), the net result at the moment is a high degree of stationary traffic adding to fuel use and pollution (unless you have a vehicle with a stop-start system). And you can add to that the fuel used on retraced journeys for those of us (maybe we shouldn’t) who use familiar routes that have now become a Hampton Court maze of bewilderment.

    I implore everyone (especially councillors) to try York Way/Camden Park Road junction – either direction- at the moment. It’s nuts.

  14. Abdullah says:

    “those councils ignored the reality that LTNs primarily displace traffic from the roads of the prosperous to the roads of the poor and disadvantaged, which already suffered from the highest levels of air pollution”

    “It could also focus more attention on cycle “quietways”, which many cyclists prefer to the motorway-style cycleways – formerly cycle superhighways – on the main roads”

    What’s the data for these claims?

    Also bizarre to reference the mayoral election without outlining the simple fact, that Labour and the Greens trounced all anti-LTN candidates from the mainstream (Bailey) to the looney (Fox, UKIP, Farah London etc), the latter of whom essentially focused their campaigns around this issue.

    1. Abdullah says:

      Following up here, I looked up Choked Up and in an article I’ve seen they “are calling for a reduction in goods vehicle and private car use, and a renewed focus on “a world-class walking and cycling network, as well as affordable and accessible zero-emission public transport”.”

      However the author here thinks that the 100mn active travel fund is better spent on bionic duckweek? Even though Choked Up are calling for increased active travel, another strange omission.

  15. Dave says:

    The rat runs can be put back but don’t be under any illusion that it is step forward, especially in inner London boroughs such as Islington where the vast majority of households do not have cars. The outer London boroughs are the ones that have caved in.

    The anti-LTN crowd is very vocal but they do not have the support they think they do – their candidates all came bottom in the recent Islington elections.

    1. We are all Londoners so we need to plan for a London wide solution to improve air quality and reduce congestion. That’s the challenge that London Labour needs to address not caving in to powerful vested interests.

      1. Mr. Derek Small says:

        Hi Paul great article some of which I agree with, some I take issue with. But well balanced on the whole which is unusual to find. (Praise over, don’t get big headed yet!)
        Your comment, ‘a London wide solution’. I feel London as a large city is too diverse to adopt one same solution across its entirety. It may work with a general plan of action/intention of reducing pollution, but what works for say Hackney/Islington will not be the same ‘in it’s detail’ for a Green borough such as Bromley or Richmond. Overall, the ‘forcing’ of LTN’s has at least stimulated the debate and made all Londoners aware that car pollution is a problem, something for which previously there were many skeptics and even more who ignored the issue. As a start I believe they can be adapted, but to reverse/U-turn/remove all that has been done this last year will be an enormous waste of public money, and a backward step imo. It will not solve the pollution along Greenwich main routes/red routes. As a World Heritage site at the junction/confluence of main routes into London from the continent (M5/A2/A20) and having the South Circular at its borders (high pollution there having been found legally responsible recently for the death of a child through lung damage) it has fairly unique circumstances to overcome. LTN’s may not be the final answer, but they have set the ball rolling for change, which has been a long time coming, and may never have arrived were it not for ‘undemocratically’ pushing through Covid related measures.

  16. Becky Beach says:

    Thank you Paul. It’s so good to see a balanced opinion towards the LTNs.

    To date, the dialogue has been a “sound up” on whatever the people in favour consider to be relevant but “sound off” for anything else. It’s no wonder that the debate has not progressed. The big issue as I see it is that those in favour do not want any LTN pulled out because they feel there wouldn’t be a chance to get something back in. The reality is the LTNs don’t work and should be pulled in order for other schemes to be considered. The majority of people are in favour of working towards helping to reverse climate change but they can’t be heard above the “sound up” advocates.

    After the LTNs are pulled, then TfL together with the government and local councils should task themselves to undertake thorough studies which find out how and why people travel. For example, I used to use the roads in the LTN that now surrounds me to move from my house to take my business post to the sorting office or visit clients. According to Enfield Council’s traffic counters, that categorised me a rat runner purely because of the time it took me to travel across two minor roads to a busier road. There was no engagement that would allow me to explain as a small business owner, I need access to a car to carry out my activities. Instead I was shoved into an all encompassing category of rat runner and now, instead of a 3 minute journey, I have to join the queue to drive further and longer to do the same thing. I’d defy anyone to show any sense in that; and before you come back at me, think of other small business owners needing to move around, or mums juggling nursery and school runs (and let’s not forget that school boundary intakes often change and they end up having to drive to somewhere further afield) or people with special needs who have to attend appointments all of whom have been designated as “rat runner” and relegated to the queues purely because no one could be bothered to undertake the study.

