Enfield Council are trialling a low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) in Bowes. The scheme, consisting of two phases, will be trialled for at least six months and is expected to dramatically reduce traffic and associated pollution, noise and road danger over a large area of local access roads between the A406, Green Lanes and Bounds Green Road. Phase 1, filtering the area west of Brownlow Road, was completed on Friday 11 September 2020.
- The Bowes LTN plans
- Why does Bowes need an LTN?
- What is a low traffic neighbourhood?
- What is a bus gate?
- Doesn’t Brownlow need to be a through route?
- Has the council come up with the best design?
- But now my car journey is much longer – won’t this make pollution worse?
- What do LTNs mean for parents?
- How will this impact people with disabilities?
- Won’t it make main roads worse?
- What about Bounds Green streets in Haringey?
- Please respond to the consultation!
- Further reading
- Low traffic neighbourhoods: FAQs and facts
WATCH: the Bowes Low Traffic Neighbourhood Update
Cllr Ian Barnes, Deputy Leader & Chair of the Climate Change Task Force, provided an update on the Bowes LTN proposal in August.
Being bounded on two sides by the North Circular (A406) doesn’t make for a pleasant neighbourhood, especially if A406 traffic uses your road as a shortcut.
A primary school in the area, Bowes Primary New Southgate, has been in the news complaining about the toxic air its pupils have to breathe. The traffic on Brownlow, which was found to carry up to 10,000 cars a day, often fills the road from the North Circular junction all the way back to the A109 (Bounds Green Road). And Brownlow is a road that is overwhelmingly residential. Warwick Road, meanwhile, suffered daily from up to 5,000 cars a day – residents have described their street as a bypass for the A406. Changes by Transport for London in 2012 that were intended to improve traffic flow on the A406 and alleviate traffic problems, did improve some streets locally but funnelled even more vehicles along Warwick Road and Brownlow Road.
No less than 80% of traffic travelling through Warwick Road during peak-time was found to be non-local. Outside peak-time, through-traffic has been shown to account for 60% of all traffic. That’s why removing cut-throughs between the North Circular and Bounds Green Road is essential to any low traffic scheme in Bowes.
Low traffic streets reverse the pecking order: kids can play, people of any age can walk or cycle, neighbours can socialise – and cars are ‘guests’.
A low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) allows people to walk, scoot, wheel and cycle enjoyably and safely in their neighbourhoods, between town centres, and to get to work. They discourage shorter car journeys which, if left unchecked, would worsen congestion and air pollution.
An LTN is a network of streets, bordered by major roads, that allows vehicles in, but not through. Strategic road closures (like bollards or planters) prevent through traffic. Every street is still accessible by vehicle. There are many ways to design a low traffic neighbourhood, but the main principle is that every resident can drive onto their street, get deliveries etc., but it’s harder or impossible to drive straight through from one main road to the next.
Low traffic neighbourhoods are not a new concept – they’ve been a standard approach in the Netherlands and in good town planning for decades. Most of London’s post-war estates were built on these principles.
What does Phase 1 mean for roads in the LTN?
In terms of traffic reduction, Warwick, Lower Maidstone, York, Highworth and Palmerston Roads will see the largest reduction in Phase 1. Other adjacent roads will have some reduction, but the cluster of previously filtered and quiet roads (Stanley, Ollerton, Evesham, Shrewsbury and Upper Maidstone Road) will not see much change as the traffic flows in those roads were low already.
A bus gate is not a real gate but rather a point on the road with signs and cameras that you can’t drive through without receiving a fine. Buses, bikes and emergency vehicles can all pass through, and cars can still enter the road on either side of the gate to access the area. Bus gates often operate part-time, eg peak hours only.
Bus gates have been introduced in areas where it would be inappropriate for a high volume of through traffic, such as residential areas.
Yes – but not primarily for cars. Brownlow Road’s compact design and overwhelmingly residential status make it completely unsuitable to carry its current levels of up to 10,000 vehicles a day, often clogging up the entire road. Pollution levels are dangerously high. Brownlow Road is used by three bus services, is a key route for children getting to schools in the area, as well as a strategic cycle route following the Piccadilly Line. Trying to travel on or cross the road as a pedestrian or on a bike is not only unpleasant but unsafe.
At the heart of a low traffic neighbourhood, Brownlow Road will continue to be a through route – but one that prioritises active travel and public transport. A bus gate would enable hundreds more school children to walk, cycle and scoot safely along it every day on the school run to Bowes Primary, Bounds Green School, and other schools in the area – as well as enable commuter cycling instead of taking the car.
There has been some concern about the filters running along the south of the area. Not everyone wants to drive in and out of the area via the North Circular and some car journeys will become longer as a result, not least because of the right-turn ban from Bounds Green Road onto the A406.
The council’s design will transform these streets for the better, by removing through traffic (so long as Brownlow gets its bus gate). Does that mean it’s the best possible design? Not necessarily, and the point of an emergency traffic order using temporary barriers is that you can move them around and find out what works best while the scheme is live.
