Motor traffic cutting through our streets has a serious impact on the health and quality of life of people living there – too much traffic, too fast, too noisy, too much pollution. Issues of air and noise pollution are very real. But the biggest negative of through or “ratrun” traffic is the strangling effect it has on people spending time on their streets. In the space of two generations, we’ve seen children’s roaming distance collapse as motor vehicle volumes on residential streets have rocketed. Kids don’t play out any more, and neighbours don’t chat to each other.
But it doesn’t have to stay like that.
Low traffic neighbourhoods are groups of residential streets, bordered by main, or distributor, roads (the places where buses, lorries, and non-local traffic should be), where “through” motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed. The basic principle is that every resident can drive onto their street and can still get deliveries but it’s harder or impossible to drive straight through from one main road to the next. With through traffic gone, the streets in a low traffic neighbourhood see dramatic reductions in motor traffic levels and often speeds too.
With much lower traffic volumes children can play outside, neighbours catch up, air pollution is lower, and walking and cycling are the natural choice for everyday journeys. And it turns out that cutting through traffic on side streets doesn’t add significantly to congestion on main roads.
In Waltham Forest the impact of introducing LTNs has been dramatic – air quality has improved, residents are walking and cycling more, life expectancy is increasing and motor traffic levels are falling over the wider area. Where streets have been improved shop vacancy rates have fallen and trade existing shops are have more trade. Some of those benefits are captured in this infographic below.
[Much of the above text was taken from London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets jointly developed briefing documents on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods ]