Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – the road to a car-free London needs to be traveled together

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are causing quite a stir in Ealing. You are either for them or against them; there is no middle ground. During my campaigning, the thing people ask me about most is the LTNs.

Neighbours divided over LTNs, can the prospect of clean air and safer streets bring them back together?

As a Green Party candidate for the London Assembly, I am in an uncomfortable position. Yes, of course, I support the idea of LTNs. Imagine a street without any cars, where you can hear yourself think, where you can walk and cycle around safely, where you are not breathing in toxic fumes and particles, and where you know everything is being done to stop more carbon dioxide from going into our precious atmosphere. 

The issue of health inequality, however, cannot be ignored. The Green Party is a fierce defender of social justice. This is very much my colleague Rosamond Kissi-Debrah’s argument. We cannot have some streets all lovely and clean, with others experiencing more air pollution than ever before. Air pollution, in many cases, falls on lower-income neighbourhoods, people living in flats with no escaping the poor air quality. This is not acceptable. The Green Party’s main ambition is to make London green. But not just for some. For everyone. 

Make no mistake: the Greens know LTNs are needed. We need to cut our emissions and reduce our society’s dependency on cars as soon as possible to literally save lives. That will mean a change in habits for some. Change is hard, but with an understanding of the reasons why, and with a real say in what that change looks like, we will help communities to look forward together. The way we implement an LTN matters – the Green Party would not just place future LTNs in random places to meet a quota. To ensure that LTNs are placed in a socially just way, we would strategically plan their location and implementation for the benefit of all. Rather than standard superficial consultations, we would host independently facilitated deliberative processes for real collaborative decision-making.

We must at the same time organise alternative ways for people to get around to help them out of their cars. We want to implement reliable, accessible, and affordable public transport, safe and connected-up cycle paths, school streets, and smart road pricing to encourage alternative modes of transport. 

Either way, we cannot continue as we are. We cannot scrap LTNs and go back to how things were before. Those days are now officially over, whether we like it or not. We need to stop emitting carbon, and we need to stop air pollution. So what are we going to do?

The polarisation and aggression coming from conversations on LTNs and similar topics are unconstructive. We cannot scream and shout at each other; we need to listen to each other and work together. A community group is organising a fundraiser for legal fees to have a cycle path ripped out near me. It breaks my heart. Why can’t that energy go into something positive that will help us reduce our emissions and contribute to securing a safe and healthy future for London, our home?

What is needed is a coming together, whether we agree with each other or not. The climate and ecological emergency is here, the air pollution crisis is here; we need to put our differences aside and fix this. Sian Berry aims to make sure the power the London Greens win in City Hall is shared with the people of London, in as many ways as possible (London Green Party Manifesto 2021, page 102). This would include LTNs. 

Please help give her a chance to make this happen. Vote Green for your London Mayor, and vote Green for your London Assembly candidates.

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