Ealing Council won a crucial vote at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday evening which could have resulted in suspension of the borough’s implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).
The leader of the Labour-controlled council also survived a motion of no confidence brought by the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups, both of which are opposed to LTNs, reports MyLondon.
Despite such schemes, which are aimed at curbing rat-running drivers while maintaining access for people who live on the residential roads concerned, a national survey has also found that most people are in favour of such initiatives.
Opponents of LTNs in a number of boroughs have repeatedly targeted planters and bollards used to block off streets, moving and even vandalising them, with a number of attacks for example in Ealing’s Northfields LTN.
Council leader Julian Bell said in a statement read out at the meeting that he was not able to comment on individual LTNs – of which nine are in place or planned across the borough – due to legal action against them, but added that the council would “robustly defend” such schemes.
“We all want the best possible neighbourhoods to live in,” he said. “During the lockdown fewer used their cars and it had a positive impact on their neighbourhoods and London’s air quality.
“This gave us an insight of what life could be like with fewer cars on the roads – walking, cycling, exercise, play and meeting, albeit socially distant, on a Thursday evening to clap for the NHS and our key workers.”
He highlighted that in early summer, the government and Transport for London (TfL) were encouraging people to switch to active travel as lockdown began to ease to avoid gridlock and improve air quality.
“We have a proud record of being London’s greenest borough and wanted to do everything we could to keep people safe, reduce levels of air pollution and with clearer roads, give people the confidence to try different types of travel, particularly for short journeys, he continued.
He said that most of the emergency active travel funding the borough had received was being spent on widening pavements, putting temporary cycle lanes in place and making streets safer around schools, but the council had also decided to trial LTNs.
“The temporary schemes are designed to ensure that residents on those roads can continue to access their homes,” he said.
“They are designed to reduce the number of car journeys to create safer neighbourhoods so that more people will feel safe to walk and cycle, rather than use the car for short trips and to discourage drivers from seeing Ealing as a way of shaving a few minutes off their journey through or into Ealing.
“There are already a significant number of traffic schemes in place throughout the borough to stop exactly this sort of through-traffic that have had a positive impact for residents in those roads and beyond.”
“We know that people have strong views both for and against. What we promise is that their views are being heard,” he added, saying that each scheme would be re-evaluated once it had been in place for six months.
“For many of us, streets in our residential areas have become conduits for through traffic, rather than places where residents can walk, cycle, meet or play.
“With more drivers relying on sat navs to identify the quickest routes, through-traffic is likely to increase.
“We want children to be able to play and travel more independently, and older people to be active and mobile.
“We think low traffic neighbourhoods could be the key to a much healthier, greener and pleasant local neighbourhood.”
Fellow Labour councillor Miriam Rice added: “LTNs are not new and they existed around the country for decades and have proven to be extremely successful.
“There was opposition to the introduction of wheelie bins, the ban of smoking in our pubs and the mandatory seat belts in the front ... in all these examples there was later acceptance."
Both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups on the council had claimed that surveys they had conducted showed that the council could have carried out consultations before the LTNs were implemented.
Meanwhile, a new YouGov survey commissioned by Greenpeace has found that three times as many people across the UK are in favour of LTNs as are opposed to them.
The poll discovered that 26 per cent of people strongly supported LTNs, while 31 per cent would “tend” to, reports the Guardian.
Some 8 per cent of people strongly opposed such initiatives, and the same percentage tended to do so, leaving around a quarter of people undecided or neutral on the issue.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.