Many residential neighbourhoods have through routes for cars, and have too much car traffic. Traffic on minor roads in London has increased by 50% over the past decade but traffic on main roads has remained at the same level over that time, according to DfT statistics.
A low traffic neighbourhood can be created by closing roads at particular points to motor vehicles, but allowing people to walk and cycle everywhere. Vehicle access to all properties is still possible, but people cannot drive through. This creates safe routes for walking and cycling in the area. Combined with improvements on the main roads (such as cycle lanes and better crossings) they enable people to walk or cycle more journeys instead of driving, reducing pollution and road danger.
In Waltham Forest, low traffic neighbourhoods led to 56% reduction in traffic within the neighbourhood, and 16% reduction in the wider area. Within 1 year, people were walking and cycling 41 minutes more each week, on average.
The TfL website has good explanations about low traffic neighbourhoods: https://madeby.tfl.gov.uk/2020/12/15/low-traffic-neighbourhoods/
Comprehensive research on LTNs (November 2020): https://www.udg.org.uk/publications/news/2020/low-traffic-neighbourhoods-major-research-report
What are the health benefits of low traffic neighbourhoods?
Reducing motor traffic is a key component of creating ‘Healthy Streets‘, which are quiet, sociable, pleasant streets with benefits for physical and mental health. King’s College has studied the Waltham Forest schemes and estimates several months gain in life expectancy across the population, from reduced pollution and increased walking and cycling.
Do low traffic neighbourhoods increase congestion on surrounding streets?
There may be more congestion initially as drivers get used to the new layout, but in the longer term low traffic neighbourhoods encourage people to change their travel habits and drive less for short journeys. Traffic monitoring after similar schemes has shown that traffic volumes reduce overall. In Walthamstow Village low traffic neighbourhood there was a 56% decrease in traffic volumes within the scheme area and only 11% increase on the boundary roads, but traffic was more spread out through the day with lower peak traffic flows, and there was no impact on bus services. Recent studies in Hackney and Lambeth have found that LTNs did not increase in traffic on main roads.
Do residents of main roads benefit from low traffic neighbourhoods?
Some people are concerned that residents of main roads are from more deprived groups than residents of minor roads, but recent research has found that this is not the case. All residents benefit from having a comprehensive cycle network which LTNs form an integral part of. LTNs are one of a number of tools which are needed to improve walking and cycling and reduce traffic – they should ideally be implemented alongside improvements to main roads (with cycle lanes and better pedestrian crossings) and measures to reduce overall traffic, such as road pricing.
Where else have low traffic neighbourhoods been built?
In the Netherlands every town and city has low-traffic neighbourhoods, with through traffic able to use only the main roads. People walk or cycle for most journeys. Many cities are now following this trend – Barcelona is closing 2 out of 3 roads in the grid to through traffic and making them into pleasant spaces for people, Paris aims to make 100% of streets cycle-friendly by 2024, and even Birmingham is planning to close its city centre motorway and remove through motor traffic from within the ring road.
Where could low traffic neighbourhoods be built in Harrow?
TfL’s Strategic Neighbourhood Analysis shows which areas have well-connected networks of minor roads and suffer from through traffic. The Harrow portion of the map is shown below: