Myth: The LTNs are causing gridlock

FACT: Since the Cowley LTNs were implemented, there have been some days of gridlocked traffic (as of 11 May 2021: approximately 5-6 days out of 60-odd days). On each of these days there have been significant contributory factors: the re-opening of non-essential retail, resurfacing of all lanes of the eastern bypass, and emergency gas repairs at the Marsh Road junction.

Outside of these few days, Cowley has not been gridlocked. On occasion, rush-hour traffic has felt heavier than ‘normal’, although this can largely be attributed to abnormally low public transport usage during pandemic – bus usage remains well below average pre-pandemic levels (Google Mobility as of May 7 puts Oxford’s bus usage at 50% of pre-pandemic usage). Outside of peak ‘rush hour’ periods on weekdays, there is light traffic flowing around Cowley.

Traffic in Oxford but outside of Cowley has steadily increased since lockdown lifting on 12 Apr. There is now regular heavy weekday congestion reported on other arterial roads, i.e. London Road, Botley Road, Iffley Road, Woodstock Road, Banbury Road. This supports the historical evidence that for the last decade at least, Cowley’s main roads have always been congested at peak times, well before LTN implementation.

More details here.

MYTH: Emergency services don’t want these schemes 

FACT: Emergency services do not support removing low-traffic neighbourhoods 

The charity Cycling UK in November 2020 sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to all ten Ambulance Service NHS Trusts in England, plus the services in Wales and Scotland. Their compilation of responses shows that no trust who answered all or some of the questions (10 of the 12 trusts) expressed support for the withdrawal of funding for active travel measures due to concerns that they might delay ambulance drivers or add to emergency response times.

Guys & St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Charitable Trust in London is donating £250,000 to local authorities to create three LTNs in Lambeth and Southwark. 

MYTH: LTNs are a threat to personal safety

FACT: The opposite is true. 

Using police data from 2012-2019, researchers Anna Goodman and Rachel Aldred examined the impact on street crime of introducing low traffic neighbourhoods in Waltham Forest, London. Overall, the introduction of a low traffic neighbourhood was associated with a 10% decrease in total street crime (95% confidence interval 7% to 13%). The only type of crime that increased was cycle theft — due to the huge increase in propensity of residents to cycle. One of Professor Goodman’s recent talks on this and other LTN research is replayable on Youtube

MYTH: LTNs just displace traffic somewhere else

FACT: LTNs result in people making fewer short-distance journeys by car. 

The Railton LTN in Lambeth, London, is among the few carefully monitored LTNs done in 2020 in London. Lambeth was in a better position than other councils to do this, since its schemes were already in the pipeline when COVID-19 struck. The six-month monitoring report was published on March 3 and shows that vehicular movements were down 21% on the periphery roads. 

The St Peter’s LTN in Islington has also been carefully followed, and it’s six-month monitoring report came out on March 11. This shows that overall boundary roads traffic was down 2%. 

The Walthamstow Village LTN in Waltham Forest had a one-year monitoring report covering the period September 2015-July 2015. It showed an overall 11% increase in boundary-roads traffic. This comes against a 4.2% increase between 2014-2016 for all outer-London boroughs like Waltham Forest, suggesting that the ‘true’ increase was closer to 7%. Officers estimate that vehicular traffic on these routes has actually fallen since the 2016 count. 

The reality is that Cowley’s main roads will not see a big decline in road traffic, in part because drivers are currently able to use them as short-cuts to other parts of Oxford. A big part of the traffic counts in OX4 are down to people using the area as a short-cut to somewhere else, not as OX4-destination traffic. We support a serious overall demand-management approach from the council, putting a stop to short-cutting traffic in OX4. The proposed Connecting Oxford scheme is a start. 

MYTH: We can have the same impact through speed humps or other road-calming measures

FACT:  Our roads are already strewn with traffic-calming features 

The 1.3km along Rymers-Lane/Cricket-Road from Howard St to Between Towns Rd has 14 sets of traffic calming measures, such as speed humps or chicanes. As Danny Yee puts it: “No one would ever design a street like this; it has clearly been retrofitted to try to cope with levels of motor traffic it was never intended to carry.”

The reality is that Google Maps, Waze and sat-nav systems will guide people down these roads wherever there’s a through-route, in order to avoid the traffic lights and other traffic-management infrastructure intended to handle through-traffic. 

MYTH: These schemes favour the well-off / These disbenefit ethnic-minority communities


The most comprehensive study so far of the socio-economic impact of LTNs in London finds no evidence of a disproportionate benefit to the well-off.  

As Peter Walker put it in this Guardian piece

The research, which examined about 400 filters created in London last year, seemingly demolishes the main argument by opponents of such schemes: that they tend to shunt vehicles from richer residential areas on to roads lived in by more deprived people.

Peter Walker

The research, by London academic Rachel Aldred, found that 

[A]cross the city, people in the most deprived quarter of areas were 2.7 times more likely to live in one of the new LTNs than the least deprived quarter of people. People without cars were more likely to live in an LTN overall, and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Londoners were slightly more likely to than white residents, although this varied by ethnicity, with Asian people slightly less likely to do so than white locals.

Peter Walker


See also these LTN mythbusters: