There has been a more than fivefold increase in walking, and an even bigger increase in cycling, on Fox Lane since it became part of a low traffic neighbourhood (LTN), according to counts in 2018 and 2021.
Members of the community decided to do some data collection in 2018 while the low traffic neighbourhood idea was still being mooted. We were interested in gathering baseline data, so that if the LTN ever came about, we could see what difference it made. In October 2018, volunteers monitored a point on Fox Lane near the railway bridge at peak hours on a weekday, counting people walking and cycling past during a 15-minute period. The results were recorded and the exercise repeated in May 2021 at the same point and same times of day for the same amount of time. The results were staggering – our 15-minute ‘snapshots’ had captured a huge increase in walking and cycling.
In 2018, we counted an average of 11.5 pedestrians per 15-minute slot for the morning and afternoon rush hour. In 2021, the average was 63 pedestrians – more than five times as many. The most surprising increase was in the morning peak; 22 people walking in a 15-minute slot in 2018 became 93 people in 2021.
In 2018, we didn’t count a single person cycling on Fox Lane in 15 minutes at the morning peak, and only one in the afternoon. In 2021, we counted ten cyclists in the morning and two in the afternoon – a twelvefold increase on 2018. While an average of six bikes per 15 minutes is not a huge number in itself, it is a staggering increase for this road where people previously hardly ever cycled.
Active travel overall
While our counts are more of a snapshot than a rigorous survey, the numbers we recorded are very real, and they confirm what we observe every day in the neighbourhood – that active travel has risen massively.
What our data doesn’t capture is who is doing all this walking and cycling. We’ve seen children as young as four riding bikes on Fox Lane, and I saw one boy of about ten giving a ‘backie’ to his friend as they cycled across the Fox Lane railway bridge. This behaviour would have been unthinkable before the through traffic was removed. We’ve also noticed more older people cycling, and more women. We’ve seen plenty of people walking in the middle of the road, especially in the streets adjoining Fox Lane, sometimes using walking aids or pushing their companion in a wheelchair.
What these figures tell us
One of the main reasons Better Streets for Enfield supports low traffic neighbourhoods is because they enable active travel. More accurately, the high traffic neighbourhoods that cover much of our borough suppress walking and cycling. On minor residential roads where there’s nothing to stop through traffic taking a shortcut, the speed and sheer volume of vehicles put off all but the brave from riding a bike, and even walking doesn’t feel safe.
Before the LTN, Fox Lane carried so much through traffic it was often assumed to be a B-road. It had nearly 7,000 vehicles using it per day, many of them breaking the speed limit – see this data dashboard on Fox Lane area traffic for a shocking reminder. No wonder we never saw families cycling the school run in those days! But now it’s a common sight. Before, Car was King on Fox Lane. Now people rule this street, and cars are guests. This has many benefits for people’s well being – just one example comes from a mother on Cranley Gardens who told us, “The LTN has given my 11-year-old son the independence he wants and needs – we’re far more comfortable about him crossing Fox Lane and riding a bike on his own.”
Before the low traffic neighbourhood, Car was King on Fox Lane. Now people rule this street, and cars are guests.
Specifically, the Fox Lane junction with Green Lanes, near our counting site, was a horrible place to walk or cycle before the LTN. Cast your mind back – crossing the mouth of Fox Lane on foot was terrifying, especially if you were pushing a buggy, with vehicles constantly swinging in and out and often overrunning the pavement. Cycling past it on the northbound cycle lane was nerve-wracking too, in case you were ‘left-hooked’ by a turning driver. Now it’s a safe, calm junction, increasingly used by families walking or cycling to Hazelwood School.
More walking and cycling means fewer car journeys
By opening up active travel to more people, LTNs mean fewer people need or want to drive those short local journeys. For some it’s a grudging change in behaviour, like the gentleman I spoke to who no longer drives to the gym on Green Lanes from his home on Caversham Avenue (five minutes on foot). “It’s not worth it. I might as well walk,” he told me. For others, the change has been a joy – like the father on Grovelands Road whose children can now cycle safely to school. Removing short unnecessary car journeys from the roads frees up space for trips that people really need to drive.
It has taken time for behaviour to change and it will take more time for that change to bed in, but we expect Enfield’s LTNs to go the way of older, more established ones in Hackney or Waltham Forest – fewer car journeys overall and much more walking and cycling across the whole population. We can even expect car ownership to decline, as it has in those neighbourhoods. If the Fox Lane LTN becomes permanent, our active travel snapshots will have captured just the start of a long-term trend in a much healthier direction for everyone.