What you need to know about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

Got questions about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve collated all the information we could find from experts like Lambeth Council, Lambeth Cyclists, Living Streets, Sustrans, and more to create a one stop shop with the answers. This is a place for everyone to access the information they need — whether you’re a Brixton resident wondering what the Railton LTN means for your weekly shop or a small business owner looking to understand what more foot traffic means for your bottom line. If you have a question that isn’t answered here then we need to do better — so get in touch with us at [email protected] and tell us what else you need to know.

Why Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are so important

LTNs allow people to walk and cycle enjoyably and safely in their neighbourhoods, between town centres, and to get to work. The discourage shorter car journeys which, if left unchecked, would worsen air pollution. LTNs are also great for local businesses, as they allow them to reclaim space on the street which is now needed for social distancing.

Can I still drive in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood?

Yes! All homes, businesses and schools will still be accessible by cars, though some trips may take longer and you might find it easier to walk or cycle instead.

What do Low Traffic Neighbourhoods mean for businesses?

Good things! Making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists can increase footfall and trading by up to 40%. And while it’s true that those who get to the shops by bike may spend less per visit than those who drive, they tend to visit more often and end up spending more money overall.

What do Low Traffic Neighbourhoods mean for parents?

The school run accounts for at least one in every five cars on London’s roads, and is a major cause of congestion, pollution & frustration for road users. Ironically, fear of getting injured by a car is the key reason parents give for limiting their children’s independence. Many people say they drive their children to school because the roads are too dangerous for them to walk or cycle, but by doing so they’re adding to the problem. As the Dutch and Danish experience shows, children are able to cycle significant distances from a young age, and cycling with children can be a great way for families to get around. By getting more children to cycle to school cuts down the school run traffic, making it easier for other vehicles to get around and reducing pollution.

But that’s not the only reason LTNs are good for kids. Every hour you spend in a car makes you 6 percent more likely to be obese, but every kilometre you walk reduces your chances by almost 5 percent. Making walking or cycling to school safer and easier means our kids will be healthier. How important is that? Around 23 percent of Lambeth children in their reception year and 40 percent of children in Year 6 were overweight or obese in 2015-16.

What do Low Traffic Neighbourhoods mean for the elderly?

In countries where cycling is made safe and well-catered for, people of all age groups and abilities cycle, and do so at a pace they’re comfortable at. It may surprise you, but nearly a quarter of all trips made by Dutch over-65s are cycled.

Removing interactions with heavy vehicles makes almost any journey a possibility by cycle – be it a standard bicycle or something specifically for those with mobility needs, such as a hand-powered trike – and may often make trips easier than walking for those who have difficulty doing so. In addition, the increasing use of electrically-assisted “e-bikes” means that physical strength is even less of a barrier.

In short: LTNs will offer elderly people the potential for more independence.

Will a low traffic neighbourhood create barriers in our community?

Busy roads keep us apart. The more cars there are on a street, the harder it is to interact with your neighbours and the harder it is for kids to play out on the streets. By reducing the number of cars on the road, LTNs give us the chance to become members of the community again. Creative communities might even find better uses for the space that used to be taken up by cars — with parklets, play areas and public benches.

There is a great deal of background research into what divides communities. Donald Appleyard did some very interesting research into how traffic dominated streets have a far lower rate of social interaction compared to those without the traffic. It is the very presence of the traffic that creates the barrier. The LTN designs have relatively minimal physical barriers where the filter points are often just a planter greening up the streetscape along with two small road signs. The effects are to open up a street, enabling people to move around freer, cross the road more easily, stop and chat a bit. For the full background – check out the video here.

In the centre of Herne Hill is a major traffic junction that goes under the railway bridge. The local community got the side wall of the bridge painted with a huge mural “Herne Hill”. Under it was the statement “Walk this way” with an arrow pointing in both directions. The aim was to entice people across the road and to shop on the other side because traders had been complaining that the traffic under the bridge created a real barrier to shoppers crossing over to the other side to use their shops. 

It was the traffic that was the major divisive barrier right in the heart of the community.

What does the Railton Low Traffic Neighbourhood mean for residents of Shakespeare Road?

Many residents of Shakespeare Road will know that a planter will intersect Shakespeare Road where it meets Railton Road. The planter has been placed there because the waste transfer station run by Norris has large HGV’s that cannot fit under the nearby railway bridge. In addition, there is a 7.5 tonne weight limit there too. This precludes all the Norris vehicles from being routed just to the south. Currently the majority of their site-specific traffic routes to the North, frequently to their depot in Greenwich. As a result the through traffic filter is best placed in the south to reduce the heavy traffic affecting the Railton Road safe cycle route.

The demographics of the immediate area to the south of Shakespeare Road north are very varied. Hurst St estate, Brockwell Park estate, Meath estate, Marcus Garvey Way, Railton Road itself and pockets on the other roads of varied housing and tenancies. In the greater area of the LTN it includes the areas around St Mathews Road, Mervan Road, Kellet Road and nearby streets. 

In terms of through traffic reduction, both sides of Shakespeare Road, along with Railton Road, will see the largest reduction in traffic in the whole LTN. The other adjacent roads will have some reduction but the group of Poets Roads (Spencer, Chaucer, Milton, Regent) will not have a dramatic reduction as the traffic flows in those roads is relatively low already. The issue of traffic speeding on Shakespeare Road will also be reduced somewhat as the bulk of the speeding is from the through traffic. 

What happens to the streets that border a Low Traffic Neighbourhood?

If you live on the outskirts of the Railton LTN then this might be an anxious time for you. Many residents who live on the streets surrounding low traffic neighbourhoods are trepidatious and first — understandably worrying that these changes will mean more traffic, more noise and more pollution around their home. Luckily, in a well designed low traffic neighbourhood, this won’t be the outcome. Here’s why: low traffic neighbourhoods encourage people to change their transport behaviour — that’s what they’re designed to do. As short car journeys become more inconvenient, people stop making unnecessary journeys, combine multiple trips into one, travel at different times, or ditch the car entirely in favour of public transport, walking or cycling. This can take a little while to happen as people get accustomed to the changes. It’s a phenomenon that’s known as “traffic evaporation” and you can learn even more about it here.

Concern for the impacts on surrounding streets is one of the reasons why LTNs are so important. Even though problem traffic might be conventrated on just a few roads within a neighbourhood, simply blocking those streets shifts the problem elsewhere. With up to 80% of London drivers now using services like Google Maps to plan their journey, they will easily reroute around a single closure. By implementing a series of strategic closures, LTNs ensure driving becomes less convenient than walking or cycling.

Lambeth does take into account community opinion when planning new LTNs and healthy routes — so if you’re eager for one in your area then reach out via [email protected] and we’ll do all we can to help you campaign for one.

Will these changes make car journeys longer?

Yes. But that’s kind of the point.

If you’re one of the few Lambeth residents who are privileged enough to own and run a car then you will likely see a small increase in your journey times. For short car journeys, you’ll hopefully find it’s more convenient to leave your car at home and take your journey on foot or by bike instead — reducing the small trips that add up to be hugely harmful to local pollution levels and carbon emissions. For longer car journeys, the difference in journey time will be a minor inconvenience in comparison to the health, safety and happiness benefits that will be enjoyed by the entire community.

How will this impact people with disabilities?

The Railton LTN will improve the lives of many people who have disabilities or mobility issues by making our streets much safer for them to use. Lambeth Council have worked closely with the brilliant Wheels for Wellbeing, a charity who promote active travel for people with disabilities. It may seem counterintuitive, but many people with disabilities and those who cannot walk find it easier to cycle. With less cars on the road, cycling becomes safer for everyone. For many people with disabilities or other medical conditions, such as blindness or epilepsy, driving isn’t an option at all. But those for who cycling and walking isn’t possible will benefit too. The more people who switch to walking and cycling, the fewer people on the roads or using public transport, freeing up that space to be used by those who really need it.

What if there’s an emergency?

The Railton LTN is specifically designed to ensure emergency services can use all the roads unimpeded. A similar scheme in Walthamstow actually saw emergency response times fall after in introduction of an LTN. With less traffic, emergency vehicles can get to the scene even faster.

Why was Railton chosen over other areas?

To put it briefly: data.

LTNs are chosen based on data, knowledge and intelligence that Lambeth holds as part of the Transport Strategy Implementation Plan. That’s considered hand in hand with proximity to town centres, employment hubs and plans that TfL are bringing forward as part of the Mayor’s Streetspace for London Plan.

