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Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) aren't working, what are the alternatives?
Cllr's Timothy Huxtable and Adam Higgs make their case for an alternative to the LTN policy in Birmingham
LTNs are schemes designed to reduce through traffic in residential areas with the use of filtered permeability and traffic calming. LTNs can be implemented through the use of barriers such as bollards, boom barriers and flower planters, but they can also be implemented virtually through the use of automatic number-plate recognition cameras and road signs, which allows residential motor access whilst prohibiting passing motor traffic.
LTNs introduced in numerous London boroughs (Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Greenwich and Kingston) have all been removed. Here in Birmingham, there is the Kings Heath LTN and several minor LTNs in Bournville, Castle Vale, and Lozells, with a further mini LTN proposed for Holyhead.
LTNs have been criticised for several reasons including:
· Their inherent unfairness by simply displacing traffic to the adjacent main and boundary roads, and that affluent (gentrified) neighbourhoods are more likely to benefit from traffic reduction whilst more-deprived areas are more likely to suffer from the traffic displacement
· The blocked roads funnel all the traffic onto just a few roads, which creates congestion and increases in air pollution levels
· Residents constantly finding a queue of traffic outside their house, and the impossibility of driving off their driveways
· Businesses within the LTN area seeing a reduction in business/trade
· Emergency services vehicles and buses no longer being able to take the most direct route and/or getting stuck within the congested traffic
The Kings Heath LTN is no exception to the above criticisms. Large numbers of vehicles have been displaced to Vicarage Road, which increased congestion and air pollution to the detriment of those who live there. The vast majority of businesses within the Kings Heath LTN are opposed to the Low Traffic Neighbourhood. Maurice Robinson Sports, a well-known local shop which has served various tennis stars, is sadly looking to move away from the area due to customer complaints about the LTN. Emergency services have also struggled to gain access to blockaded roads, with various pictures and videos showing ambulances struggling to navigate the LTN being published on Kings Heath Community Facebook pages.
The impact of the Kings Heath LTN is felt far beyond the areas where the barriers have been erected. Residents across the whole of Kings Heath, Billesley, Highters Heath, Druids Heath, Maypole, Warstock and Yardley Wood have expressed strong objections to the LTN. Many will now shop in other areas like Shirley.
Various petitions, which have gained thousands of signatures, have been submitted calling for the Kings Heath LTN to be scrapped. Despite this, along with local Labour candidates from the May 2022 election calling for a review of the Kings Heath LTN, the Labour Council appear determined to push ahead with this project.
So, what are the alternatives? The money spent on LTNs could be re-allocated on the creation of safer routes to school projects/school zones or the expansion of our School Streets project. These are very popular with local residents, especially parents. Local Councillors have also collected signatures for the introduction of Average Speed Cameras along busy roads (such as West Boulevard, B32) to reduce traffic speed, but have been told that there is no money for this project.
There could also be investment in both on and off-road cycling infrastructure, such as canal towpaths - especially as Birmingham is reputed to have more canals than Venice!! And finally, the creation of No Idling Zones, especially around schools and within Local Centres, and a Pocket Park in each Ward, could improve air quality and biodiversity across Birmingham.
By Councillor Timothy Huxtable and Councillor Adam Higgs
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