The Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) experiment has been sold across the UK as a green policy that will reduce pollution and emissions, a policy that will encourage people to get on their bikes or use public transport, a policy that has no downsides!
Though the stated aims of reducing emissions and improving public health are matters that everyone can support, do LTN’s actually deliver what they purport to?
A recent report published by Wandsworth Council as part of their review of the LTN in Balham and Tooting showed the following outcomes:
- There is some reduction in car use, but people using cars now take longer trips which increases the overall car usage
- Pollution and emissions may be reduced on the streets with road closures but this has pushed pollution on to other streets, typically main boundary roads that were already burdened with very high levels of pollution
- Traffic has been increased on high streets and boundary roads meaning people are sitting in their cars emitting pollution for longer in the same space
- The report also raised concerns about delays to emergency services due to road closures and increased traffic
Following the review and report, Wandsworth council decided to suspend the trial of the LTN, stating “It is clear that the LTNs are not delivering the benefits we want to see. In fact it looks like the combination of changes in areas like Tooting…are unfortunately having the opposite effect.”
There is clearly a divided opinion on the success of the LTN’s, they are supported by many people who live on the now carless roads, they get to breathe cleaner air and are still able to use their cars to drive down other people’s streets. Support also comes from people who are so far unaffected by the LTN’s, people who tend to walk, cycle or use public transport and are not affected by road closures and increased traffic on boundary roads, however we can all be impacted by delays to emergency services, increases in pollution on the high street, and division within our communities.
The Workers Party of Britain supports the development of radical solutions to the urgent problems confronting us as a result of environmental degradation, but we are not in favour of measures which punish the working class whilst leaving the big monopolies and real polluters untouched. This is why we oppose the current imposition of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods across the UK.
A real green policy must focus on the biggest polluters, not the single mum trying to take her kids to school, or the small business owner trying to survive in the face of lockdowns and now the wholesale pedestrianisation of their street which has massively reduced footfall, and consequently, passing trade.
What would a real green policy look like?
A real policy to reduce emissions and pollution by bringing cars off the road must involve free public transport for all children in the UK, this will encourage families to use buses and trains rather than private vehicles or taxi/uber services. Across the UK it is often cheaper for a family of four to drive their private vehicle or to use an uber services than to take the bus. Free transport for children would change this.
Free public transport for all children in the UK would also allow children better access to school, work, nature, social and cultural activities. It would improve attendance rates in school and help to reduce traffic and pollution on our roads.
Free bus travel
Free bus travel for children is a truly green and social policy that would benefit all families across the UK, rather than LTN road closures which create longer car journeys, make life more difficult for the elderly and less mobile, and hurt small businesses already struggling after lockdown and the economic downturn.
In London free public transport for children is already a reality, though the Workers Party would extend the current age restrictions. Elsewhere in Britain, a myriad of strategic authorities (many set up under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009) have far reaching powers over local transport infrastructure and regeneration.
In the West Midlands the combined authority established Transport for West Midlands as an executive agency with wide ranging powers and a huge budget of more than £900 million. Taking £7 million from this and adding it to the £7 million currently given for concessionary fares would mean free public transport for hundreds of thousands of working class children. This situation is replicated across the country.
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