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HomeCyclingRegardless of a loud opposing minority, low-traffic neighbourhoods are more and more...

Regardless of a loud opposing minority, low-traffic neighbourhoods are more and more common | Peter Walker


They are usually not purely, and even primarily, about biking, however the row about low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), – the place some residential streets are closed to by way of motor visitors – epitomises broader attitudes within the UK in direction of safer, extra human-friendly streets.

And amid the every day froth of generally totally false tales about LTNs closing roads, or slowing emergency service response instances, one factor is usually forgotten: these schemes are usually extremely popular.

That is proven by new YouGov polling, commissioned by Greenpeace and shared with the Guardian, which discovered that the place individuals had opinions on LTNs, optimistic views had been greater than 3 times extra prevalent than unfavourable ones.

The nationwide polling, carried out earlier this month, discovered 26% of individuals stated they strongly supported LTNs, and 31% would “have a tendency” to. In distinction, 8% strongly opposed them, and the identical quantity tended to. That left greater than 1 / 4 of people that both didn’t know, or had been impartial.

Arguably much more notable was one other aspect of the ballot, the place individuals got an inventory of seven attainable adjustments to native transport, and requested to select the 2 they discovered most vital.

Whereas the preferred alternative was fewer potholes, picked as one of many choices by 48% of individuals, 21% needed extra cycle routes, and 34% opted for diminished highway visitors. Simply 8% supported additional roads being constructed.

What does all this imply? It means – and I absolutely settle for that is straightforward for me to say, by no means having stood for elected workplace in my life – that MPs and councillors who welcomed strikes to spice up strolling and biking amid the primary peak of coronavirus ought to perhaps see the indignant cries of people that oppose LTNs in context.

The newest group to blink within the face of opposition led by vocal and sometimes largely internet-based campaigns was Lewisham council in south-east London, which final week wound again a number of parts of an area LTN scheme.

Extra typically, it could possibly really feel a great distance from the transient interval when ministers had been being lined up at No 10 press conferences to hail strolling and biking because the options to not simply diminished public transport capability, however extra extensively to assist ameliorate the consequences of future pandemics by way of higher public well being.

This rollback of ambition was emphasised on Monday, when the Every day Telegraph reported a letter from Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, to councils, reportedly warning them that too many cycle lanes had been inflicting visitors buildup, including: “Nobody must be doubtful about our assist for motorists.”

In actuality, as lined by the transport journalist Carlton Reid, the letter was extra nuanced, saying ministers would nonetheless can be “dashing up the biking revolution”. However, Shapps wrote, councils ought to “steadiness the wants of cyclists and pedestrians with the wants of different highway customers, together with motorists and native companies”.

That final phrase is especially miserable. When achieved correctly and over time, schemes to make strolling and biking extra interesting ought to eat into the variety of transient, one-person city automotive journeys, and assist those that haven’t any choice however to drive. Equally, the proof tends to be that LTNs are good for enterprise, not unhealthy.

However the important thing message right here is time. Not each LTN is designed completely initially, and if achieved piecemeal, in isolation, they will trigger spillover congestion on neighbouring residential roads. However that is an argument for extra and higher LTNs, not a return to how issues had been.

As a result of if one factor is evident, it’s that the established order simply received’t work. It’s an apparent level, however must be stated: gridlocked residential streets aren’t brought on by a handful of cycle lanes, or social distancing-friendly expanded pavements, or a couple of streets filtered with bollards. They’re brought on by too many automobiles, vans and vehicles – and within the case of the automobiles, typically carrying a single able-bodied grownup a laughably quick distance.

As Reid additionally reported, final month, in addition to a 40% rise within the variety of motor autos on UK roads over little greater than a decade, in city areas these autos are more and more led by satnav apps down unsuitable sidestreets.

This was introduced residence to me a couple of days in the past, after I used a Zipcar van to gather one thing cumbersome about 5 miles from the place I stay. It’s related by most important roads, however I wasn’t completely positive of the way in which, so I used the Google Maps satnav on my cellphone.

By default, it directed me alongside a labyrinthine zigzag of residential roads, the form of route that, till a couple of years in the past, solely taxi drivers or locals may have adopted. Now there have been a whole lot of us squeezing alongside the slender streets.

This new period of city driving means adjustments to the highway community want months to mattress in. When the road I stay on was closed to by way of motor visitors in a single course, the primary week or so there have been a near-constant mass of beeping, U-turning automobiles on the related junction. “That is insanity!” the critics yelled. “Finish it now!”

It wasn’t ended. Satnav algorithms received up to date, chaos subsided in a short time, rat-running visitors has largely evaporated, and now I’d wager many locals barely bear in mind the outdated system.

In distinction, councillors in Lewisham panicked and adjusted course in a matter of weeks.

Once more, to emphasize, I don’t underestimate how tough it’s for councillors to face abuse, hostility and even threats of violence after altering a long-assumed establishment. However for many who are wavering, I might urge them to bear two issues in thoughts.

Firstly, should you eradicate an LTN, or one other traffic-taming intervention, you’re not fixing something. But in addition, for all of the noise from a minority, because the Greenpeace survey reveals, they’re a minority. These adjustments are common.

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