Locals Revolting Against LTNs and Acoustic Cameras Installed

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are proving to be one of the most divisive political policies in recent years. Brought in without any public consultation, they are creating massive opposition as the road network grinds to a halt. This is happening all over the country as local residents form grass-roots organisations to oppose them, but particularly so in London where there are more such schemes than elsewhere.

With public demonstrations now restricted by the epidemic, and Councillors not listening, people are resorting to other ways to show their anger. That includes death threats to councillors, and vandalism of modal filters and camera systems (for example in Hackney and Lewisham). Modal filters (planters) have been moved aside and “road closed” signs sprayed over.

All this vandalism is to be deplored but when democratic ways of stopping the road closures is thwarted (in London local borough elections are not until 2022) and there are not even any public consultations or other ways of persuading councillors to change their minds, then people resort to other means. This has happened all the way through history. Grievances that are ignored lead to violent revolutions, and that is the way it is headed in London unless policies are reconsidered.

When life become intolerable because people cannot move around, cannot do their jobs, their income is threatened, they cannot visit their relatives or care for the elderly and their health is threatened by more air pollution, then anger rises to boiling point. Councillors and those who are encouraging these defective policies such as the Mayor of London, TfL and central Government need to reconsider before the divisive atmosphere gets worse.

Peaceful Ways of Opposing

There are of course peaceful ways of opposing the road closures and other damaging road redesign schemes. We have listed a number of petitions against them on this web page: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/07/12/opposition-to-road-closures-in-london-grows-sign-the-petitions/ and we will update that page as we learn about more. Please sign them if you have not already done so.

Hammersmith & Fulham

Local M.P. Greg Hands in Hammersmith & Fulham has created a petition calling on LBHF to cancel its SW6 traffic scheme and it has received 4,000 signatures to date. But he could do with more – go here to sign it:  https://www.greghands.com/campaigns/SW6petition  

Photo above shows one result of the current scheme in Fulham Palace Road.

Acoustic Camera Pilot to Curb Noisy Supercars

One move to curb anti-social behaviour in Hammersmith and Fulham is the use of new acoustic cameras. Supercar drivers using iconic Sloane Street and the surrounding area as a racetrack could face new punishments, after the Council takes action to curb noisy engine revving in the area.

Chelsea street is a magnet for Lamborghinis and Ferraris, with drivers showing off their cars by cruising the local area, often in convoy. Now Kensington and Chelsea is becoming the first Council to pilot its own noise camera technology to catch drivers who are revving too loudly and disturbing residents and businesses. Persistent offenders will be fined and in extreme cases, on conviction the Council can apply to the Magistrates Court to seize the vehicle.

Lead Member for Transport Cllr Johnny Thalassites said:

“Residents have had enough of drivers using our streets as a racetrack. We have had fines in place for a while now, but this new noise camera technology will make sure we are catching more of the worst offenders. Supercars look good and most drivers are considerate but when they they’re not, it is disruptive and irritating for people living and working in the area”. It has become the first authority to set up noise cameras and run them directly.

Comment: This is surely a sensible initiative to halt this anti-social behaviour that has kept residents awake at night.

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More Cycling During the Epidemic? Actually No.

The reason for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and emergency road closures during the epidemic has been given as encouraging people to walk and cycle more. But are they?  Will Norman, London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, recently said on Twitter that “we’re seeing a huge increase in cycling”.But is there more cycling? In reality there is no change in the numbers cycling and it remains a minority pastime of young males primarily.

The chart above shows the trend since the start of the pandemic (covering the last 19 weeks) from surveys taken by Transport Focus. It shows that both walking and cycling have not changed in the numbers using those modes with the former stuck at about 7% of all people surveyed.

The use of public transport such as buses and trains has been recovering but car/van and taxi use has been rising. Clearly people prefer to use private transport rather than public transport during the epidemic and they are not converting to cycling.  

So in summary, the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are not creating modal shift as expected, even before the harsh winter weather sets in.

You can read the full Transport Focus report here:  https://www.transportfocus.org.uk/research-publications/publications/travel-during-covid-19-survey-week-19/  

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Wandsworth Suspends Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Wandsworth Council is suspending its Low Traffic Neighbourhood which has affected areas such as Tooting and West Putney following an urgent review subsequent to residents’ complaints. Wandsworth Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and transportation, Cllr John Locker said:

“We have monitored the traffic flows and listened to feedback from residents and businesses. We have also spoken to our partners including local hospitals and key services to hear the impact on them.

It is clear that the LTNs are not delivering the benefits we want to see. In fact it looks like the combination of changes in areas like Tooting, where TfL are making changes to the main high road, are unfortunately having the opposite effect. That is why we have taken the difficult decision to pause and re-think about how we can achieve our objective of delivering healthier, safer streets”

He added: “We all want to do what is right environmentally, whilst maintaining people’s ability to travel and making sure town centres and high streets function properly. It’s important that we listen to what people are saying so that we get this right.”

