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High Court judge rejects challenge to Lambeth’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Council acted in line with regulations and did not discriminate against disabled people who rely on cars for transport

A High Court judge has today rejected a legal challenge to low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) introduced last year in the London Borough of Lambeth, ruling that the council acted in line with regulations governing their implementation and that they did not discriminate against people with disabilities.

The case had been brought, with the backing of the anti-LTN group One Lambeth, by a disabled resident of the borough, Sofia Shaekh, who lives close to the boundary of the Railton LTN in Brixton, and who relies heavily on using her car for transport.

She had claimed that such interventions, aimed at restricting through traffic in residential areas while allowing access to people who live there, had disproportionately affected people who are dependent on cars to get around, saying that displacement of traffic to roads outside LTNs increased journey times, caused additional stress, and impaired quality of life.

> 130 groups unite in open letter supporting Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Ms Sheakh, who spent a month in a coma last year after contracting COVID-19, claimed that the traffic orders under which the council had created a number of LTNs were unlawful and should be quashed, and that its officers had not followed the duties imposed on them under the Equality Act 2010. Furthermore, she also said that the council had not carried out adequate consultation.

While LTNs have been in existence for decades, many have been installed in a number of London boroughs and in towns and cities outside the capital as a response to the coronavirus pandemic and with the help of funding from the government, which sees encouraging active travel and reducing travel by car as a key part of its plans for recovery from COVID-19.

In the case of Lambeth, the borough revealed plans in 2019 to install permanent LTNs, and accelerated those last year as part of its response to the pandemic.

A number of legal challenges have been launched to try and have LTNs removed, with the most high-profile case involving Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s Streetspace programme, including guidance to boroughs on LTns, where Transport for London won an appeal earlier this month against an earlier decision that had ruled the programme unlawful.

> Transport for London wins appeal over Streetspace active travel programme

In his decision, handed down this morning, Mr Justice Kerr acknowledged that “Opinion is divided on whether they [LTNs] are, on balance, a good thing or not,” adding, “The court takes no part in that debate and is wholly neutral on the merits or otherwise of LTNs.”

The judge rejected a claim that the experimental traffic orders [ETOs] creating the LTNs were not lawful because they were claimed to be permanent rather than experimental, and also that the council had not complied with the requirements of the Equality Act.

“In my judgment, the evidence is clear,” the judge said. Referring to the fact that Lambeth already had plans to introduce LTNs prior to the pandemic, he said: “It was the coronavirus epidemic and the resulting statutory guidance that led to abandonment of that conventional and leisurely approach to introducing LTNs.

“The Secretary of State urged local authorities to take radical and almost immediate measures to enhance walking and cycling and pointed to their power to do so using TTOs [temporary traffic orders] and ETOs.”

Dismissing the claim that the council had not adequately taken account of the needs of people who rely on cars for transport, he said that “The claimant is wrong to say there is no evidence of the balance being struck; there is plenty of evidence of it being struck; and the unusual circumstances in which these LTNs came into being makes that not in the least surprising.”

Another claim was that the council had been “irrational” in selecting which organisations to consult.

“The claimant says it was irrational to consult Wheels for Wellbeing but not groups such as ‘dasl’ (which stands for Disability Advice Service Lambeth) specifically representing disabled people in Lambeth,” the judge noted.

Finding that ground of challenge “without merit,” he said: “There is nothing irrational about consulting a cycling organisation about measures to encourage cycling. ‘

“The omission to consult the charity dasl is not actionable; there was no obligation to consult that organisation and it was not irrational to omit it from the list; it can contribute to the debate via the objections procedure if it wishes to do so.”

Reacting to the decision, Councillor Claire Holland, leader of Lambeth Council, said: “We welcome the judge’s decisive ruling today, dismissing the claims on all counts.

“Lambeth has been clear from the start that we had to act swiftly and urgently in the face of the huge challenges that the coronavirus pandemic posed to our borough, and in particular the immediate risk of it making existing inequalities on our streets and in our neighbourhoods worse.

