Low traffic neighbourhoods, so called “clean air zones” and new, underused cycle lanes are all deeply unpopular.
So much so that a new petition has recently appeared on the UK Parliament website (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/633504) demanding a revision to the statutory guidance that brought them in. Within days of posting, it has attracted over 1,200 signatories.
Instead of there being a presumption they remain, local authorities should be required to remove them, unless, within three months, they can show there is more than 50% public support, using broad, unbiased, independent, local opinion research.
The petition expresses deep frustration that many recently introduced traffic schemes, often justified by bogus green claims, have, by reducing road space, caused gridlock, increased pollution on busy roads, generated £ millions in fines and charges and been implemented with little or no local approval.
Exacerbated by failure properly to consult residents, they have also caused bitterness and division in local communities; increased response times of emergency vehicles and disadvantaged the most vulnerable in society, who can’t walk or cycle.
Where consultation has taken place, there have been instances when the methodology has been biased, which is why the petition calls for unbiased, independent research to validate the retention of new traffic schemes.
Sections 16-18 of the Traffic Management Act, place a duty on local authorities to secure the expeditious movement of traffic on their road networks. However, in May 2020, during the pandemic, the then Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, launched a £250m active travel fund to promote walking and cycling.
It was justified on the basis that with a 2m social distancing rule, public transport could only accommodate 10% of its usual capacity on many parts of the network; so, people would need to be encouraged to walk and cycle. New statutory guidance, conflicting with sections 16-18 of the Act, told local authorities to reallocate road space to walking and cycling, with a view to making the new schemes permanent. Furthermore, the assumption should be that they will be retained unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary.
Just five months later, the Daily Mail ran a headline saying. “Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admits too many new cycle lanes are ‘unused’ leaving streets ‘backed up’ with traffic as he warns councils over increase in road closures… even though the routes were built using £250m fund HE unveiled”. Subsequently, some cycle lanes were dismantled. However, others remained, as did the statutory guidance.
Last October, The Times reported that councils, which implemented low-traffic neighbourhoods during the pandemic, had seen bigger increases in car use than boroughs that did not. While this is compelling evidence that LTNs have contributed to congestion, they have not been dismantled.
Earlier this month, the Telegraph revealed that the new cycleway through Hammersmith, which the local council claims to be “safer”, is actually more dangerous, with the rate of cycle accidents increasing more than three-fold since it was built.
Many LTNs and other pandemic traffic schemes were introduced as “temporary” under Experimental Traffic Orders but despite those orders expiring and social distancing measures no longer being in force, the schemes they approved have not been removed.
All over the UK, there is widespread anger at LTNs and other traffic schemes, with many attracting thousands of signatures objecting to them. Anti-LTN petitions online include Ealing, over 12,000; Enfield, over 7,000; Haringey, over 7,000; Islington, over 11,000; Lewisham, over 13,000; Oxford, over 15,000; Birmingham, over 5,000; South Fulham, over 9,000; Tooting, over 12,000.
The most unpopular LTN in the UK is London’s ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), which the mayor, Sadiq Khan, wants to extend from the North Circular Road to the M25.
His plan has attracted over 240,000 objections on Change.org and a judicial review backed by five London councils. The mayor’s own impact assessment says that there would be no health benefits from the expansion and almost no air quality benefits, yet he is keen to press ahead anyway, in the face of substantial public opposition. Around two thirds of respondents to Transport for London’s (TFL’s) own consultation were against the expansion and the degree of opposition was much higher amongst those in outer London.
The full text of the petition is below:
Require councils remove LTNs and underused bike lanes that lack public support
Require local authorities (LAs) remove low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and underused bike lanes that lack public support. Change guidance presuming to make these permanent, to requiring removal, unless, in 3 months, the LA can show > 50% approval, using unbiased, independent, local opinion research.
There’s widespread anger at LTNs and other congesting traffic schemes but LAs are not removing them due to statutory guidance and the money they make.
Many were built with no proper consultation as a pandemic measure; but it is over.
The schemes, often justified by doubtful green claims, undermine the law obliging LAs to expedite traffic flow; and create social division, ghettos, gridlock and local economic damage.
The attack on liberty and persecution of motorists is unfair and must stop.
If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the government will respond to it. If it reaches 100,000 it is considered for a debate in Parliament.