Reasons to keep the Cowley LTNs
- With on-going vandalism of new traffic measures, and regular contravention of the rules of the road, is it any wonder we need LTNs? Driving entitlement has become plain ridiculous. Over the past decade policing and local authority cuts have reduced staffing numbers, such that there is very little enforcement of low-level traffic violations. It’s no coincidence that we have seen an ever-growing trend for more speeding, close-passing, bad parking, red-light running, rat-running, tail-gating, crashing into houses, park fences etc. Left to our own devices, both driving standards and general road etiquette have plummeted. Now, we have people deliberately vandalising and removing road safety measures, with no consequence. When is this all going to stop? How will Connecting Oxford, Vision Zero, expanded ZEZ all work if we don’t stand up to ever-increasing driving entitlement? Will ANPR cameras be targeted next? Will drivers just start using pavements when there are jams on the roads? What kind of authority will our police force and council retain if they are ambivalent about criminal damage to a newly implemented council scheme?
- Even if we could momentarily ignore the tragic road deaths in Oxford over the past few years, the increase in low-level driving offences creates an incredibly hostile environment for active travel around the city. The best way to reduce congestion is to get schoolchildren out of cars and onto their feet, bicycles, and buses. The only way to do that is to reduce side road hostility, and LTNs are the only viable intervention to achieve this goal.
- Bus prioritization needs LTNs. If bus gates are implemented, side roads will be the obvious cut-through for drivers to avoid the bus gates. This will prolong dangerous cut-through traffic, and the ever-increasing congestion, which slows the buses.
- The Cowley LTN consultation was heavily gamed by non-local motorist groups, and even then a low overall response rate meant less than 5% of the Cowley population actively objected to the LTNs in the official council consultation. This majority are apathetic to LTNs, as reinforced by the city council election results, where strong campaigns by independent anti-LTN candidates led to zero seats gained.
- If LTNs are approved, and bus gates go in, Cowley is relatively likely to receive millions in public realm improvement funding, e.g. parklets etc. Removing or even tweaking the Cowley LTNs will likely mean Cowley loses out on all of this potential future funding, as it will be diverted to local authorities that commit to traffic reduction measures, who don’t water-down schemes to placate high-traffic lobby groups.
- The latest traffic counts have not yet been released, but are expected to show a net reduction in traffic volumes across all roads in Cowley. I.e. After an initial bedding-in period LTNs have reduced traffic both within LTNs and on perimeter roads. The council recommendation paper was written in late 2021, and the extra six months of data since then reflect the snowballing of modal shift (or traffic evaporation) that is usually associated with 12-18 months after LTN implementation. These results will be available just before the Cowley LTN council cabinet decision meeting, which will be too late to be part of the decision paper. However, this data is crucial to the LTN argument. If it’s proven that Cowley perimeter road traffic (and associated air pollution) have actually decreased compared to pre-pandemic levels, then the key anti-LTN argument of simply causing traffic displacement from side roads to main roads is null and void. Proof of reduced main road traffic levels would show that LTNs work, incontrovertibly.
- If nothing else, just being able to move-on from LTNs and focus on other issues is a strong draw. If LTNs and bus gates are not in place, city-wide traffic management will continue to be a headache that will not go away. If LTNs are watered-down, the high-traffic groups will simultaneously a) hate the fact they have not been scrapped entirely and b) smell weakness and be further emboldened to further frustrate future crucial traffic management initiatives. If they ‘win’ an LTN exemption (e.g. an ANPR controlled filter, that exempts taxis and blue badge holders), they will relentlessly lobby for further exemptions. Approve now and get going with bus gates, or let LTNs dominate the rest of the electoral term and get nothing else done.
- The council traffic officers (the experts on these matters, unlike the armchair traffic planners among us), have recommended keeping the LTNs as-is. That recommendation to the council is unchanged.