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Why we need Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, now!

By Emma Griffin of London Living Streets

We’ve known for decades that motor traffic has a serious impact on the health and quality of life of people living on streets. It’s dangerous, it’s noisy, it pollutes and it has a strangling effect on community interaction and healthy physical activity.

London Living Streets campaigns for low traffic neighbourhoods that create attractive, safe and healthy places for people, not cars.

Low traffic neighbourhoods are made up of:

  • traffic cells where through-traffic is restricted by barriers like bollards or planters;
  • urban boulevards/avenues or people-friendly main roads with safe space to cycle, generous pavements, planting, seating; and
  • connected quiet streets that link the traffic cells with safe crossings across the boulevards/main roads. This creates a city-wide network of direct routes for walking and cycling that any age or ability can use.

Stopping rat runs (low traffic neighbourhoods) video, by London Living Streets

We know that low traffic neighbourhoods, also known as ‘mini-hollands’, deliver genuine benefits to all residents. Children play out more, neighbours catch up, air pollution is lower, road safety improves and walking and cycling are the natural choice for everyday journeys.

This has all been proven in Walthamstow Village, one of London’s most advanced liveable neighbourhood schemes. Research by Westminster University has shown that in mini Holland areas such as Waltham Forest, within just one year of substantial changes being made to infrastructure, people are walking and cycling, on average, an additional 41 minutes a week.

Image: London Borough of Waltham Forest
Image: London Borough of Waltham Forest

Comparison of exposure to illegal levels of NO2 between 2007 and 2017 in Waltham Forest1

In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, in June 2020 Transport for London issued a map of neighbourhoods in London which have the greatest need for a low traffic neighbourhood scheme.

You can see the maps showing neighbourhoods with greatest need for low traffic neighbourhoods.
There is also more information and guidance from Transport for London.

Strategic Neighbourhoods Analysis overview map of the potential for low traffic neighbourhoods across London. Image: TfL

There are sometimes concerns that low traffic neighbourhoods may divert traffic onto main roads leading to increased congestion and air pollution but…

Experience reveals that predictions of traffic problems caused by low traffic neighbourhoods almost always fail to materialise, and that significant reductions in overall traffic levels across an area can happen as a result of people making a wide range of behavioural responses to the new traffic configurations. Read more about Evaporating traffic: the impact of low traffic neighbourhoods on main roads.

Useful material if you’re keen to campaign for a low traffic neighbourhood in your area

London Living Streets has a huge amount of material that provides background and makes the case for low traffic neighbourhoods. Please contact us if you want to find out more or want help building support for the idea. We can also visit your borough to present the benefits of low traffic neighbourhoods.

This blog is adapted and reproduced with kind permission of London Living Streets.

Main image: Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Picture of Emma Griffin

Emma Griffin

Vice-chair, London Living Streets. Emma is a journalist, blogger and campaigner.

  1. Population Exposure Comparison:2007 and 2017, prepared for London Borough of Waltham Forest, August 2018 []

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