How will this impact poorer households?

The data shows car owners are likely to be more well off than the majority of Lambeth residents who don’t have access to a car. It’s the poorest members of our community who are suffering the most from pollution despite having the least responsibility for it. That’s why it’s so important to get cars off our streets and make it safer for those who walk and cycle.

Healthy Routes Explained

A Healthy Route is Lambeth’s name for a route designed to encourage more people to walk and cycle. Their ‘Healthy Route’ strategy identified a network of routes that will link people to the places they need to get to – schools, workplaces, parks and amenities, and shops. Healthy routes can be on residential streets, main roads, or a combination but to qualify either the number of cars need to be low or there needs to be a dedicated space for cyclists and pedestrians that they don’t need to share with other traffic.

The origin of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

You might be hearing about LTNs a lot more recently, but they’re not a new concept. They’re the standard approach in the Netherlands and sustainable town planning for decades. If you’ve ever spend time in London’s post-war estates then the design might seem familiar to you — as most of those were built on these principles.Low traffic neighbourhoods are not a new concept – they’ve been a standard approach in the Netherlands and in good town planning for decades. Most of London’s post-war estates were built on these principles.

The connection between COVID-19 and LTNs

To be clear: low traffic neighbourhoods will not give you COVID-19. In fact, they have the opposite effect. Many LTNs around the capital, including the Railton LTN, are being implemented as emergency measures in response to the ways COVID-19 is changing the way people move around the neighbourhood. Public transport is currently running at about 15% capacity. That’s a big deal for the Railton area — fewer than half of Lambeth households have access to a car, which is just one reason why we have the highest public transport usage in the country with 67.5% of our trips made that way. On top of that, Lambeth have two main arterial routes connected outer and central London running straight through the heart of our borough. That means that even a small increase in cars on our roads will cause gridlock and misery for local streets. That’s why the government has issued statutory guidance stating that councils with high public transport use must consider re-allocating road space to walking and cycling. Every journey done on a bicycle would free up a place on a bus or tube train for a key worker. Because these changes are an emergency response to COVID-19 they are temporary for now — the traffic orders which have made the changes possible will last for a maximum of 18 months.

Funding the Railton LTN

Let’s be honest: the Railton LTN is an LTN on a budget. That means lots of planters. And where planters are being used, members of the community are being recruited to keep them happy, watered and living (and to keep the costs down too). But for the numbers people out there, here’s what you need to know about the funding commitments so far:

  • The government has stated it will fund schemes such as pop up bike lanes, pavement-widening and low traffic neighbourhoods. It has moved money from a national bus and bike strategy pot originally announced in February for areas outside London, into an emergency active travel fund. It says London will be allocated some of the money. Lambeth is making bids for this.
  • TfL has frozen all the usual funding to councils since COVID-19 struck. The only monies available from TfL to London councils is an emergency pot for London of £45 million to fund temporary Covid-19 schemes and interventions such as pavement widening, low traffic neighbourhoods and pop up cycle lanes. Lambeth have sought money from this pot to fund the Railton LTN.
  • Lambeth Council are bidding to both TfL and DfT to cover all costs in the baseline scenario, as well as the baseline + and max scenarios in their programme
  • £1.8m has been repurposed from the Highways Improvement Programme budget to cover the ‘baseline’ LTN scenario even if TfL or DfT don’t provide funding.

Fancy doing even more reading?

Alright then — here you go:

  • TFL have a good background document that highlights the bigger picture – traffic and road accidents, air quality and where the problem areas are in London. Here
  • The TFL guide to liveable Neighbourhoods for London is here:
  • A very useful report on the issues surrounding low traffic neighbourhoods and the impact on main roads. Here
  • A guide to healthy Streets and how they compare between boroughs is here
  • A good talk by Rachel Aldred, University of Westminster, about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – here.
  • A guide to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods produced by Living Streets and London Cycle Campaign. Here
  • A useful film about how a Low Traffic Neighbourhood can be – here.
  • A guide to the approach to streetscape design is here: 
  • An example of low traffic areas as featured by Channel 4 News is here
  • Jeff Speck’s TED talk about walkable cities is here