“The council has set out from the outset that implementing measures to make our streets safer and healthier was fully in line with statutory guidance and national policy objectives. We rejected any suggestion that these schemes are discriminatory in any way or were installed illegally.

“We’re glad that the judgement is clear on that, and particularly that considerations of equality were accounted for at the earliest stage of the LTN.

“The judgment also reinforces our approach of continuing to consider those objectives using data collected throughout the experimental period, ensuring that the impacts on those most at-risk remains front and centre of our approach,” Councillor Holland continued.

“The start of the Covid-19 pandemic saw capacity on public transport reduced by up to 80 per cent to accommodate social distancing.

“With around 60 per cent of households in Lambeth not having access to a car, and with access typically lower for women, Black and disabled residents in particular, we needed to make our streets safer to enable them to walk, cycle, scoot or wheel safely in their local area and access local facilities during the pandemic.

“The council’s response was an emergency transport plan, produced last summer for the benefit of all Lambeth’s residents but primarily focused at tackling the acute inequalities that we envisaged the pandemic would exacerbate in our borough.

“This plan included pavement widening, temporary walking and cycling infrastructure and low traffic neighbourhoods.

“The council is carrying out regular, detailed, open and transparent monitoring of the programme and has already taken on board feedback from local people to make improvements where necessary.

“We will now redouble our efforts to involve all of our communities in a conversation about how we rebalance our streets so that they are more equal, safer and put people first,” she concluded.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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65 comments

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brooksby | 2 years ago
0 likes

OT but how has this one managed to get up to 67 comments (at point of commenting) without anyone mentioning h**m*ts?? 

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Rendel Harris replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
6 likes
brooksby wrote:

OT but how has this one managed to get up to 67 comments (at point of commenting) without anyone mentioning h**m*ts?? 

I don't think many hermits live in LTNs, that's probably why.

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brooksby replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
2 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:
brooksby wrote:

OT but how has this one managed to get up to 67 comments (at point of commenting) without anyone mentioning h**m*ts?? 

I don't think many hermits live in LTNs, that's probably why.

Oh, of course.  Thanks for pointing that out  4

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jh2727 | 2 years ago
2 likes

I have a question - how well do satnavs cope with LTN?

I imagine the likes Google Maps and Waze might cope okay.

However the built in sat nav on my car hasn't been updated since it left the factory - if I bought the most recent update, it would probably upto be a year old. If I bought an update that had just been released - they data would be a year old, because the vehicle manufacturers test process takes 12 months (or so I am told by the dealer). I suppose it might treat it like road closure and I might get an over the air traffic update - but most likely, it would just keep directing me into the LTN - and not knowing London well, I would be pretty screwed (add in all the other motorists who are equally screwed, it hardly surprising the traffic is appalling - I don't believe many drivers in London can navigate the city without satnav).

Give that a large part of why LTNs are needed is because of the rise of satnav, and we probably need satnavs to work well with LTNs if they are going to do anything to motorists other than frustrate them motorists.

I've long felt that all UK satnavs should use the same maps - which should be provided by the Ordinance Survey. The data should be pull regularly. Details of roadworks, closures, new routes should be added to the system before they happen on the ground - back when I used to buy road atlases, if I bought a new UK atlas and there was a new motorway planned - it would be show on the map as a dotted line with a planned opening date.

Anyway, that's my rant for today.

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Jetmans Dad replied to jh2727 | 2 years ago
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jh2727 wrote:

I have a question - how well do satnavs cope with LTN?

I imagine the likes Google Maps and Waze might cope okay.

Probably true, as their maps are updated more frequently and often on the fly. Given that they can alter your route to take account of new road closures, accidents, and holdups even after you have started driving they should be able to deal with it immediately by marking the road as closed from a particular direction and then make a more permanent update to the maps as required. 

Those systems requiring manual map updates, not so much. A friend of mine had a Mazda 6 for a while, with all-singing-all-dancing satnav on board ... which he never bothered to update because Mazda wanted £300 + VAT for it (and that was to instal the update himself - it was twice that for the dealer to do it for him). 

