Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes block motorised traffic from entering through roads, often through utilising planters, to allow for more pedestrians and cyclists. In London, 141 LTN schemes have been introduced or proposed. LTNs are designed by local councils, yet funded by the Central Government, and have already proved controversial in communities across London, including in Lewisham, Ealing, and Wandsworth.
Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest poll found that a majority (52%) of Londoners support the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in London. Although there has been vocal resistance to LTNs from some Londoners, only a fifth (19%) oppose the introduction of LTNs. A quarter (25%) neither support nor oppose the introduction.
Support for LTNs is notably higher among younger age groups. 51% of 18-24 year olds, 57% of 25-34 year olds, and 56% of 35-44-year olds support the concept. In contrast, less than half of 45-54 year olds (47%), 55-64 year olds (42%), and those aged 65 or older (47%) support the concept, although there is still a clear plurality of support among these older age groups. Stronger support from younger people is likely related to their lower levels of car ownership.
While a majority support LTNs, a plurality (36%) consider that the schemes have been ineffective at reducing the number of cars on the road in London. Only 29% say that LTNs are effective, while over a third (35%) don’t know. Indeed, Wandsworth Council’s LTN trial was suspended in September due to concerns about traffic flows and emergency access. Most councils are nevertheless pressing ahead with their plans.
Interestingly, opinion on the effectiveness of LTNs is sharply divided along political lines. A clear plurality (44%) of 2019 Conservative voters consider LTNs ineffective, while just 30% believe they are effective. By contrast, 2019 Labour voters are evenly split: 32% consider LTNs effective, and 32% say they are ineffective.
While LTNs are being introduced in boroughs across inner and outer London, many streets in the busiest parts of central London were pedestrianised during the summer in order to make room for al fresco dining. Moreover, in May, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that main streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo, and Old Street and Holborn, will be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists. At this stage, 50% of Londoners agree that most streets in central London should be made pedestrian-only. Around a quarter (27%) disagree.
Although a clear plurality or outright majority of all age groups (43-58%) favour the pedestrianisation of most central London streets, a greater proportion of older respondents aged 65 or above (32%), 55-64-years old (33%) and 45-54 year olds (34%) disagree with the concept. Just 15% of 18-24 year olds and 20% of 25-34 year olds oppose the idea.
Those in favour of widespread pedestrianisation believe that it could encourage more widespread bicycle usage. The UK Government is investing millions to encourage more children and families to cycle as a key aspect of its strategy to reduce obesity. Nevertheless, only 31% say they use a bicycle to travel around London, a decline of 4% since mid-Summer.
While the changing weather may be a key factor in declining cycle use, it is also related to the increasing proportion of Londoners who believe it is ‘unsafe’ to cycle in the capital city. In August, 37% of all respondents said cycling in London was either ‘unsafe’ or ‘very unsafe’, whereas a majority (53%) now consider that London is an unsafe place to cycle. Furthermore, while a majority of young people aged 18-24 years old felt safe while cycling in August, this proportion has dropped to 35%. Indeed, a plurality or majority of all age groups say London is ‘unsafe’ for cycling.
Ultimately, a majority of Londoners favour the concept of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), despite division in regard to their effectiveness. Half of the London public favour the pedestrianisation of most of the streets in central London, and the successful implementation of this plan may encourage cycle use to rise.