In their Croydon’s Streetspace Improvements Programme (CSIP) Frequently Asked Questions, Croydon Council state:
“The purpose of this initiative is two-fold:
- To allow residents safer access to their streets enabling safe socially distanced travel, exercise and other activities.
- To keep traffic on the classified road network and by doing so reduce the volume of traffic travelling through our neighbourhoods.
“The central government imposed lockdown has resulted a substantial reduction in motor traffic, creating less polluted, quieter streets across our borough. Many people have opted to cycle or walk instead of using their own vehicles or public transport, in some areas there has been a 70% increase in the number of people using bicycles for exercise, safe and socially distanced travel.”
The Council define a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) as:
“Low traffic neighbourhoods” as defined by Living Streets: “are groups of residential streets, bordered by main or ‘distributor’ roads (the places where buses, lorries, non-local traffic should be), where ‘through’ motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed. There’s lots of ways you can make a low traffic neighbourhood, but the main principle is that every resident can drive onto their street, get deliveries etc., but it’s harder or impossible to drive straight through.”
LTNs create attractive streets for walking and cycling by preventing rat-running traffic using quieter residential streets whilst maintaining local access for residents & visitors. LTNs have the following key benefits:
- Reducing traffic & associated road danger
- Reducing congestion, air & noise pollution
- Prioritising routes for buses & cyclists
- Encourage active travel such as walking & cycling
- Enabling safe, socially distanced travel while public transport capacity is reduced
So what is the rationale behind how our particular LTN has been designed. If only Bromley Council could be convinced to join in, we would have a logical Low Traffic Neighbourhood defined by the following main roads as boundary:
- High Street (A213)
- South Norwood Hill (A215)
- Church Road (A212)
- Anerley Hill (A214)
- + the railway
There can be no argument that this is a residential area, with roads unsuitable for through traffic.
There is a single road with three names (Lancaster Road, Auckland Road & Hamlet Road) which has no designation other than London Cycle Network Route 29.
It is the road that almost 700 school children will be walking along to attend Cypress Schools and is also an access road for the 1287 pupils of the Harris Academy. For the scheme to work, this road has to be protected from the large volume of rat-run traffic that uses it as a short-cut with speeds of up to 55mph recorded during school lunch break.
“A city that is good for children is good for everybody.”Maria Vassilakou, Vienna’s former deputy mayor
There is also the background of the road having been blocked anyway for months because of gas works maintenance so when the Covid-19 lockdown commenced, it was already a very quiet road with many more cyclists and walkers. It had become customary for walkers to step into the road whenever they met other pedestrians coming in the other direction.
The Secretary of State for Transport has observed that “there’s been a 70% rise in the number of people on bikes – for exercise, or for safe, socially distanced travel… The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.”
The design of the LTN makes sense once these ‘facts’ are assimilated.
Part of a ‘proper’ cycle network
There are a number of designated cycle routes in Croydon that our friends on the Continent would regard as preposterous. A good example would be LCN 23 that runs up South Norwood Hill. A cyclist striving up the Montagne gets her/his bursting lungs filled with noxious fumes from labouring cars. Far better to acknowledge that this is a ‘pretend cycle route’ and abandon it.
On the other hand LCN 29 provides a safe North/South route which links up with other cycle networks to the city. Part of a commuter route which might attract others to ride to work. But for most people to consider this, they need to feel safe. That’s why this route needs to be protected!
Why not allow all residents through the bus gate?
So far we have been talking about all the benefits of the LTN – safety, a more pleasant and unpolluted environment – shall we call it the ‘carrot’. But there is also the ‘stick’. The bus gate is an encouragement for residents to reconsider the short trips they make and perhaps convert some of them to walking or cycling. With 36% of all car trips being less than 2km, perhaps society needs some nudges to make people change.
But at present, it is a rather blunt stick. There is certainly a case for allowing less able people through the bus gate to attend Auckland surgery for example.
So the LTN is perfect?
The short answer is NO and we will be publishing some suggested enhancements in the future. We need to have a proper discussion in the community about whether the current arrangement is a bit too much of a blunt instrument and whether there are ways, including re-siting the road closures and camera-controlled resident access, which would improve it.
In the meantime, please give it a chance. If it doesn’t work, it can always be amended.
Working as a community, we have the chance to build the beautiful environment that the people of Waltham Forest have created through their pioneering LTN. To do this we need an inclusive and transparent dialogue with everyone in the community, not least the Bromley end, and for this to happen Bromley Council and Croydon Council will need to work together and with us all.