Palmers Green resident Jeremy Hay-Campbell urges clearer thinking on Enfield’s low-traffic neighbourhood schemes
The introduction of two low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in the Bowes Park and Fox Lane areas of Enfield borough have been warmly welcomed by some residents and strongly opposed by others. But what is the reality?
Residential streets are being over-used by motor vehicles, and speeding has worsened. Traffic on these streets in the capital has increased by a shocking 72% since 2009, while A-road traffic has dropped by 1%. It is estimated that at least a third of London car journeys are under 2km (1.2 miles), which for many is a walkable or cyclable distance.
LTNs are being trialled not just here but all over London. Given there is an acknowledged public health crisis of inactivity and obesity, while air pollution and the climate crisis are big environmental issues, LTNs are one method to make change happen. A survey by Kantar Media recently showed that eight out of ten people support measures to reduce road traffic in their neighbourhood.
LTNs aim to remove through traffic in residential areas, to make them safer and quieter. They aim to create an environment that encourages people to walk and cycle where they can, reducing car dependency for short journeys in particular. To achieve this, vehicle access is limited through the use of filters; barriers, planters or cameras. The objective is not stopping all car use but encouraging drivers passing through an area to keep to main roads, which are designed to accommodate this traffic.
So far, around one hundred LTNs have been introduced across London. More are expected, as central government releases an extra £175m of ‘active travel funding’ to local authorities. The Bowes Park and Fox Lane LTNs are part of a strategic plan adopted by Enfield Council through its ‘Quieter Neighbourhoods’ programme.
The impact of these LTNs should be quieter and safer roads, lower pollution, and a more healthy and active population. Initial feedback from Bowes Park and Fox Lane shows more cycling and walking and dramatic reductions in traffic within the perimeter of the schemes. One local primary school in Palmers Green, St Monica’s, has calculated that children walking or scooting has more than doubled in the last year.
But of course, an LTN cannot be introduced without compromise. Car journeys to and from the LTN area may take longer. This is because, initially, main road traffic surrounding an LTN will increase. But evidence does show that as drivers adjust their routes or find alternative means of transport – perhaps being persuaded to leave their cars at home for short journeys – traffic reduces over the long term.
Residents in the Fox Lane area, where I live, have been campaigning for over 20 years to reduce through traffic. Since 2013 there have been various public meetings, plans, and unsuccessful trials of speed humps and planters. In Bowes Park, there have been discussions going on for over a decade. Now, the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the installation of these plans.
There has been criticism of the process of LTN implementation; a lack of prior consultation, plans hurriedly brought in, and delays to emergency services. The plans have been introduced quickly to comply with government funding rules and communication could have been better, but we are actually in the middle of a real-time public consultation that is ongoing right now. This is an active trial, where we get to experience the changes and make comments about them as we see the effects.
Emergency services have been consulted and the introduction of camera filters in Warwick Road, Fox Lane, Meadway and Conway Road have been a direct response to specific requests from these services.
It is a pity it’s proving so difficult as a community to work together to manage these changes. But remember that if you think the LTN can be improved, or you really don’t like the plans at all, then you can let Enfield Council know. Equally, you should tell them if you do like the plans. Because what all residents need is a scheme that’s proven to work.
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