The LTN and the horrified cyclist

“The greatest contribution we can make is to care for one another. To be good neighbours. Good citizens. To protect those in need and build strong communities.”

Keir Starmer

Local cyclist, environmentalist and Labour member Matthew Snowling initially welcomed the Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme, but now questions whether the benefits for some can justify the costs for others. These are his words:

I am a cyclist!

I am a cyclist. In Germany the locals used to call me ‘Sunny boy’ as I cycled up to the bar to meet them, it was wonderful to experience working across Europe. Cycling was always central to life, since then I have cycled to work for two decades, surviving Belgian drivers and enjoying the cycle paths of various Cities. My cycling continues in London, even though we lack the facilities I encountered elsewhere in Europe.

I became interested in pollution here and noticed the effects on the less affluent population and Catford specifically, near to where I live. My interest in these issues has morphed into campaigning following the tragic death of a girl linked to her home being on the south circular. I have supported radical measures to reduce traffic into London, single car only households, alternate day driving, large vehicle reduction, improved infrastructure and better speed limit enforcement.

Initially, the introduction of the Lewisham and Lee Green Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme was something I welcomed, at least on a trial basis, even if I had my doubts as being of much benefit for cycling. In fact, with my attentions focused on renovating our new house, I put the initial murmurings into a box in my mind marked ‘moaning drivers’! 

Statistical wake-up call

Over recent weeks, I have had more time to personally research the demographic make-up of the affected communities and consider the effects of the LTN more widely.

Using publically available statistics, it is quite clear that a more affluent, higher car owning area is being rewarded with the LTN at the cost an area with lower affluence, lower car ownership and, in places, already serious pollution. I find this totally unacceptable.

What I find most appalling is that the scheme deliberately seeks to push traffic onto other residential roads. These residential ‘main’ roads are not wide and purpose built like the North circular. In fact, my ‘side road’ is far wider than Brownhill Road, where buses now sit in constant traffic from Catford to Burnt Ash Hill, making them pointless to use.

With no sign of promised ‘evaporation’, the project is at best flawed and at worst socially unjust.

The Council states that traffic will reduce in time, but offer very weak evidence that it will ever do so. It is clear they are not interested in the least in this and is reinforced by the fact that there are no pollution monitors placed in these areas to monitor the effects of the LTN on them.

I have cycled the area for years and have never seen such traffic. I feel it is despicable to be so flippant with their lives and children’s health, their intransigence to criticism is astounding.

I believe we have got to where we are because of a relatively small group of people, including councillors, lobbyists and, quite frankly, NIMBYs. I believe some are hiding behind environmentalism for their own personal benefit while others are blindly follow a belief system along the lines of religious zealotry.

I completely accept those that say, “well, something must be done”, but I do not accept the LTN is in any way a solution.

It’s no good for A to B cyclists

As a commuter cyclist it is now far worse, we use the ‘main’ roads as they are more direct with less junctions and now have to breath on the increased pollution from cars at standstill and get around them, I have noticed drivers are becoming more aggressive and so it is more dangerous.

It is commendable to try and install more lanes but they are sporadic rather than continuous and so also more dangerous as you enter and leave the road, some introductions like the one on Molesworth defy logic as there was an acceptable one already with a sufficient path for the very few walkers.

Again, traffic at a standstill and increased pollution, will it really evaporate?

Finally, on cycling within the LTN with my 6 year old, we feel no real benefit as anyway it was always quiet outside of rush hours.

Rethink this now

I say to my fellow Labour members in particular, think on this again! 

The LTN area has more cars, it is more affluent and has significantly less pollution than the areas it admits displacing it to. Our councillors cynically ignore the fact that the affected roads are also residential. The Catford part of the South Circular has eight times or more pollution than WTO limits!

Meanwhile, I have little faith that the council’s pollution monitoring will do anything other than confirm the success of the scheme, thanks to overlooking affected areas and careful manipulation of the monitoring points.

We need radical change to reduce traffic in the highest pollution areas first, then only later we can look at localised projects. My road is one of the widest in the area with rows of huge trees along its long length, it easily accommodates the traffic that avoids Catford from Brownhill Road to the Bromley Road and vice versa at rush hours. 

Where I live could soon benefit from being in another LTN. But I am sure this is not the answer. Do we have a serious pollution issue in our street with its two to three car million pound six bedroomed houses comparable to Brownhill? No, of course we do not.

I will not have my family benefit at the expense of another community.

Keir Starmer only this week stated that our lives should not be defined by our postcode, social injustice should not be allowed no matter what the reason.

LTN’s can work, I have seen them abroad, but they are smaller and have large ring roads, this is a square peg for a round hole. We will end up with divided communities, let’s wait for Starmer to be in power with a labour Mayor and introduce radical car reduction policies correctly.

Sure, with an even quieter road I might get a good lay in. But how could I go to sleep at night?

These are the views of a local resident who is not part of the group behind the One Lewisham campaign. We are using our blog to highlight local voices who have concerns or are personally impacted by the LTN as implemented. For more on One Lewisham’s campaign goals see Our Mission.

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