In our latest councillor’s column, Winhcmore Hill ward member Dinah Barry gives her views on the council’s low-traffic neighbourhood trial
I am an unrepentant nerd; some of my all-time heroes are Tim Harford, Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre, because they delight in using evidence and facts to debunk nonsense and understand the world better.
One of my favourite Ben Goldacre comments is “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that”, which is a statement that could be applied to many of the arguments being aired over low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTN).
LTNs are areas where roads are closed to through-traffic, forcing drivers to use ‘main’ roads around the periphery. The arguments for building these are laudable; cars cause pollution which harms health and causes climate change, many car journeys are so short that they are not necessary, and walking and cycling are healthier means of transport because they combat obesity and heart disease.
Therefore, the theory goes, if you can deter people from making short journeys by car, you will improve health and reduce damage to the climate.
Two LTNs were installed in Enfield borough last autumn and are nearing the end of their six-month trials. One of them, the Fox Lane LTN, is in Winchmore Hill ward. More are planned – indeed council deputy leader Ian Barnes, who is in charge of the project, has said he is keen to install them all over the borough.
I want to concentrate on the facts and there are some that are unarguable; not all short car journeys are unnecessary, especially for people who have mobility difficulties; so-called ‘main’ roads are also residential roads where people live in homes; car journeys may have reduced since the autumn but we aren’t living in normal times, so we cannot know for certain what has caused this reduction.
What is certain is that some journeys are being made longer by the LTNs, causing more pollution than they would otherwise.
Cllr Barnes rightly says that to collect data at the moment would be meaningless because we are not living in normal times. But that begs the question; why start LTN trials at a time when no meaningful measurements can be collected?
I think that the money spent on LTNs would have been better used widening narrow footways so that we could all exercise more safely. LTNs are a simple response to a complex problem; they are unfair and divide communities. Encouraging people to walk and cycle more and to use cars less, unfortunately, is a bit more complicated than blocking off a few roads.
Cllr Barry (Community First) is a ward member for Winchmore Hill, alongside Maria Alexandrou (Conservative) and Ian Barnes (Labour). Ward surgeries are being held online at the current time. For more information:
Call 07812 673 023
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