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This war against motor travel is a risk

19 March, 2021

Questions surrounding Islington’s low traffic neighbourhoods

• ISLINGTON Council seems to have recently embarked on a war against motor travel, other than where it’s by bus.

Under a web of road closures within two large newly-created LTN, low traffic neighbourhoods, it has restricted routes into, out of, and inside, Highbury for most motorists.

It has also installed a series of ANPR camera gates, eight in total, and is meting out hefty fines to drivers who breach these.

A very small number of motorists is allowed to drive through these new camera gates without fear of being fined (under ANPR exemption). This exemption from fines includes some of the council‘s vehicles.

The council tells us that one of the reasons that these very restrictive measures are necessary, is to make Highbury’s roads safer. This apparently pressing need for greater road safety has come as news to quite a few of us that have lived here for a long time.

If the sub-text is, instead, broadly that the council wants to largely stamp out private motor vehicle transport, then that is an extreme diktat, and is way beyond any council mandate.

As well as a purge on motor vehicles the council is keen to make some of our residential roads into more pleasant and people-friendly spaces.

This in turn begs the question, is making it more pleasant for us to walk and socialise in some of our streets an important Highbury priority, when hard choices are constantly having to be made between the disparate and competing needs of all those who live here?

If creating people-friendly streets within LTN enclaves were to be accepted by the majority here as a valid priority then, in terms of fairness and balance, do these enclave roads really need to be kept largely free of motorists 24 hours a day and seven days a week for this purpose?

How many local people would want to socialise in their road, say during the school/ typical working day, or after dark, or during the cold winter months?

Is it right for the council to focus so determinedly on making LTN enclave roads into people-friendly spaces if this comes at the expense of their established use as a transport network?

It would be interesting to see how many local people consider that Islington Council has gone too far in this dual vision of private motor vehicle suppression and LTN enclave roads as more people-friendly spaces, and would support a more middle ground approach instead.

The most obvious would be to relax some of the LTN road restrictions for drivers who are connected to Highbury, while continuing to exclude those drivers who are just cutting through it.

Given that cut-through traffic is what many of those who were unhappy about traffic levels previously were said to be complaining about, this compromise should still make a real difference to local traffic count and represent a firm LTN win for the council.

Interestingly Keep Highbury Moving’s petition, calling for some roads to be reopened for residents through exemption from camera fines, has already been signed by 4,500+ people, and the number continues to grow.

Reopening some of our LTN roads for drivers connected to Highbury, by trialling wider ANPR exemption from fines, while still keeping traffic levels lower than they were before, may also help to dilute some of the LTN problems that have been highlighted at length on social media and in the press. This may in turn improve the chances of some form of LTNs being accepted more widely.

If, instead, the council adopts a hard line then it is more likely that LTN schemes will be rejected altogether by the Highbury community, and in the process any LTN benefits that might have worked for the majority (and not just for the few) will be lost.

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