Why we need Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, not Medium Traffic Neighbourhoods

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LTNs create Active Travel routes.  Active Travel Routes allow modal shift, primarily by allowing schoolchildren to cycle and walk to school, and also after-school activities.  Active Travel routes need to be truly low-traffic for them to drive modal shift.  Medium-traffic routes are just not good enough to get people to use active travel more regularly.  Accompanied Year 0 – 3 Primary school children cannot use medium-traffic routes, they have not yet learned the road awareness to be generally safe with traffic around them, even if covered in high-vis, with two parents accompanying – medium-traffic roads are incredibly hostile at school run times.   Year 4-5 primary school children could generally cycle and walk safely along medium-traffic routes (when accompanied).  Year 6 primary school children, and year 7 secondary school could walk and cycle unaccompanied, but not on medium-traffic roads, while they could (and have been doing at Larkrise Primary school in Cowley) on low-traffic roads.

Here is a generalised illustration of the point.

So ‘leaky’ LTNs reduce the opportunity for modal shift, which we know relies on a ‘snowball’ effect to really take off.  If the roads remain hostile for Active Travel in the early years, that’s a whole load of journeys which need to continue by car.  Crucially, if children are not confidently cycling to school from the start (i.e. Year 0/1), it’s much harder to get them cycling when they are older.

Another option being considered is to introduce a timed traffic filter, e.g. that allows general traffic flow before 7am and after 7pm.  This may protect the route for school run Active Travel, but what about after-school clubs, Cubs/Guides, summer evenings at the park, shift worker commuting?  And what does it gain in terms of providing motor traffic use outside of those hours – the main roads are completely uncongested during these times anyway.

Any traffic filter that allows traffic through after a specific time will become a very attractive high-traffic route (essentially a cut-through road) at certains times of the day.  Timed traffic filters also prevent more permanent public realm improvements to be made, as the road will need to cater for both high active traffic volumes, and high motor traffic volumes, essentially compromising the road for both groups.

The LTNs should be kept as low-traffic as possible, to protect those Active Travel routes all of the time.

Categories: Traffic