But other London Councils such as Lewisham are not listening and are still persevering in the vain home that the worsening traffic congestion they have caused will go away. It will not.

Opposition is growing to road closures across London with many local groups being formed. The ABD is happy to advise or assist any local groups.

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Does Closing Roads Reduce Air Pollution and Improve Health?

The Alliance of British Drivers has long argued that there is way too much scaremongering about the impact on people’s health of air pollution. We published a paper two years ago (see Reference 1 below) that in summary said that we believe it is not a major health crisis but simply a major health scare fed to a gullible public by a few politicians and by journalists wanting a story. We also criticised the relative contribution of vehicles to existing air pollution. Most air pollution arises from home and office heating, building and industrial activities and from home activities such as cooking and smoking.

Is there actually a public health crisis? The simple answer is NO. The evidence does not support such claims. In reality air quality has been steadily improving and will continue to do so from technical improvements to heating and vehicles. Meanwhile life expectancy has been increasing. There is no public health crisis!

The Covid-19 epidemic has given a great opportunity to see the likely impact of removing cars and other vehicles from the roads as businesses closed down and home working spread like wildfire.

The Daily Mail (see Reference 2) has reported on a study by Stirling University with the headlines: “Decline in vehicle use in lockdown had no impact on reducing toxic particle emissions and suggests traffic is ‘not a key contributor to air pollution” and “It found no significant fall in harmful toxic particulate matter – known as PM2.5” based on roadside measurements. That was despite a 65% fall in traffic.

Particulates are more dangerous than NOX and as people spent more time at home, they may have increased their exposure to them. But it is clear that removing vehicles from the roads does not cut particulate emissions.  Although NO2 levels fell, which mainly come from transport, the Mail article suggests that might cut attributable deaths but in reality there is no certainty about the impact of NOX emissions on life expectancy and it may be a totally spurious claim.

The ABD also recently debunked the alleged claim linking asthma to NOX emissions. There are a number of possible causes for asthma and very poor air conditions (worse than generally experienced) can trigger or exacerbate attacks, but one has to be very careful about a specific linkage – see Reference 3.

Life expectancy data tells us that there is no air pollution health crisis – see another article published by the ABD in Reference 4. But London boroughs such as Lewisham argue we have to remove vehicles from our streets as a matter of urgency – see Reference 5 for Lewisham air quality data.

A lot of published data on air quality and sources of air pollution are out of date as road transport has rapidly changed as vehicles are replaced. Less than 50% of air pollution in London now comes from vehicles and stopping private cars will have minimal impact as most vehicle emissions come from buses and goods vehicles.

Another problem is that much of London’s air pollution blows in from outside the metropolis. According to London Councils (see the report in Reference 6), 75% of particulates actually originate from elsewhere.

In summary, closing roads to reduce vehicles in London generally, and in boroughs such as Lewisham specifically, based on a claimed need to reduce vehicle emission makes no sense at the present time. The recent epidemic impact when vehicles were much reduced shows that there was nil or minimal impact on air quality so it would be a pointless exercise.

In reality the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods introduced in boroughs such as Lewisham has diverted traffic onto main roads and created more traffic congestion. It also means longer routes have to be driven and traffic piles up on residential roads (see photo of Horncastle Road above). Overall air quality has surely been made worse as is clear from residents’ comments on the impact. These “experiments” to cut traffic should be abandoned now!

Reference 1: Air Quality and Vehicles – The Truth: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Air-Quality-and-Vehicles-The-Truth.pdf

Reference 2: Daily Mail article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/cars/article-8710499/Decline-vehicle-journeys-lockdown-did-NOT-reduce-emissions-toxic-particles.html

Reference 3: Epidemiological Fallacy on Asthma and Nitrogen Dioxide: https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-scare-pollution-the-latest-epidemiological-fallacy-on-asthma-and-nitrogen-dioxide/

Reference 4: Life expectancy data: https://www.abd.org.uk/life-expectancy-data-no-air-pollution-health-crisis/

Refence 5: Lewisham air quality data:  https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/environment/air-pollution/read-our-air-quality-action-plan-and-other-reports

Reference 6: London Council’s Report “Demystifying Air Pollution in London”: https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/node/33224

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Are There Any Benefits from Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs)?

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are being promoted by local councils and central government and are actually being implemented in many locations around the country. Typically they are called “Healthy Neighbourhoods”, “Healthy Streets”, “Mini-Hollands” or other fine sounding names when in reality they usually consist of mainly road closures (“modal filters”, “school streets”, etc) that obstruct the use of roads. The object is stated to get us all to use “active travel” modes such as walking or cycling so that we live longer. But do they really do so? And what are the disadvantages?

These schemes are currently now being implemented using Temporary Traffic Orders using the claim that the Covid-19 epidemic justifies emergency measures to enhance social distancing without any advance public consultation whatsoever. But they have aroused very strong opposition in several London boroughs once people have seen the result. See Ref.2 below for a list of some of them in London).

It is frequently claimed that traffic “evaporates” once these schemes are installed, but is that true? A recently published academic study (see Ref.1 below) of three mini-Holland schemes in outer London gives a very different picture however.

The three boroughs studied were Enfield, Waltham Forest and Kingston. They selected over 3,000 people at random and gave them a survey of their travel behaviour with a follow up later to see the changes (although there was a high drop-out rate). There was a particular focus on their use of cycling.

Based on reports of past-week cycling, the authors suggest there was a trend towards higher cycling levels in the mini-Holland areas than the non mini-Holland areas. But this effect was not statistically significant (i.e. may not be true). Bearing in mind that these are self-reported numbers in addition which are likely to be biased, the claimed effect is likely to be a mirage.

The report also says “There was generally little or no evidence of differences by mini-Holland status in the proportion of individuals doing ‘any walking’ or ‘any active travel’ in the past week”. In reality therefore the mini-Holland schemes have had no impact on active travel use.

On car use the report says: “For past-week car use, there was a non-significant trend for those living in mini-Holland boroughs to be less likely to report any past-week car use than those living in non mini-Holland areas. Time spent driving in a car in the past week showed no consistent pattern in the results, and no evidence of a difference in any contrast [sic]”. In other words, car use had not changed.

At the follow up survey, in those living in mini-Holland areas there was an increase in the proportion saying that there was “too much” support for investment in cycling (from 27% to 33%). These differences were highly significant which shows the population were not convinced of the merits of the programme.

The report’s authors make some positive comments about the effect of the mini-Holland interventions but their conclusions are hardly consistent with the data they report.

In reality there is no substantial movement that is statistically significant into active travel modes, and car use continues at the same level.

Emergency Service Access

One of the complaints from those living in LTNs is the impact on emergency services access (ambulances, police cars, fire engines). The College of Paramedics has warned how lives could be put at risk and emergency response times increased as road closures, cycle lanes and one-way systems cause problems for ambulances and delay response times.

Richard Webber, a College Spokesperson, recently said “Previous traffic calming measures have caused delays for emergency vehicles. So now we are particularly concerned new measures are being rushed in without proper consideration and there will be a risk of further delays for ambulances and other emergency responders. For someone not breathing or having a heart attack, stroke or allergic reaction this risks causing significant harm. We would urge councils as they implement these new measures to give proper consideration to access for emergency vehicles and ensure they are not delayed reaching the scene of an emergency.

We fully support and understand the need to improve routes to protect cyclists and pedestrians, particularly while there is a reduction in the use of public transport following the Covid-19 epidemic. However, the designs must take into account fully whether an emergency vehicle – whether ambulance police or fire – can gain access in a hurry, rather than making it difficult to do so.”

But in reality little account is being taken of emergency service access. For example in Lewisham there are numerous reports of ambulances and police cars being blocked. They are supposed to have keys to open locks on the bollards on some roads, but they do not. Even if they do have keys, significant delays are caused.

Photo below shows an ambulance with blue flashing lights being blocked in Manor Lane Terrace Lewisham.

In summary, there is no evidence that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods produce any significant benefits while there is clear evidence that they delay emergency service vehicles. Residents also report massively extended journey times and increased air pollution on major routes as traffic is diverted onto them.

The ABD suggests that encouraging active travel may be a good thing, but there are better ways to do it than just closing roads. Closing roads simply does not work to encourage active travel and the extreme versions of LTNs implemented in boroughs such as Waltham Forest and Lewisham will never get general public support.

Reference 1: Impacts of an active travel intervention with a cycling focus in a suburban context: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965856417314866

Reference 2: Opposition to Road Closures in London Grows: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/07/12/opposition-to-road-closures-in-london-grows-sign-the-petitions/

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Seminar on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

There is a great deal of irrationality in the world at present. A good example was a webinar I attended this morning run by Landor Links on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). These are being promoted by the Government and frequently consist of road closures using the euphemistically named “modal filters” Several of the speakers promoted the wonders of such schemes typically using slides showing the joy of cycling in sunny weather. They failed to cover how the residents of boroughs such as Waltham Forest got to vote on the proposals, before or after implementation – they did not of course! I know there is a very large amount of opposition in Waltham Forest, in Lewisham in the Oval area, in Islington and several other parts of London. But the Covid-19 epidemic is being used to justify emergency measures without any public consultation.

It’s all quite disgraceful as democracy is being undermined and the road network is being destroyed. Traffic congestion in Lewisham for example has been made a lot worse to my personal knowledge and that’s even before the schools return. Labour controlled Councils are frequently a particular problem as they tend to like to decide what is good for you rather than listening to their electorate or taking into account any rational arguments.

This is all part of the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy which the ABD has been campaigning against for some time (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ). But boroughs such as Lewisham controlled by keen cyclists are pushing through simple anti-car measures without any reason and to the disadvantage of many groups of people who need to use vehicles.

Roger Lawson

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