Harrow council has arranged a Zoom meeting for local residents on Wednesday 3rd February 6.30-7.30pm, to discuss the low traffic neighbourhood. Local residents may have received an email from West Harrow councillors with a link to the meeting, if not please contact us.
Background to the West Harrow low traffic neighbourhood trial
Please see our main West Harrow low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) page for more details about the scheme, its background and rationale. In brief, the LTN was created in order to:
- create safe routes for children walking, cycling or scooting to Vaughan School
- reduce children’s exposure to pollution when entering or leaving school
- enable people to use the ‘Metropolitan Cycle Route’ (a ‘high priority’ strategic cycle route) safely and comfortably, to enable people to switch from driving to cycling, and thereby reduce traffic in the area
- create a more pleasant, safer, quieter environment for residents in the area
LTNs also have the advantage of making walking and cycling routes shorter and more convenient than driving routes. They make it slightly less convenient to drive, especially for short distances, and over time people tend to drive less and walk/cycle more.
The scheme was implemented as a trial on 25 Sep 2020 as part of the Harrow Streetspace programme. This was according to statutory Government guidance that local authorities should put in place rapid measures to improve walking and cycling, to help to prevent an increase in traffic when lockdown eases. In the early stages of schemes to restrict driving routes, there is typically opposition from motorists which can be very strong and vocal (but over time people are more likely to accept the scheme and not go back to the previous situation). This is the case in all the Harrow LTNs.
When the LTN commenced, traffic on many streets in the area decreased (especially The Gardens and near Vaughan School), and people are found it safer and more comfortable to cycle in the road.
Changes to the West Harrow LTN during the trial
Although the council’s liaison with emergency services found that the LTNs had not affected their ability to meet statutory response times, it was decided to pre-emptively enable emergency vehicle access in light of the winter COVID-19 surge. Therefore the physical barriers were replaced by signage to prohibit access to motor vehicles except emergency vehicles. This was intended to be monitored by mobile CCTV, but there was no CCTV at each filter all of the time. This means that many motor vehicles have been driving through the filters illegally.
The zebra crossing at West Harrow station has been temporarily cordoned off because the (now redundant) planters and signage obstruct the approach to the zebra.
Without automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras at each filter (so that motorists know they will be caught if they try to drive through illegally), the current arrangement is no longer a proper LTN. The temporary removal of the zebra crossing is also unsatisfactory.
The council is considering plans which will involve ANPR to ensure the restrictions are complied with, while enabling access for emergency vehicles (and potentially other vehicles on council, health or care duties). There is also a consideration that residents living in certain areas may be given exemptions.
What do we recommend?
Harrow needs better streets which enable and encourage more sustainable travel, but it is not possible to create space for active travel without taking some space from cars. It is politically difficult but essential to make such changes. Converting the temporary LTN into a permanent scheme will have long-lasting benefits. It should be the start of an ongoing programme of improvement across the borough, with LTNs and cycle lanes, to reverse the last decade’s steady increase in car use.
However, there are lessons to be learned from the way the LTN was implemented. The signs and announcements about upcoming changes to the road layout needed to be larger, clearer and repeated more frequently. A planned approach with ANPR cameras (if needed) should have been used rather than changing to signed-only barriers with infrequent, ineffective CCTV monitoring.
We have recommended the following to Harrow Council:
- The scheme should be retained and improved.
- The 20mph speed limit should be extended to boundary roads to improve safety and reduce pollution on these roads.
- If a consultation is carried out, results should be compiled street by street, ensuring that people or households cannot submit multiple responses and skew the response.
- If access through the ANPR barriers for residents is proposed, it should be as limited as possible, e.g. only for residents in areas with a single access route to alleviate concerns about their access route being blocked. Resident exemptions should not apply to all residents in the area for all filters, because this will result in more traffic in the area and less incentive for people to walk or cycle rather than drive. It may also result in resentment if certain residents are allowed through and others are not.
- If there is insufficient evidence of support for the LTN at this stage, the trial should be extended for at least another 6 months with effective ANPR enforcement. This will help to consolidate changes in travel behaviour and allow time to gather further evidence of benefits.
How can I join the meeting?
You may have received an email from West Harrow councillors with a link to the meeting, if not please contact us for the link.