    The LTNs are a knee jerk reaction to a huge problem and they will not solve the issue of pollution or climate change. Neither will they solve the reason why people move further out into the suburbs of London because they can’t afford to rent/buy closer to the City, and therefore more reliant on transport to get them to their jobs.

    The LTNs need to be removed; greater joined up thinking is required; it’s a democracy and we can achieve huge steps by working together rather than this current Mexican standoff I see all around these schemes.

  17. Dave says:

    “those councils ignored the reality that LTNs primarily displace traffic from the roads of the prosperous to the roads of the poor and disadvantaged, which already suffered from the highest levels of air pollution”

    Also, this is nonsense as geographic mapping has shown that the new LTNs favour the less well off. See:

      1. Dave says:

        I posted the study and nothing from the Guardian. What’s your academic response to Rachel Aldred?

        Thing is, I’m a journalist and I can see lazy reporting when I see it.

      2. Hi Dave always nice to chat with a fellow journalist.

        My issue with Rachel Alfred is I am sure if she is speaking as a campaigner or researcher. Not sure you can do both well.

        Will leave it to others who have more detailed study of her and others research. I normally find that buried in the detail is an acknowledgement that traffic has increased on ‘other people’s roads’ but explained away as it will ‘evaporate’ soon or the price of progress.

  18. neil says:

    I think the article raises some reasonable points. But does the removal of one (out of nine, with four additional schemes planned) LTNs in Ealing really signal an ‘about turn’ or ‘last rites’ for LTNs? I would suggest that there is opposition to LTNs in outer London boroughs with fewer public transport options and a higher percentage of drivers, who are inconvenienced by such schemes, but this opposition declines in inner London where traffic is worse, public transport is better, and fewer people drive.

    I disagree with the conclusion that “the whole paraphernalia… should be removed immediately”. We’ve seen positive initial results for overall traffic reduction from schemes in Islington, Hackney, Lambeth and Fulham. If some badly-planned LTNs have simply displaced traffic, that’s not necessarily an argument for removing all LTNs. Badly-planned schemes may need to be revised or removed, but displacement may also mean we need further measures to reduce displaced traffic.

    The goal has to be to reduce traffic on *all* roads, not just to shift it around. LTNs are unlikely to be achieve this on their own; as the article suggests, complementary measures such as road pricing, cleaner public transport and consolidation of home deliveries are likely to be needed if we are to achieve our targets for reduction of car dependency and carbon emissions.

    1. Not sure if my friends in Camden and Islington would agree about how positive the initiatives have been there… you might want to discuss increased congestion with the driver next time you get an Uber…

      And it’s not a discussion solely about car driving – freight is a huge issue in both inner and outer London but it’s possible reduction doesn’t seem to be a priority anywhere.

  19. Dave says:

    Paul, the point is you have injected your opinion into the article and it is not based on evidence – it’s just anti-LTN rhetoric. Looks to me like you are accusing Aldred of falsifying her research but think others will do that for you – but not even mentioning it speaks volumes about your reporting.

    1. Dave Hill says:

      It’s a comment piece, therefore Paul’s opinion is inherent to it. There is an ongoing debate about displacement effects. Paul makes no mention of Ms Aldred.

  20. Richard Olsen says:

    A most valuable article; many thanks. This whole issue is about the conflict between theory and ideology on one side against common sense on the other. This is epitomised by the situation in Islington where the imbecilic closure of one side of what had been a busy but flowing roundabout at Highbury Corner, and its conversion into a complex junction of roads and cycle lanes festooned with traffic-lights, has led to massive delays and congestion for hundreds of yards in all directions, with appalling pollution from the exhausts of gridlocked vehicles. Traffic is stuck, roads around are closed to deter ratrunners, causing extra mileage for all, and pedestrians’ health is endangered by the added pollution and by the danger from cyclists who cycle on the pavements to avoid the circuitous cycle lanes and associated traffic lights.

  21. Stephen B. Poskitt says:

    This debate goes around and around in endless circles. The same data is forever being thrown out by the pro-LTN lot who assume that all data is absolute and their word final.

    Data can be presented in a way which suits the narrative. Most councils are starting to publish their own traffic counts. What they show is traffic inside LTNs has reduced by 95%. This is no surprise as those roads are now closed to non-residential traffic.

    On the boundary roads the councils show that traffic has increased, but because they are lower than 2019 pre-covid pre-lockdown they are trying to convince us that traffic has reduced by comparing the lockdown period when everything was massively reduced to the previous year.
    This is how they are presenting their data, which goes back to the point I made earlier.

