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Traffic displacement has led to an uncomfortable division

18 February, 2021

‘The LTN traffic displacement effect is responsible for a deeply uncomfortable new divide, a non-LTN/ LTN apartheid’

• EVERYTHING comes at a price.

LTN, low traffic neighbourhood, negatives (putting to one side their huge financial cost) include worse traffic congestion on our main roads and more pollution there.

These down sides come as no surprise. It’s pretty obvious that unless and until it evaporates, any traffic that is displaced out of the new LTN bubbles has to go somewhere else.

The inconvenient truth in all of this is that traffic evaporation on our main roads, while critical to the success of these schemes, may not actually happen… either enough, or fast enough, or at all.

LTN-displaced traffic can’t and won’t magically transform into evaporated traffic in the twinkling of an eye. If any evaporation does happen it will take time.

In the meantime the LTN traffic displacement effect is responsible for a deeply uncomfortable new divide, a non-LTN/ LTN apartheid.

While it’s a bit hit and miss, within the LTN bubble you can sample “active travel” pleasantness. These are the streets that the “people-friendly” banner is intended to describe.

However as soon as you leave the LTN bubble, say reach an adjacent main road, the pleasantness disappears. (Arguably this not joined-up active travel experience perfectly mirrors the not joined-up thinking behind these schemes.)

We must ask ourselves did Islington Council do its homework on traffic evaporation or has it simply stuck its collective finger in the air by way of traffic modelling and research?

Its go-to response of holding up the example of an LTN in Waltham Forest looks very much like comparing apples with oranges.

The easing of lockdown, and Islington’s ongoing LTNs roll-out, can only add to the burden of traffic on the roads surrounding the new LTN bubbles. This doesn’t bode well for traffic evaporation.

The challenge for the council now is to try to hold unhappy locals at bay while hoping that the uncomfortable traffic and pollution –v– cleaner and clearer streets apartheid will gradually dismantle.

Incredibly the council expects the Highbury community to wait up to 18 months to see how this traffic evaporation concept plays out.

It seems to me that before launching itself at LTNs the council ought to have reflected on the ethical maxim “first do no harm”.

Had it done so it may have left tackling traffic and pollution concerns to the more considered measures that are being separately introduced. As it didn’t, how these LTNs will play out now is anybody’s guess.

And that’s a very uncomfortable state of affairs wherever you stand on this troubled and deeply divisive debate.

Within the Highbury West LTN


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