Evidence supports Islington low traffic neighbourhoods

K Fallon, Islington, full address supplied, writes:

Recent complaints from a business in Highbury about new traffic filters have generated much heat and very little light.

It is inevitable that changes which make streets safer and cleaner for local people by moderating through traffic may cause short-term concern to businesses worried about motorised deliveries.

However, there is already abundant evidence from other low traffic schemes in London showing that far from negatively impacting businesses, these schemes lead to more, not less trade.

LowTrafficIslington.org for example, comments from businesses in Waltham Forest after traffic filters were installed include: “Traffic reduction measures have had a huge positive impact on our business” (Froth & Rind); “As parents, business owners and residents on the road, it’s life changing. The air is cleaner and it feels so much safer. GO FOR IT” (Yardarm), “Concerns and complaints that it would ‘kill off’ shops that relied on passing trade and had items that needed to be transported by car were soon shown to be unfounded as the street is busier as a pleasant ‘destination’ than it ever was” (Phlox Books); “Feels safe and calm. Pollution is low and our business has been affected positively in terms of sales/revenue because customers spend more time on the road. We use our cargo bike for local deliveries and use the loading bays and two-hour parking slots for when we need to accept bigger deliveries. It really does work.” (Edie Rose).

At the same time, creating liveable neighbourhoods provides so many other benefits, such as reduced pollution, reduced road danger, easier and safer independent journeys for children, the elderly and disabled. Significantly, these benefits are also greatest for the least privileged members of our community, who are far less likely to have access to a motor vehicle.

At a time of climate crisis, with devastating weather events dominating the headlines, we need less heat and more light in this debate, and a focus on safeguarding and improving our borough and world now and for future generations.

Cosmetic fix for pollution concern

Guill Gil, Alwyne Place, Islington, writes:

Some readers in support of the People Friendly Streets scheme hail the fact that their children are now able to play in the street. Even if the current scheme restricts car journeys in residential streets, it can’t restrict delivery vans, much more numerous since lockdown, only complicate their routes.

The result is more pressure to meet tight schedules, with disregard to speed or traffic niceties. I can’t see the difference between a child killed by a white van and one killed by a car. Cyclists on pavements (more and more frequently, while the street by their side is empty) or e-scooters are not children-friendly either.

The main roads into which all traffic has been funnelled are pollution factories. Waiting 10 or 15 minutes to negotiate Highbury Corner at busy times (most of the day) is the new norm. Surely petrol fumes and particulates don’t form a ribbon in exact correspondence with the main roads, not affecting the rest of the borough.

The scheme is an opportunistic cosmetic measure (Boris Johnson is not the only one who plays that game) to appear of the times rather than impotent in front of a complex problem which exceeds any council.

Are Islington businesses locked in by LTNs or ready to flourish?

Islington Gazette: New bollards blocking through-traffic in the St Peter's people-friendly neighbourhood.New bollards blocking through-traffic in the St Peter's people-friendly neighbourhood. (Image: Archant)

Martyn Perks, former May 2021 Islington by-election independent candidate, writes:

Now government health secretary Matt Handcock has been ousted, his replacement Sajid Javid looks like he’s ringing in the changes. No doubt a political move to try and bring about some certainty to when all Covid restrictions will be lifted.

After 16 challenging months of harsh restrictions that have affected communities, relationships, businesses in innumerable ways, it will be a moment we have all been waiting for—a chance to get our lives back to normal.

However, crucially, when the lifting of lockdown restrictions is imminent, why are local authority councils determined to keep us locked in with their Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) road closures? When we all need as much help as we can get, won’t keeping countless roads blocked off will further hinder the chance of getting our lives back to normal that everyone deserves? For example, take the countless local businesses that have heroically managed to stay afloat during Covid. If LTNs remain in place, they will have to continue to bear the costs that closed roads add to their running costs.

Recently I asked many local businesses in and around St Peters in Islington what the effects of LTNs have been on them. Shops, cafes, newsagents, greengrocers, and local services many local people rely upon all shared the same complaints.

They all told me about the delays in delivering goods to customers that LTNs often cause them. How receiving deliveries are made much harder. And of how they are losing customers who are no longer able to drive to them or park nearby.

They told me of how their customers have complained of having to wait longer for orders to arrive. Being stuck in traffic caused by congested main roads is often cited as a cause of delays. One courier who had just delivered a parcel to my door told me that LTNs added another hour to his already long working day. All of these effects also have a knock-on cost to the local economy and infrastructure. Suppliers and trades that rely upon each other end up passing on additional costs to one another.

These stories are being repeated all over London and elsewhere wherever LTNs have been introduced. Only time will tell what the total costs of all this will be. And how many times have these additional burdens pushed businesses already struggling over the edge, forcing them to close? The same goes for job losses that occurred during lockdown.

Proponents will argue that the social benefits of LTNs far outweigh any economic costs, and they can be recouped over time as society recovers. Eventually, we all move on. But that is not the point.

At the time of planning LTNs, councils had little or no evidence of the economic impact. How could they? There was no data available to base any decisions on. Indeed, using emergency traffic orders suited them because they did not need to bother to consult with anyone before rushing through each LTN scheme. If they had bothered to ask, they would have quickly realised that LTNs would have left many worse off – local businesses included. Now, some 16 months on, what will Islington Council do to help with the ravages that Covid’s lockdown restrictions have brought? It seems very little.

When councils should be doing all they can to support local communities and businesses to get back to normal, we have the threat of more LTN schemes and existing ones made permanent. All of which begs the question: if Sajid Javid appears committed to getting our lives back to normal, why are our councils (elected to represent us) seem determined to keep us locked in?