    Regardless of opinion on LTNs the outcome will be a victory for some and a worsening quality of life for others. The outcome of these schemes are being judged in several high court cases. Sadiq Khan’s scheme has already been ruled unlawful. Let’s see what is the fate of Hackney, Islington snd Lambeth. The judges will make the decisions.

  22. Chris Barker says:

    Highbury Corner is indeed a nightmare for stalled drivers and pedestrians breathing their foul air. But what a joy it is for people on the pedestrianised side with room to stroll around and access the grassland in the centre! The only hope, apart from changing the traffic light sequence which might help, is to wait until there are fewer cars on the road; which is gradually happening partly because of the difficulty in driving around with so many LTNs and other restrictions.

  23. Alan O says:

    “the reality that LTNs primarily displace traffic from the roads of the prosperous to the roads of the poor and disadvantaged”
    – given that all the published evidence so far has found the opposite effect, and that LTNs are more likely to benefit the poor and disadvantaged, what are you basing this on?

    1. Not sure what evidence you are referring too. @One_lewisham have been absolutely heroic in calling out some of the dubious research undertaken by many
      London councils…

  24. Angus H says:


    Asked you this on Twitter but didn’t get a response. So the longer version here:

    On a personal level, I’m one of those “cyclists who prefer Quietways”. But I try to set that aside when considering policy pros/cons, which can be summarised as follows:

    Main road cycle routes: better as they go direct to destinations, and offer improved social safety especially for women; worse on air quality, and liable to cause more disruption to buses and kerbside activity.

    Quietways: indirect, less social safety, but don’t cause conflict with buses or disruption (perceived or actual) to traders, and allow cyclists to enjoy cleaner air which is especially a benefit over longer distances or if you’re cycling at “fitness” pace.

    Anyway, my question boils down to this. How do you implement Quietways without doing LTNs? Quietways without filtering are pointless – you’re just as likely to encounter distracted, bad-tempered and dangerous drivers on suburban rat runs as on the main roads. A Quietway that isn’t quiet is just a… way?

    But – and I say this as a fan and advocate of QWs, and a veteran of various campaigns relating to them – they have a key problem, which is why, barring one or two exceptions (most notably QW1 in Southwark), they largely failed to deliver until the Covid LTNs arrived.

    By creating longish distance linear routes (for utility cycling, anything over 4 miles should be considered “long” for those other than commuters – Dutch cycling modal share starts to decline around that point), they implement routes that are mostly useful for office workers and leisure riders. Not much use for trips to school, family, shops, leisure centre etc.. Work commutes tend to occupy the majority of transport planners’ mind share – they’re the most visible journeys in the city perhaps – but in the Z234 inner-suburbs they’re a smaller proportion of trips than one might think. (And if they’re not cycled, they’re largely made by public transport – while there are good reasons to shift them, it won’t help congestion or air quality that much).

    So they’re mostly good for commuters, not so great for school or shops – but by treating single streets within a residential network, they displace traffic within that network. Which may, in some places, be welcomed by some residents on a given street (but being long and linear, QWs cross all sorts of cultural and demographic boundaries), but definitely won’t be on neighbouring residential streets.

    The up-shot is: if what councils are trying to achieve is local modal shift, they need to focus on areas one at a time, starting with those considered to have high potential for change, and put their energies in to enabling 0.5-3 mile trips (walking and scooting as well as cycling) in all directions – not following one particular route – as those are the ones where people as a whole are most inclined and able to switch to active travel.

    Which is why I’ve come to the conclusion that LTNs should take priority over Quietways. QWs are a nice bonus that you get from chaining well-designed LTNs, and a QW network map is good to help you to inform where to prioritise LTNs, but it’s the LTNs that make more difference at the sort of trip distances where the most people might switch.

    Air quality does remain a critical issue, and we need a fast transition to electric for those urban trips that really can’t be made any other way than by car – as well as far more progressive legislation around ultralight electrics (250W class) that could replace many more car trups. But people choosing active travel should be seen as the solution, not the problem – their comfort and safety needs to be made the priority.

  25. Sue Worley says:

    As a fortunate resident of the one and only LTN removed by Ealing Council I can attest to the fact that the traffic in the back roads has been neither more nor less before, with or since. But the traffic on the ‘boundary’ roads is now flowing better, meaning pollution has decreased without the crawling and often stationary vehicles. Now it is the unfortunate people in the remaining and new closed roads who are complaining. We have all found ourselves forced into making longer journeys where roads are designated Low Traffic. The ambulance service are finding they are unable to reach patients as quickly. Local shops lose business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *