Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Main Roads

John Stewart (who is a key campaigner for the Stop Heathrow’s 3rd runway campaign) became RoadPeace Chair in late 1996. He has written a thought piece.  He’s a fantastic campaigner, and now an advisor – his input is immensely valuable to RoadPeace.  Many thanks John for writing this piece.


Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and Main Roads


Over the last year Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) have been mushrooming across the country.  Covid was the catalyst.  In order to encourage active travel, the Government and local authorities wanted to create areas where people felt safer to walk and cycle.


A majority of people living in LTNs have welcomed them.  There is less air pollution, noise and danger from cars.  Almost certainly house prices will rise.  They have been particularly welcomed in view of the fact that the increase in traffic levels over the last decade has largely been on the side roads.  Between 2009 and 2019 motoring on minor roads doubled (1); it barely changed on main roads.  For decades there had been little growth in traffic on minor roads but the coming of satnav, combined more home deliveries and the overall increase in the number of vehicles in the country, changed that.


But many people on main roads are not happy.  A lot of them have been getting extra traffic as a result of the LTNs.  Experience shows that over time some of that traffic will evaporate but further measures will be needed to ensure that main roads do not lose out to the side roads.


Of course, by their nature main roads will always be busier.  They will carry more through-traffic; they have the hustle and bustle of shops, cafes, churches, mosques, take-aways and pubs – they will have more deliveries; and they are, with very good reason, the principal bus routes.


This means that the amount of traffic on main roads doesn’t just impact its residents.  Most of us spend a lot of time on main roads: at work; at school; shopping and socialising; waiting for buses; meeting friends; simply walking along them since main roads are often the most direct route for pedestrians.


It is estimated just over 8% of Londoners live on main roads – that figure is about the same for white and non-white people.  Of the people living on main roads, some are poor but a surprising number are middle to high earners.


To ensure people on main roads don’t lose out LTNs must be seen as only part of the solution.  I would suggest that we also need to:


  • Reallocate road space on main roads from cars to other modes of transport – by means of wider pavements, reduced parking and the installation of more bus and cycle lanes


  • Facilitate walking and cycling


  • Run affordable, accessible, frequent and reliable public transport services


  • Phase in road user charging and higher parking charges


  • Embrace new technology, including shared modes of transport


  • Reduce speed limits


It’s a tough menu but it would ensure that all our streets are cleaner, quieter and safer.


(1). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/25/rat-running-residential-uk-streets-satnav-apps?CMP=share_btn_tw