The fate of Auckland Road as a Healthy Street experiment is about to come under scrutiny. It is almost unbelievable that there would be any opposition to a Healthy Street, but sadly these questions need to be answered.
- Is this a democratic issue?
- Is the Climate Crisis relevant?
- Do Low Traffic Neighbourhoods work?
- Are measures to restrict motor vehicles being attempted elsewhere?
- Have any measures to restrict motor vehicles anywhere in the world not met with virulent opposition?
Is this a democratic issue?
Was the Scrutiny Committee called in before the unleashing of:
- 200 million miles of extra traffic on Croydon Streets from 2010 to 2019?
- or 3.9 billion miles on London’s residential roads between 2009 and 2019?
Yet here we are making judgment on an ‘unclassified road’ of 1.1 miles which carries around 10,000 journeys a day.
But yes, it is a democratic issue.
Reducing traffic and encouraging active travel is the policy of the democratically elected government, the democratically elected Mayor of London and democratically elected Croydon Council.
The council has published many documents over the years outlining their plans to reduce traffic and encourage active travel. Their latest election manifesto confirmed this commitment.
Local residents have been campaigning to reduce volume and speed of traffic for 10 years. This culminated in a meeting – Healthy Streets for All – in January 2020. Speakers included Steve Reed MP, Councillor Stuart King, then Cabinet Member for Transport at Croydon Council and local councillor Nina Degrads. Steve Reed even proposed a Low Traffic Neighbourhood!
Is all the above trumped by a small proportion of residents (15%) who oppose measures to reduce traffic and who are not representative of the community in terms of their affluence, age, or ethnicity?
Is the Climate Crisis relevant?
Transport remains the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, accounting for 34 per cent in 2019. The country’s cars are now responsible for more CO2 than the entire power sector, for example.
More than half of vehicle journeys in Croydon are less than 3km. Surely this is an easy target to convert to active travel, provided there is safe space for people to cycle and walk (a primary objective of LTNs).
Do Low Traffic Neighbourhoods work?
Silly question No.1. Of course they do, as demonstrated all over the world. Cities on the continent started more than 40 years ago and they are reaping the benefits of pleasant, safe, and unpolluted streets. Cycling levels are 13 times greater in the Netherlands.
Exhaustive monitoring of Waltham Forest LTN shows increases in active travel and decreases in road traffic injuries, car ownership and crime.
But was our short-lived experiment on Auckland Road a success?
Some measures to judge:
- Vast increase in walking; increase in cycling
- More children cycling to school and many, many more pupils wanting to
- Much reduced traffic
Is the experimental Healthy Street scheme better?
Yes, it is much better. It addresses all the issues of the original scheme:
- Emergency access
- Access to doctors’ surgery
- Disabled people access
- Residents access
- Access for teachers and social workers
- Direct routes for residents
But what about traffic on boundary roads?
Virtually all studies of road space reallocation show an overall reduction in traffic. This phenomenon is referred to as Evaporating Traffic. But in most cases there is an increase in traffic on boundary roads but this is nowhere near the decrease in overall traffic.
Does increased traffic on boundary roads prove the LTN is not working?
LTNs are not magic wands. They are the carrot. They provide safe space for people who are currently driving (on main roads too) to try out active travel and discover the benefits of a healthier life-style.
LTNs are not the cause of too much traffic on main roads. The cause is too much driving.
Those who want a decrease in traffic on main roads (and LTN supporters do) should be campaigning for the introduction of sticks: road user-charging; increases in fuel duty; reduced parking, and other carrots: more car clubs; parklets; better public transport.
Are measures to restrict motor vehicles being attempted elsewhere?
Silly question No.2. They are so successful that cities all over the world (including the land of the motor vehicle, USA) are creating People Friendly Streets.
London, New York, Paris…
Have any measures to restrict motor vehicles anywhere in the world not met with virulent opposition?
The response to any measures to restrict motor vehicles has been universally the same. Even in the Netherlands community leaders received death threats.
Waltham Forest LTN which initially attracted much hostility is no longer controversial.
Disinformation and the perverse misuse of data are also universal.
The car lobby will not go quietly. Neither did the smoking lobby and the fossil fuel industry.