Low Traffic Neighbourhoods - Major Research Report

photo: Crispin Hughes

There has been extensive coverage in the press in recent months of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Some sources claim that they are a disaster, and indefensible, others who claim that they are a major success, and that local authorities who don’t introduce them could become liable for deaths and injuries that occur which could have been avoided had the statutory guidance been complied with.

Professor Rachel Aldred and Ersilia Verlinghieri of the University of Westminster have just released a report drawing together current evidence on London’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods: LTNs for all? Mapping the extent of London’s new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods​

Key findings

Current area covered by LTN’s

Areas covered by LTNs vary from 48.5 percent in the City of London, 14.2 percent in Hackney, 10.7 percent in Islington and 11 boroughs with 0 percent.

Traffic evaporation / displacement

  • Displacement refers to traffic moving from one set of streets to another
  • Evaporation refers a reduction in journeys and journey length
  • LTN implementation in Walthamstow Village suggests little difference between the change in traffic levels on the nearby boundary roads and broader London trends

Public Attitudes - Survey Data Shows Strong Public Support

1. Transport for London (TfL) August-September 2020 - sample size over 1000 Londoners

  • 51% supported LTNs
  • 16 percent opposed

2. A survey by Redfield and Wilton - sample size 2000

  • 52% supported the introduction of LTNs in London
  • 19% opposed
  • 25%neither support nor oppose the introduction

50% of Londoners agree that most streets in central London should be made pedestrian-only. Around a quarter (27%) disagree.

3. Removing fear of motor traffic may be particularly important for getting people cycling. 66% of respondents in the most recent National Travel Attitudes Study agreed that “It is too dangerous for me to cycle on the roads”.


The report makes the point that people being priced out of an area by the cost of housing is a problem with housing supply, not a problem that is attached to the public realm. No one would argue that making the public realm worse: uglier, more dangerous, more polluted, is in the general interests of society and the less well-off sections of the community.

LTNs and equity

“commuting trips are skewed to men and working age adults; whereas by contrast, women make relatively high numbers of school run trips. If LTNs make walking and cycling to school, to the shops, or to local friends’ houses safer and more pleasant, this can help redress the balance in transport planning which has often seen only the commute as important.”


"London’s Black children are more at risk from pedestrian injury than its white or Asian children, while Black Londoners are less likely to own cars than white or Asian Londoners . If LTNs are introduced in 65 neighbourhoods with a demographic mix suffering high traffic injury risk, they may help redress these inequalities”

People living on main streets vs  side streets

In terms of living on main streets, the report found no difference between the population that lives on main or side streets, in inner London. 

“Asian Outer Londoners are more likely than white Outer Londoners to live on main roads or high streets, the overwhelming majority (89%; compared to 93% for whites) live on residential streets. Middle- and high-income Outer Londoners have similar propensities to live on a main road or high street. Low-income Londoners have higher than average propensities (9.4%), and 65+ year olds lower than average (7.3%). There is no difference by disability.”

The report states that while these differences are relatively small (e.g. 90.2% of low income Outer Londoners live on residential streets, against 91.5% of the richest group), they suggest that in terms of social equity, it is more important in Outer London to introduce main road measures alongside LTNs, and ensure that high streets within an LTN area are included where possible.


Press reaction to LTNs

“if you don’t read the papers, you are uninformed; if you do read the papers you are misinformed”

The Guardian 

Generally in support:

Low-traffic schemes benefit everyone, not just better-off, finds study

Mythbusters: eight common objections to LTNs – and why they are wrong

London hospital trust to pay £250k to install LTN for public health benefits

'I got it wrong. Since the changes it's become more vibrant': life in an LTN

Mail Online

By tradition, the Daily Mail espouses the long-suffering motorist.

Bike lanes are holding up ambulances: Top paramedic blows whistle as Grant Shapps hands councils ANOTHER £175m to build more of the barely used routes paralysing Britain

The “top paramedic" claimed that “if you are having a cardiac arrest, your chance of survival decreases by ten per cent for every minute’s delay”, and that cycle lanes were causing delays. The article omitted to mention the UK’s grave obesity rates, and the contribution to poor health made by inactive lifestyles, or the fact that someone living an active lifestyle in the cleaner air and safer streets created by low traffic neighbourhoods is less likely to develop heart disease, or to be run over, killed or seriously injured.

The flow capacity of urban street networks is limited by the capacity of junctions, not by the capacity of the links. 

There have been claims that in Waltham Forest, emergency response times have decreased from pre-LTNs and cycle lane times.

The death of driving... by 1,000 cuts: How parking spaces are being quietly replaced by Covid-friendly seats and cycle bays called 'Parklets' in towns across UK

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admits too many new cycle lanes are 'unused' leaving streets 'backed up' with traffic as he warns councils over increase in road closures... even though the routes were built using £250m fund HE unveiled

Labour council leader admits plan to 'take advantage' of Covid by making temporary road closures and cycle lanes PERMANENT in bid to make Ealing the 'Copenhagen of London

London's roads 2020: Residential road is blocked in stand-off between bus, van and car - as locals across city accuse Sadiq Khan of diverting traffic from richer to poorer areas in his war on motorists

Tories demand an end to cycle lane chaos: Road restrictions brought in during the coronavirus pandemic should be scrapped, MPs say

It was actually just 14 MPs who were demanding the scrapping.

Notably, the Daily Mail has not covered Professor Aldred’s study.