Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are designed to put people first. Ensuring access for residents, deliveries and emergency services without the street being dominated by through traffic. Streets are opened to safe active travel – from walking and cycling to mobility aids and scooting.
Merton has implemented schemes in four parts of the borough:
Merton Council has its own page all about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
What is an LTN?
An LTN is a residential area where through traffic is restricted. Every home still has vehicle access for residents, delivery vehicles and emergencies. By removing the through traffic, the area becomes much quieter, children can walk to school without choking on traffic fumes, residents can cycle safely, and the elderly can safely cross the road without the fear of being mown down.
What LTNs promote is active travel, which is essentially human-powered travel. They encourage trips to the local shops by foot or bike rather than a car-led trip to the supermarket. In fact, many local businesses near LTNs report significant rises in customers.
Merton has too many vehicles chasing too little road space. This has been the case for many years, but has been balanced by gradually increasing use of public transport. With COVID-19, public transport use has dropped dramatically, leading many to try and use their vehicles. Surveys show that vehicle usage in outer London is already around 25% above normal which is making existing rat-runs much worse – the status quo isn’t working.
LTNs are a direct result of years of experience and public policy research. They are a direct response to four main issues:
- Climate Change: Vehicles produce 25% of Merton’s annual carbon emissions. We can’t tackle Climate Change without tackling vehicle usage.
- Air pollution: Polluted air is causing children to have 5-10% smaller lungs, effectively creating a hidden disability for life. And estimates suggest a 2 year reduction in life expectancy once beyond childhood.
- Road Safety: Children, walkers and cyclists are the most vulnerable road users. The A24 from Merton to Tooting is one of the most dangerous stretches in road in London.
- Obesity and Inactivity. A car-dependent culture means too little physical activity. For example, 1 in 3 pupils are obese before they leave primary school.
Won’t they make traffic worse?
It may seem odd, but the overall evidence is that LTNs don’t make traffic on the main roads worse. It is widely accepted that building new or bigger roads just causes more people to drive. Traffic expands to fill the space available. The opposite effect is also seen – if you reduce road space then fewer people drive. This is called traffic evaporation.
With LTNs, the explicit purpose of the schemes is to try and shift short local journeys from the car to walking and bikes, leaving the road space for those who really need it and for longer journeys.
Are they a new concept?
No, LTNs are not a new concept. Merton has had LTNs for many years right across the borough:
- the Battles and All Saints areas of South Wimbledon
- all of Colliers Wood
- large areas of Mitcham
- the Apostles area of Raynes Park
Most residents consider these existing LTNs to be highly successful. They would not want to go back to having through traffic.
But what about the consultation?
All schemes are having a consultation, but the consultation is happening after the scheme is implemented rather than before. This is because the Government funding required schemes to implemented first with consultation later. Although it seems surprising at first, it is a very effective way to make changes. Instead of trying to envisage what might happen, residents can experience what the effects actually are. This leads to more informed decision making.
As they say, you’ll never know if you don’t try it!
Big thank you to @Merton_Council who will be trialling a scheme to close my road to through traffic. Had enough of cars and goods vehicles driving too fast & using it as a rat run. Hopefully it will help to encourage more 🚲 and 🚶♂️ as well.https://twitter.com/jjrpadmore/status/1298697252907765761