Why does Enfield need low traffic neighbourhoods?

Effects within the LTN

Effects on surrounding main roads

The Fox Lane area

What are low traffic neighbourhoods

A low traffic neighbourhood is a residential area, bordered by main roads (the places where buses, lorries, non-local traffic should be), where “through” motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed. 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.

Why low traffic neighbourhoods?

Enfield has too many car journeys. That affects:

  • Climate change: London’s roads produce at least 20% of its carbon emissions. Enfield’s vehicle mileage is one of the highest in London.
  • Air pollution: causes 9,500 premature deaths in London per year.
  • Road danger: Enfield sees 100s of injuries and some deaths on its roads every year.
  • Physical inactivity: we are so car-dependent we don’t get the exercise we need. Enfield has one of the worst rates of childhood obesity in the country.

Low traffic neighbourhoods reduce car journeys and boost walking and cycling for all ages. They help combat the climate emergency, reduce road casualties, clean up our air and enable people to lead healthier lifestyles.

Kings College found that Waltham Forest’s low traffic neighbourhoods reduced air pollution and boosted healthy active travel significantly – leading to a longer life expectancy for residents. Children in the area are once again playing on the street, people routinely walk in the middle of the road and it’s so quiet you can hear birdsong. A description of a recent tour of the area is here.

Putting people before cars

Streets in many residential neighbourhoods are treated as short cuts by drivers avoiding main roads. This through traffic often dominates, as vehicles take priority over all other road users and residents. Sometimes speed and volumes are at unacceptably dangerous levels. But low traffic neighbourhoods reverse the pecking order. On low traffic streets, kids can play, any age can walk or cycle, neighbours can socialise – and cars are ‘guests’. Once again, community can flourish as people spend more time on their streets.

A family plays cricket in a low traffic neighbourhood in Waltham Forest (note the bollards and new trees)

What is a bus gate?

A bus gate is a sign-posted point on the road that bans motor vehicles (excepting buses and emergency services) to pass. Bus gates are controlled by cameras to monitor motorists who disobey the regulations. Bus gates have been introduced in areas where it would be inappropriate for a high volume of through traffic, such as residential areas, but which are heavily reliant on public transport.

A bus gate opens up the street for families to cycle to school as well as commuters to work, forming the backbone of a healthy low traffic neighbourhood that prioritises sustainable transport. Filters could be needed on surrounding streets to prevent traffic displacement.

Bus gate in Bridge Street, Cambridge.

Has Enfield Council made this idea up?

Low traffic neighbourhoods are not a new idea. Many countries in Europe no longer design roads where people live or shop to be through routes for motor traffic. Low traffic neighbourhoods in London (such as Hackney, Waltham Forest) and elsewhere are inspired by Dutch cities and stand alongside approaches such as Barcelona’s “Superblocks”.

Opening up streets for all-age active travel

Low traffic neighbourhoods are ‘active travel engines’. In some residential areas, roads have such high traffic volumes and speeds that many people feel unable to walk or cycle on them, especially children and the elderly. A network of low-traffic streets would allow anyone to walk or cycle safely – and reach the main road cycle lanes on a bike.

Effects within the LTN

What about the elderly and disabled?

Anyone who needs to travel by car or taxi will still be able to. The streets will be much safer for a frail or disabled person to cross a road at their own pace, and for those who want to use a bike or trike as a mobility aid. Mobility scooters will be able get through the filters that stop cars.

Reducing traffic has been shown to boost communities in neighbourhoods; low traffic means more people are likely to consider their neighbours as friends (Donald Appleyard has famously studied this). The elderly could especially benefit from a stronger community on their street.

Bollards in a low traffic neighbourhood prevent through motor traffic but allow bikes, pedestrians and mobility scooters through

How will I get to my home by car?

Every street will still be accessible by car, emergency services, delivery vehicles and refuse trucks. To stop through traffic, some residents’ car journeys will be more indirect and may take a few minutes longer. For many people, this inconvenience is a price worth paying to have a quieter and safer neighbourhood and cleaner air. It also discourages people from making very short unnecessary journeys by car.

How will emergency services get access?

Every street is accessible by emergency vehicles. A bus gate – desirable in some low traffic neighbourhood schemes – is a point that prevents all through-traffic except buses, cycles and emergency services. In Waltham Forest, emergency services supported the low traffic neighbourhood schemes because they meant fewer injuries in road collisions.

Effects on surrounding main roads

Won’t traffic displacement clog up main roads?

Walthamstow’s first low traffic neighbourhood saw some increases in traffic on surrounding main roads, but the increase was not catastrophic. One study showed that average bus journeys times were not affected (see Chapter 4 of this report) and a Kings College study of the same area suggests that there has not been a decrease in air quality on main roads following the introduction of LTNs (see pages 8-9 of this report). Main roads are usually better suited to absorb traffic than residential neighbourhoods, with a wider carriageway and buildings set further back from the road. However, see how we think main roads could be improved below.

