Saturday 31 July 2021

Why we need Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Conditions for cyclists on Ealing's residential streets have deteriorated significantly over the last 20 years. During this time motor vehicles have become wider, reducing the space for cycling.

On a standard 24 ft-wide Victorian carriageway, the space between parked cars and and an oncoming vehicle has been cut by nearly half. Most people are, not surprisingly, intimidated by the challenge of trying to squeeze through this narrow gap. Some choose to cycle on the pavement, others don't attempt to cycle at all.

In the last ten years the introduction of GPS navigation systems has contributed to a 70% increase in the amount of through traffic on C and unclassified roads in London. At the same time, the amount of motor traffic on A and B roads has fallen.

This extra GPS-guided traffic on residential roads isn't spread evenly through the day, but occurs mainly at times of most congestion on the main roads - which coincides with the time children travel to and from school. Roads that were once quiet are now busy, creating multiple problems for cyclists. Some drivers cutting through residential streets will drive towards oncoming cyclists without slowing down, expecting the cyclist to move into the 'door zone' (the area where an opening car door can knock you off your cycle). Most drivers travelling in the same direction as a cyclist will accelerate until they are close behind the cyclist, then follow the cyclist closely along the road, which many riders find intimidating. A third problem with the increased traffic is that motor vehicles are often unable to pass each other, and so block the road while they wait for the oncoming vehicle to pass. 

Early attempts at traffic calming created other difficulties for cyclists. The introduction of non-sinusoidal speed humps puts an obstacle in the road that induces shocks and vibrations in cyclists at much lower speeds than that experienced by drivers of vehicles fitted with suspension.Many of these non-compliant speed humps still exist on residential roads. They continue to create discomfort and make routes unusable for some disabled riders. The introduction of one-way streets forced cyclists to take longer routes, and increased motor vehicle speeds. In short, the experience of cycling on many of Ealing's residential roads is a lot worse than it was 20 years ago.

Low-traffic neighbourhoods are probably the most effective way to redress the balance and reduce the negative impact of these recently-introduced obstacles to cycling. Research shows that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods reduce road-traffic injuries, making the streets inside an LTN three to four times safer for cyclists and pedestrians, than comparable roads outside the area. The introduction of an LTN also doesn't increase road-traffic injuries on the boundary roads.4