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Safe Streets Under Attack in Dying Days of Desperate Government

Support for respondents' local LTN vs opposition
Support for respondents’ local LTN vs opposition

Safe streets in England are under attack once again by the unprincipled opportunists running the UK government.

They are seeking to undermine Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and 20mph zones in residential areas, in a desperate and doomed scrabble for votes.

Traffic Danger, Inactivity, Air Pollution and Global Heating

Traffic is a major cause of damage to society, both in local areas and around the world.

Motor vehicles cause deaths and serious injuries, and generate air pollution. They also put people off cycling and walking, and thereby contribute to diseases of inactivity and obesity.

Transport is the biggest single source of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and the vast majority of transport emissions are from private cars.

A responsible government would be pulling out all the stops to reduce traffic volumes and increase active travel. That work was started in 2020 by Andrew Gilligan with Gear Change.

Unfortunately, since the Uxbridge by-election Mr Sunak has been hoping that there might be votes in doing the wrong thing. He is posturing as a mate of the motorist, even though he must know that we need to reduce vehicle miles travelled by around 20% to stand any chance of meeting our climate obligations.

He is leading a government of unprincipled opportunists. They are trying to repeat their Brexit trick of damaging the country, sowing division, and hoovering up votes – but this time it won’t work.

Propaganda in a Press Release

The latest episode in the government’s war on the public interest is propaganda in a press release today.

The press release refers to:

  • a research report on LTNs by Ipsos. It shows that they are popular – but is spun by the government’s press release to try to disguise that
  • new Network Management Duty guidance to try to make it more difficult for councils to introduce LTNs and
  • changes to 20mph guidance, again in an attempt to make it harder for councils to introduce them

Ipsos Research Report on LTNs

The government commissioned Ipsos to do research and polling on LTNs, in the hope that they would be found to be unpopular. Unfortunately for Mr Sunak, Ipsos’s results show the opposite.

Review of the Evidence

Ipsos’ review of the evidence showed that LTNs are effective in reducing traffic volumes on internal roads. The effect on boundary roads is mixed.

They do not adversely affect the response times of emergency vehicles.

Air quality is up in LTNs, and there is less crime and improved road safety.

Survey of Residents

Awareness of local LTN
Awareness of local LTN

Most residents in four LTNs didn’t actually know that they were in an LTN until the survey pointed it out to them (see image above).

That suggests that LTNs are not as controversial as the Conservative Party are hoping, and it may be harder to stoke division than they believe.

A later question asked respondents whether they supported or opposed their own LTN. Responses showed that more than twice as many were positive about their LTN than negative (45% to 21%, see image at the top of the page).

On more detailed questions, views were mixed.

Residents' views on different aspects of their LTN
Residents’ views on different aspects of their LTN

For example, more respondents thought that the LTN made their neighbourhood more pleasant (29%) than thought the opposite (23%).

On the other hand, 41% thought they had noticed an increase in congestion, against 15% who didn’t. According to Ipsos, this may be a question of ‘tensions between evidence and perception’:

‘For example, the evidence suggests that impacts (positive or negative) on boundary roads are minimal, but residents are more likely than not to think that schemes have added traffic congestion and queues to these nearby roads’.

p9 of the ipsos report
More residents' views on aspects of LTNs
More residents’ views on aspects of LTNs

Key Stakeholders

Ipsos undertook interviews with selected key stakeholders.

Some of them commented about rushed implementation, but generally they believed LTNs would benefit areas in the long term.

Network Management Duty on LTNs

At the time of Gear Change and Andrew Gilligan’s push to improve conditions for active travel, Network Managment Duty guidance was issued.

It instructed local authorities to reallocate road space to walking and cycling. On LTNs, it said that where experimental schemes were introduced they should be made permanent unless there was substantial evidence to the contrary.

That guidance was withdrawn by the Sunak government. Now they have published new guidance.

Where the old guidance was designed to support LTNs and active travel, the new guidance is intended to do the opposite.

It demands that schemes should:

  • have clear local support and
  • must not cause ‘undue problems’ for drivers and emergency services

While that is not unreasonable per se, the overall thrust of the guidance is to give greater weight to the views of objectors, and less to the interests of people who would like to be able to cycle without fear of being run over.

‘Local authorities should not impose schemes in the face of strong local opposition that is clearly representative of the views of the community’.

new network managment duty guidance on ltns

There is also a suggestion that councils should seek feedback annually, and if it isn’t positive, make changes or remove the scheme. Ongoing precariousness isn’t a feature of any other aspect of our road system; this seems unreasonable, and reveals the government’s hostility to LTNs.

The design principles section of the guidance gives banal advice that includes:

  • not allowing planters to collect rubbish and
  • using the correct traffic signs

‘Road open to people walking, wheeling and cycling’ signs will not be authorised, according to the guidance. Those signs are so positive and cheerful, and have been widely used.

Banning them is petty and vindictive, and demonstrates quite clearly the hostile intent behind the guidance.

Continuing the petty and vindictive theme, the threats listed under the heading ‘Enforcement of this Guidance’ include:

  • an intervention notice, where the government apppoints a transport director to take over the council’s highway duties and
  • reducing the council’s allocation of transport funding as punishment for prioritising active travel

Vote Them Out

The Dft press release claims that all this will lead to “smoother journeys” for motorists. What about those walking, wheeling and cycling? Nothing. Apparently it doesn’t matter how smooth, or safe, our journeys are.

The DfT expects “reduced congestion” as a result of this nonsense. They are in the realms of fantasy there.

We have no choice but to put up with this government of unprincipled opportunists for another few months, but when our opportunity arises, don’t forget to Vote Them Out.

Safe Streets Under Attack in Dying Days of Desperate Government

2 thoughts on “Safe Streets Under Attack in Dying Days of Desperate Government

  • 18 March 2024 at 9:56 am
    Permalink

    Yesterday I watched the secretary of state for transport, Mark Harper MP, on ‘Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg’ as he completely misrepresented the findings of the DfTs review of LTNs. Shameless and unprincipled!

    • 18 March 2024 at 10:02 am
      Permalink

      It is very disappointing. We need consistent policy over an extended period to enable active travel.

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