We would expect to see some 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.

Not all of the traffic from Walthamstow’s low traffic neighbourhood was displaced onto main roads – many car journeys simply disappeared. There are 10,000 fewer car journeys per day across the Walthamstow Village area, including the surrounding main roads – a decrease of 16%. This is known as ‘traffic evaporation’ and has been documented in similar situations all over the world.

For more information, see Evaporating traffic? Effect of low traffic neighbourhoods on surrounding main roads by London Living Streets.

What if I live on a main road?

Better Streets for Enfield also campaigns for healthy main roads, which are often just as much places where people live. It would not be practical to remove motorised traffic altogether from major through routes, but they can be made healthier in a number of ways. For instance:

  • a 20mph limit
  • more and better pedestrian crossings
  • better, wider pavements
  • safe space to cycle
  • seating, greenery, shelter.

Low traffic neighbourhoods are a step towards reducing *overall* volumes of motor traffic, not just in neighbourhoods. We hope that the effect they have on encouraging people not to drive short journeys will benefit all of Enfield’s roads in the long term.

What about the high street?

Low traffic neighbourhoods like Fox Lane with bordering high streets will make it easier and more pleasant for people to walk or cycle to their nearest shops. This should make shopping locally more attractive, rather than driving to shops further afield. There is plenty of evidence that good walking/cycling access to shops is good for business.

Source: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/walking-cycling-economic-benefits-summary-pack.pdf

The Fox Lane plans

The latest council plans for the Fox Lane area – see https://letstalk.enfield.gov.uk/foxlaneQN

What’s the problem in the Fox Lane area?

As many residents will tell you, Fox Lane and its surrounding streets have unacceptably high levels of traffic. The council found 6,900 vehicles a day on Fox Lane itself; a level you would expect on a main road. Speeds of 50mph are common. The road is often littered with debris from collisions. The story is nearly as bad for The Mall, Selborne, Amberley, Meadway, Old Park Road and others. The overwhelming majority is non-resident traffic. For instance, Devonshire Road has 150 households, not all are car owners, yet it carries over 1,000 car journeys per day. See data on the Palmers Green Community website.

Traffic volumes and speeds on some of the worst streets in the area. Figure based on Enfield Council data

As a result, walking in the Fox Lane area is unpleasant, particularly crossing roads, and cycling for anyone but brave adults is unthinkable; far too many children are driven to schools in the area who might walk, cycle or scoot if they didn’t have to contend with so much road danger.

Street parties and play streets in the area have brought neighbours together and allowed children to play, but only a few times a year – if residents apply for a traffic order. Why is a driver’s right to use these streets, to cut a few seconds off their journey, more important than a child’s right to play out or travel to school without a car?

Doesn’t Fox Lane need to be a through route?

Yes – but not for cars. Fox Lane was built as a through route over 100 years ago, long before car travel was the norm. Its windy, narrow design makes it completely unsuitable to carry its current levels of over 6,000 vehicles a day, some travelling at more than 50mph. At the heart of a low traffic neighbourhood, Fox Lane will continue to be a through route – but one that prioritises active travel and public transport. We hope to see hundreds of school children walking, cycling and scooting along it every day on the school run to Hazelwood, St Monica’s, Walker and other schools in the area.

Has the council come up with the best design?

There are pros and cons to the council’s design. We are pleased that it completely eliminates rat running, but a bit concerned that with only two entry/exit points, Fox Lane may have too much resident traffic concentrated onto it for people to feel safe to walk or cycle. But the council says that it will take the survey feedback on board before the trial begins, and there is also an opportunity to change the design during the six-month trial.

We have some suggestions – our map below shows the design that some of us would prefer.

This design also prevents through traffic, but allows easier entry/exit by resident vehicles. Red – point closure, blue – bus gate.
Image: Oliver Bruckauf

Better junctions with side streets

With hardly any vehicles turning in and out of side streets along Aldermans Hill, Green Lanes, Canon Hill and Bourne Hill – instead of many movements per hour – traffic will move more smoothly along these main roads, improving journey times. Also, walking or cycling past side roads will be much safer with hardly any vehicles turning in and out of them.

Closing side roads also makes space for parklets right next to the high street, such as the proposed ‘Devonshire Square’ (an area of greenery and seating where Devonshire Road meets Green Lanes). This makes a more pleasant environment for shoppers.

I live in a different area – when is it my turn?

The Fox Lane area is the first of several proposed by the council. Some are being surveyed right now: Bowes Park, Bush Hill Road area and the Firs Lane area. The surveys are here. Connaught Gardens area and others are also in the pipeline – the whole process for Quieter Neighbourhoods is explained here.