A few months ago we had a problem with the website and many emails got delayed so we’ve been catching up. We’ve always tried to read all emails as, even if a few are not particularly complimentary, we sometimes get emails that provoke an interesting debate. As an example we got a couple of emails from an Enfield resident who clearly opposes Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (in the Enfield area these are called Quieter Neighbourhoods or QNs). She made some interesting points. In the first email she explained that there was now too much ‘displaced’ traffic and speeding on the roads around and off Hoppers Road due to the Fox Lane QN. Everyone is welcome to their observations but it is difficult to see why there would be extra traffic in this area as the post QN data shows that the traffic on Green Lanes North East of Palmers Green has, in fact, been reduced – what traffic are they trying to avoid? But the observation that the installation of a QN in one area had caused speeding vehicles in another area is intriguing.

Speeding is endemic in our society. Within the Fox Lane QN speeds of over 80mph were recorded before the implementation. It is doubtful that the speeding is done by drivers living in the area and is done by people using the roads as a cut through. Speeds of 80+mph do occur on Hoppers Road, though rarely, as this is a cut through. Our observations are that there are now very few speeding drivers within the QN and speed that was once a daily occurrence, happens rarely. Cycling and walking are so much easier and more pleasant now and in general drivers are much more courteous.

Of course the objective of the QN isn’t to export speeding drivers but the truth is speeding drivers exist and these drivers will speed wherever or whenever there is a quiet through road. We’ve rehearsed and rehashed all the arguments about active travel schemes again and again but the truth is we’d like more areas to become Quieter Neighbourhoods and benefit from lower speeds and lower traffic levels.

So the first email was about too much traffic. The same correspondent’s second was about too little traffic. Apparently this makes the area feel unsafe. There’s no evidence that crime rises in an Low Traffic Neighbourhood, rather that it declines. Don’t take our word for it. There’s been some research around this, for example in Waltham Forrest . Also here is a Tower Hamlet police response who are opposed to opening up the local Low Traffic Neighbourhood.

“In response to For Arnold Circus there were 11 ASB and 5 drugs calls in the past 6 months compared with 36 for ASB and 6 for drugs in the 6 months pre-implementation which is quite a significant drop and in-line with the response from the Safer Neighbourhood Team responsible for this area:

I consider the road management measures that were brought in to have had a positive effect. I am surprised there is consideration to remove them. Of particular concern are the proposed amendments to the roads further West. Prior to the changes there was an enormous level of car enabled ASB, drug dealing, NOx balloon usage etc which made life a misery for many of the residents in the streets around Arnold Circus and surrounding. This was due to the spill-out from the Shoreditch NTE. This has been dramatically reduced by the traffic management changes and forces those committing crime back onto the well-lit, CCTV covered main roads which are much easier  for us to manage.

In summary, the MPS is concerned with the plans to remove these measures both in terms of a potential increase in crime, specifically ASB related, and also increasing road danger.”

metropolitan police

But it was a reference to a mid 20th Century urban planner and campaigner, Jane Jacobs, that made the email really interesting. In the back of my mind I knew Jacobs had opposed road building and she was all for building communities. Damn it, I thought that if Jane Jacobs lived in Enfield she’d be a member of BSfE but I’d got it all wrong! Well no. Our correspondent thought that too few cars driving through an area made it dead. It seemed too many cars bad, but also too few cars bad too, there needs to be just the right amount to make the area thrive – a kind of Goldilocks level of traffic. Is that what Jacobs thought? Not really. Firstly she described people as “walking people” – those who “prefer doing their workaday errands on foot, or feel they would like to if they lived in a place where they could”, and “car people” – described as “hopping into the car to do errands, or would like to if they had a car”. I suspect many people in Enfield are a bit of both. Jacobs correctly identifies “if they lived in a place where they could”. We’d like to turn Enfield into such a place but we aren’t there yet.
Jacobs certainly opposed road building and she opposed them on the basis that they destroy communities. London tried a major road building programme with the Ringway system in the late sixties (think the Westway flyover road – an urban motorway). An idea from North American where many communities (sometimes the very poorest) were destroyed by massive highways passing through them. Jacobs was a campaigner against an elavated highway running through Lower Manhatten and she won just as the 1970s London campaigners won their campaign against the Ringways https://www.roads.org.uk/ringways.

Hal Haines March 2024

Further Reading:

If you are interested in Jane Jacobs there’s lots of information out there – for example this blog Social Welfare Social Project