Smart Transport

Low-traffic neighbourhoods do not push traffic onto boundary roads, new study finds

Changes in motor traffic inside London's LTNs and on boundary roads report cover

Low-traffic neighbourhoods in London substantially reduce traffic in their areas, a new comprehensive study suggests.

And the report authors now hope thewir findings will encourage other local authorities to introduce LTNs.

The study, by climate charity Possible and the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy, has shown that streets within LTNs experience substantial, overall falls in traffic, implying significant changes in street use.

Average decreases in motor traffic on roads within LTNs is almost 10 times higher than average increases in motor traffic on boundary roads, suggesting that LTNs are creating a substantial overall reduction in traffic.

Across London the mean percentage reduction of traffic on streets within LTNs was 46.9%. This has resulted in many more streets experiencing fewer than 1,000 motor vehicles passing through them a day, implying that there may be a qualitative change in the local environment that has meant an increase in walking and cycling, the report says.

The study also analysed the impact on boundary roads surrounding LTNs. Overall 47% of boundary roads surrounding LTNs saw a decrease in traffic and 53% saw an increase.

Average motor traffic counts showed that on boundary roads, traffic changed relatively little – with a mean average increase of just 82 motor vehicles per day; a less than 1% increase on the mean average of 11,000 vehicles that pass through boundary roads on a typical day.

Hirra Khan Adeogun, head of car free cities at Possible, said: “This report shows that low-traffic neighbourhoods are having a verifiable, positive impact for the people living on these streets.

“But, importantly, it shows that they have no consistent impact on boundary roads. In a climate crisis, we need our policymakers to make bold, data-led decisions; this report gives them that information. What we need now is action to drive down traffic, make our cities happier and healthier, and directly address the climate crisis.”

The report says that when introducing LTNs, local authorities should also consider that boundary roads are still highly likely to still be polluted, unsafe, or difficult to cross or cycle on.

Measures to tackle this could include expanding low emission zones, road user charging, increasing the number of bus lanes and public transport provision, urban greenery, widening pavements, and protected cycle lanes, it adds.

Asa Thomas, PhD researcher at the Active Travel Academy at the University of Westminster and lead author of the study, said: "This study finds that most streets within LTNs see reductions in most traffic, improving the experience of walking and cycling. Two-thirds of these now have vehicle flows below 1000 vehicles a day, a rough threshold for a quiet pedestrian friendly street, compared to only two-fifths before. What’s more, there is little indication of systematic displacement of this traffic to boundary roads."

And Active Travel Academy director and report co-author Prof Rachel Aldred said: “The research indicates there has been overall ‘traffic evaporation’ as a result of these schemes, as the mean average reduction in motor traffic on internal roads is around 10 times higher than the mean average increase on boundary roads, adjusting for background trends. This suggests that not only do LTNs have substantial benefits inside their boundaries, but they can also contribute to wider traffic reduction goals.”

> Read the report

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