Some people might prefer filters or cameras on the A406 side, and access and exit via Bounds Green Road:
Another idea that could be considered is to move the filters more towards the centre of the traffic cell, so that residents needing to drive can exit via the side nearest to where they live. With filters halfway down some roads, it should be possible to park on the side you need to exit by. We will also be lobbying TfL to remove the right-turn ban from Bounds Green Road onto the A406.
Consensus on details will be impossible; everyone will have a different view depending on their address and their regular trips. But feedback is vital: all views can help shape the final LTN. There is a consultation running parallel with the trial: https://letstalk.enfield.gov.uk/bowesQN
It’s easy to think that pollution will be worse, with many car journeys in, out and across the area being longer. In fact, once the initial traffic jams settle down, car journeys are unlikely to be more than 5 or 10 minutes longer even in the worst case scenario. As part of a longer journey, a few extra minutes are not significant. But a very short distance by car will no longer seem worthwhile – it will often be more convenient to walk or cycle. This is how low traffic neighbourhoods put walking and cycling first, encouraging people not to drive short journeys unless absolutely necessary. It means motor traffic falls overall, and with it, pollution.
In the ten-year period in which Waltham Forest created its LTNs the number of households in the borough exposed to illegal levels of NO2 fell from 60,000 to 6,000.
The school run accounts for at least one in every five cars on London’s roads, and is a major cause of congestion, pollution and frustration for road users. Ironically, fear of getting injured by a car is the key reason parents give for limiting their children’s independence. Many people say they drive their children to school because the roads are too dangerous for them to walk or cycle, but by doing so they’re adding to the problem. As the Dutch and Danish experience shows, children are able to cycle significant distances from a young age, and cycling with children can be a great way for families to get around. Getting more children to cycle to school cuts down the school run traffic, making it easier for other vehicles to get around and reducing pollution.
The Bowes LTN will improve the lives of many people who have disabilities or mobility issues by making our streets much safer for them to use. It may seem counterintuitive, but many people with disabilities and those who cannot walk, find it easier to cycle. With fewer cars on the road, cycling becomes safer for everyone. For many people with disabilities or other medical conditions, such as blindness or epilepsy, driving isn’t an option at all. But those for whom cycling and walking isn’t possible will benefit too. The more people who switch to walking and cycling, the fewer people on the roads or using public transport, freeing up that space to be used by those who really need it.
People tend to think that traffic is like water – block one route, and it will flood another. But traffic is the result of human choices. When walking and cycling are made more safe and convenient, and driving slightly less convenient for short trips, fewer people choose to get in their cars. Some people will stop making particular trips, combine multiple trips into one, change destination, travel at a less congested time, or switch to public transport, walking or cycling. This is known as ‘traffic evaporation’ and has been documented in similar situations all over the world.
We expect to see traffic build-up in the early weeks of a trial, followed by a steady decline in traffic as drivers adjust back to similar levels as before.
Initial figures from the Walthamstow Village area showed traffic levels on main roads increased by between 3% and 11%, but the number of vehicles in filtered roads decreased by 56%. This means that across the overall area, there are around 10,000 fewer vehicles every day, an overall reduction in traffic of 16%. Since the schemes went in, traffic levels have started to fall on main roads back to previous levels too.
For more information, see Evaporating traffic? Impact of low traffic neighbourhoods on main roads.
Through traffic doesn’t respect borough boundaries, and there’s a risk that it will worsen on these southeast roads. The whole ‘cell’ should be a low traffic neighbourhood – that is, the area bordered by the A406, Green Lanes and Bounds Green Road. That’s why Haringey have proposed and bid for a Bounds Green LTN to complete the cell, and we understand both councils are working closely together. It should be noted many of the areas included within phase 1 and 2 or Haringey’s schemes (such as Whittington, Truro Road and others) have had severe traffic issues which pre-date the implementation of the Bowes LTN by many years. Local campaign groups such as Haringey Living Streets and Haringey Cycling Campaign have long called for Haringey Council to implement measures to reduce traffic and reallocate space to walking and cycling. They welcome the Bounds Green LTN proposal and are calling on Haringey to proceed with creating an LTN here at the earliest opportunity.
Please respond to the official consultation, which will take place for the whole length of the trial, and support the LTN in principle. Trials are the best way to understand the pros and cons. Using temporary materials also enables the council to make changes to the design, such as re-locating planters and bollards as necessary. All views can feed in to help shape the final LTN.
- Low Traffic Neighbourhoods: an introduction to policy makers
- A Guide to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (for more nitty gritty detail)
- Evidence from Waltham Forest
- Disappearing traffic: the story so far
- What’s up with that: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse
- Surprise: Bike-friendly Netherlands named best place in the world to be a driver
- Evaporating traffic? Impact of low-traffic neighbourhoods on main roads