In May 2020, the UK Government announced a £250m “Emergency Active Travel Fund” as the first part of a £2bn central funding package to create a “new era” for cycling and walking in England. More than fifty councils used the funding to create around 200 new “low traffic neighbourhoods” (LTNs) – residential roads where motor traffic is limited or closed off completely through utilisation of planters and other infrastructure. Over half of new LTNs are in and around London. Several months after the proliferation of LTNs in the capital, Redfield & Wilton Strategies conducted a poll in London on 13-14 January 2021 to explore public opinion on the new schemes in London.
At this stage, around a quarter (23%) of Londoners say they live in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood. A similar proportion of those living in inner London (24%) and outer London (23%) believe they live in an LTN. While almost half (49%) say they do not live in an LTN, a significant proportion (28%) don’t know whether or not they do. 2019 Labour voters (26%) are slightly more likely to say they live in a LTN than 2019 Conservative voters (22%).
Interestingly, 29% of those who own a car say they live in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood, whereas just 17% of those who do not own a car say they live in a LTN. Moreover, less than a fifth (18%) of motorists ‘don’t know’ if they live in an LTN, compared to 41% of those who do not drive in London. Ultimately, car owners are more likely to be aware about the prevalence of LTNs, as the schemes restrict the ability of cars to travel in certain areas. It seems likely that many non-motorists who actually live in a designated LTN are less aware that they live in an LTN.
Among those who say they live in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood, a strong majority (63%) agree that living in an LTN has improved their life as a Londoner, whereas only 14% disagree. A significant proportion remains undecided, with 22% neither agreeing nor disagreeing.
Moreover, among those who say they do not live in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (or who do not know if they live in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood), a clear plurality (47%) believes that living in a LTN would improve their life as a Londoner. Just 14% disagree with this statement, and 28% neither agree nor disagree.
A strong majority (62%) of those who say they do not live in a LTN currently (or don’t know) but still use a bicycle to travel around London think LTNs would improve their life, compared to just 41% of those who do not use a bicycle. Interestingly, despite recent demonstrations by motorists against LTNs, a clear plurality (40%) of Londoners who say they do not reside in an LTN and who own a car think LTNs would improve their life, while just a fifth (21%) disagree.
Overall, a strong plurality (44%) supports the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in London. Just 21% oppose the introduction of LTNs, while 27% neither support nor oppose. 
A majority of those who intend to vote for Sadiq Khan (51%) with their first preference vote in the 2021 Mayoral Election support the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, a somewhat greater proportion than those who say they will vote for Shaun Bailey (41%). A strong plurality (46%) of those who say they do not live in an LTN support their introduction in addition to a majority (53%) of those who use a bicycle to travel around London. An equal proportion of those who identify as working class (46%) and those who say they are middle class (45%) say they support the introduction of LTNs.
In terms benefits to a specific social class, a slight plurality (35%) believe that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods benefit all Londoners. However, almost a third (30%) ‘don’t know’ who LTNs benefit, which may reflect that the issue does not appear to involve the interests of different social classes. A greater proportion consider that LTNs benefit middle class Londoners the most (16%) than those who think they benefit working class Londoners the most (7%). Looking at the crosstabs, a third (33%) of those who identify as working class think LTNs benefit all Londoners, while just 6% say they benefit working class Londoners. Among self-identified middle-class Londoners, 37% say LTNs benefit all Londoners, and 17% say they primarily benefit middle class Londoners.
Whereas 40% of likely Sadiq Khan voters say LTNs benefit all Londoners, only 28% of likely Shaun Bailey voters share this view. A sizeable proportion (17%) of those who intend to vote for the Conservative candidate consider that LTNs benefit “no Londoners.”
Indeed, when asked to choose between ‘gentrification’ or ‘environment’ as the key word to associate with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, a majority of the sample chose ‘environment.’
A primary intention of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is to drive down car ownership and encourage people to switch to non-motorised and public transport. Yet, a plurality (34%) think that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods simply increase the number of cars in adjacent areas. Only 18% believe that LTNs have the effect of decreasing the number of cars adjacent to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, while 17% think they have no impact on congestion levels. Almost a third (31%) say they do not know.
Those who live in an outer London borough are somewhat more likely (36%) to think that LTNs increase nearby traffic than those from inner London (31%), and slightly less likely (16%) to think that they reduce the cars nearby than inner Londoners (21%). There is no party-political differentiation in regard to the impact of LTNs on traffic itself––a clear plurality (37% and 38%) of likely Sadiq Khan and Shaun Bailey voters think that LTNs increase congestion in adjacent localities. Those who use a bicycle are much more likely (27%) than those who do not travel via bike (13%) to think LTNs reduce traffic in general. Among those who own a car, 39% say that LTNs have the effect of increasing traffic in adjacent areas, compared to 28% of those who do not own a car.
In response to a similarly worded question, less than a third (29%) believe that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods reduce the overall number of cars, while almost half (46%) of the overall sample think that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods primarily redirect cars to other areas. A quarter (25%) say they do not know. Likely Sadiq Khan voters (34%) are more likely to believe that LTNs decrease traffic than likely Shaun Bailey voters (23%). A clear majority (58%) of those who intend to vote for the Conservative mayoral candidate believe LTNs simply redirect cars to other areas.
Cyclists are evenly split on the overall impact of LTNs on private motorised transport – with 40% saying they reduce the number of cars, and 42% believing they redirect the cars to other areas. Almost half (48%) of car owners say that LTNs just redirect motorists, whereas less than a quarter (23%) think they reduce the overall number of cars.
Related to this research, only 30% of Londoners polled deem London a safe place to cycle. Among those who report having ever used a bicycle to get around London, this figure rises to 42%. However, a notable 31% of this subgroup still deem London unsafe to cycle. Among those who report never using a bicycle to travel around London, just a fifth (21%) deem London a safe place to cycle, suggesting that fear might be preventing them from cycling.
Meanwhile, a notable minority of 21% of those polled say that London is an unsafe place to walk. Among parents of school aged children, this figure rises slightly to 27%.
When asked whether enough has been done to make London a suitable place for walking, a substantial minority of 45% said no. Among those who say they do not own a car, a majority of 52% say no. Meanwhile, a strong majority (61%) of those who say they do have a car say yes.
Overall, around a quarter of Londoners say they live in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood, although it is likely that a significant proportion reside in an LTN without realising, especially those who do not drive. Most of those who say they live in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood believe it has improved their life as a Londoner, while a clear plurality of those who say they do not currently live in a LTN think it would improve their lifestyle. A strong plurality supports the introduction of LTNs, yet the proportion has declined slightly since our polling in October. Nevertheless, Londoners are unsure who benefits from LTNs, and many believe they simply increase traffic in adjacent areas. Moreover, less than a third believe that LTNS reduce the number of cars on the road. Ultimately, while the concept of LTNs is popular across the capital city, the public remain divided on the practical effects of the schemes.
To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.