Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Alongside protected space for cycling on main roads, LTNs are the second key element that we campaign for. When you remove through traffic from an area it’s a big win for walking, cycling and local community.

Motor traffic cutting through our streets has a serious impact on the health and quality of life of people living there – too much traffic, too fast, too noisy, too much pollution. Issues of air and noise pollution are very real. But the biggest negative of through or “ratrun” traffic is the strangling effect it has on people spending time on their streets. In the space of two generations, we’ve seen children’s roaming distance collapse as motor vehicle volumes on residential streets have rocketed. Kids don’t play out any more, and neighbours don’t chat to each other. But it doesn’t have to stay like that.

Strangely enough the COVID-19 lockdown has given a taste of this across London. With traffic levels greatly reduced suddenly people did come out of the houses and walk, jog and cycle. We saw young children cycling on Lambeth streets where they had previously been excluded.

Family cycling Clapham
COVID-19 family cycling in Clapham

Low traffic neighbourhoods are groups of residential streets, bordered by main, or distributor, roads (the places where buses, lorries, and non-local traffic should be), where “through” motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed. The basic principle is that every resident can drive onto their street and can still get deliveries  but it’s harder or impossible to drive straight through from one main road to the next. With through traffic gone, the streets in a low traffic neighbourhood see dramatic reductions in motor traffic levels and often speeds too.

With much lower traffic volumes children can play out, neighbours catch up, air pollution is lower, and walking and cycling are the natural choice for everyday journeys. And it turns out that cutting through traffic on side streets doesn’t add significantly to congestion on main roads.

Our position is that generally there should no through traffic on any road within a Low Traffic Neighbourhood and definitely not on anything that is designated as a ‘Healthy Route’ (ie a link between destinations).  Any direct route (ie that is going to be desirable for cycling) will also be a driver desire line. That needs to be blocked unless protected space is provided.

Lambeth’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood Plan commits to delivering LTN’s throughout the borough:

Th[e] plan takes the highway network as a whole and considers which roads are suitable for carrying non-local traffic and which are not. This is the basis for defining neighbourhood areas, with the default position being that streets within each neighbourhood should only carry motor traffic generated by the local residents and businesses within it. Often it is only a few streets in a neighbourhood that suffer from very high levels of rat running. But addressing these streets in isolation from neighbouring ones can merely displace traffic to other nearby local streets. A neighbourhood-wide approach can help address these issues. 

Lambeth Low Traffic Neighbourhood plan

Of course they can’t all happen at once – it will take time to transform the borough. The map here shows the boundaries of the LTNs and the scores which are one of the factors feeding the prioritisation.

Next Section – COVID19 Transport Plan ->