Low traffic neighbourhoods are being introduced across Ealing, with ten schemes starting in the next month. Some residents feel angry and scared and are concerned that the implementation is undemocratic. The scheme is being labelled as ‘not fit for purpose’.
I’d like to address these concerns. We must talk as a community about our response to the climate emergency, and the interconnected issues of air pollution and health, including covid-19.
‘Fit for purpose’
The purpose of a low traffic neighbourhood is to reduce air pollution, decrease vehicle collisions and increase community activity. That’s from the council’s communications. Great, but I want to state the aims in much stronger terms.
The purpose of an LTN is to address the climate crisis, by making active transport a more convenient choice than driving.
The purpose of an LTN is to cut air pollution around homes because air pollution kills.
The purpose of an LTN is to address COVID 19 by leaving space for public transport to be used by those who have to.
The purpose of an LTN is to address COVID 19 by reducing air pollution because evidence suggests air pollution is linked to COVID 19 death rates. The purpose of an LTN is to get us working together to address these immense challenges and to feel great about being part of a community that acts to change the world for the better, not just for ourselves, but for all.
‘Congestion will be worse’
The evidence suggests otherwise. London Living Streets have some great information on this. I’d like to introduce two concepts.
‘Induced demand’– if driving is easier, more people will do it. If you make it harder, you get ‘Traffic evaporation’ – where people who can switch to other means of transport.
‘Disabled people/older people will be worse off’
The evidence suggests otherwise. Quieter, safer residential streets are easier for those with poor mobility to get around. Reduced air pollution is better for those with health problems. And who decided disabled and older people aren’t concerned about the climate crisis? If you are not someone who has to drive, why not turn this concern into positive action? Use active transport and leave the roads as clear as possible for public transport and those who have no option but to drive. And campaign for the infrastructure and incentives to make these journeys electric.
‘Emergency Services will be affected’
Emergency Services have been consulted and have not raised concerns.
Consultation before is ideal. I can’t disagree here. Ealing Council have made it clear that in this particular situation the Government legislation enacted to support covid measures means they cannot undertake consultation. The council have chosen to do more consultation once the schemes are in place than they are required to do.
In fact, low traffic neighbourhoods have been in the Mayor’s transport plan and in Ealing Transport strategy for some time. This is not new, although it feels quick because the council are having to respond to new government legislation and crucially, available funding, while they can.
But there’s something unsaid here.
Change is hard. Change that requires short term pain (getting used to new ways of getting around) for long term gain (air pollution, climate) is hard and unpopular. We elect our council to serve our community responsibly. Opponents of LTN have charged them with not doing this by failing to consult. I suggest the opposite. If our council failed to take advantage of this opportunity to address the interrelated issues of climate change, air pollution and COVID, then yes, they would indeed by failing to serve out community responsibly.
‘LTN are inconvenient’
This is precisely the point of them. Make driving less convenient, to achieve the aims. Underneath this sentiment is something more challenging. Inconvenient to who? To those with the privilege of car ownership. Are we really saying that a longer driving time, where no other option is possible, is not a price worth paying to benefit those in our local, national and international community affected by climate change, COVID, and air pollution? I really, really hope not.