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Bungle_52 replied to jh2727 | 2 years ago
2 likes

Good point but I think the problem here is overreliance on Sat Navs. It's not an excuse for ignoring traffic signs. I always carry a backup, either google map on my tablet or a printed road map. I don't rely on the sat nav but it is useful when it gets it right.

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Sriracha replied to Bungle_52 | 2 years ago
2 likes
Bungle_52 wrote:

Good point but I think the problem here is overreliance on Sat Navs. It's not an excuse for ignoring traffic signs.

Indeed, but JH2727 raises a good point about the need for LTNs being partly due to the effects of satnav on people's routes. Were it not for satnav fewer people would be cutting through residential rat runs I the first place. So to a large extent LTNs are about altering the impact of satnavs. If the satnavs keep on directing motorists into LTNs from which they have to extricate themselves then then there is little benefit from the LTN. The behaviour which has to be changed is largely the satnav's - the motorists will mostly follow its lead.

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brooksby replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
1 like
Sriracha wrote:

... JH2727 raises a good point about the need for LTNs being partly due to the effects of satnav on people's routes.  Were it not for satnav fewer people would be cutting through residential rat runs I the first place.  So to a large extent LTNs are about altering the impact of satnavs. If the satnavs keep on directing motorists into LTNs from which they have to extricate themselves then then there is little benefit from the LTN. The behaviour which has to be changed is largely the satnav's - the motorists will mostly follow its lead.

Exactly - as I understand it, the satnav is set up to get you from Point A to Point B by the shortest or the quickest route (as preferred).  The satnav then calculates it.  And nobody has told the satnav to 'avoid narrow residential roads notwithstanding that they are the shortest/quickest route'...

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
1 like

It isn't Sat-navs as such but the addons like Waze and Googles instant traffic analysis options that cause more of the Rat Run occurences.

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Sriracha replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
1 like
AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

It isn't Sat-navs as such but the addons like Waze and Googles instant traffic analysis options that cause more of the Rat Run occurences.

by their nature traffic-aware live routing systems will soon learn about LTNs and avoid them, as intended, although I accept they may have created the problem in the first place. But the older fixed-map systems which only update periodically (or never in the case of many systems installed in cars) will continue to cause problems when drivers set them to "shortest route", unaware of LTNs.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
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Well then it is their own fault as Shortest routes are very rarely the most efficient or speedy. I know I never set mine for that although I'm aware of the issue with map ages as I've travelled down nicely laid 12 month old A road with my Satnav telling me to get out of the field and back on a recognised route.

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Sriracha replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 2 years ago
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It may very well be their fault - but what comfort is that?

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
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That they learn the lesson not to set it to shortest distance. Or maybe they thought it was normal to be sent down lots of single track roads when travelling from London to Birmingham. 

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
6 likes

This is beginning to look like the multiple Trump challenges to losing the election; universally found to be without merit and based on conspiracy theories, not facts.

Excellent news and will hopefully be reported far and wide* and will deter such frivolous and misguided challenges in future.  No mention of costs, so will the complainants be paying or do the tax-payers of Lambeth have to pay for their misguided, political actions?

 

*Ho, ho, f*****g ho.

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Awavey | 2 years ago
11 likes

I look forward to seeing how the Telegraph reports the judgement, given how they claimed this LTN was 'illegal' and all fines collected from it should be refunded only last week https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/06/20/exclusive-council-faces-call...

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Rich_cb replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
2 likes

I'm not sure you're being entirely accurate with your summation there.

The claims were made by One Lambeth.

They were reported by the Telegraph.

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Awavey replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
8 likes

the reason I summarised it like that is because I feel thats the way the article was written, the Telegraph hasnt written anything but negative articles on LTNs for the past year now, their latest story at the weekend was that LTNs prevent priests giving last rites.

so as I say I look forward to reading how they cover this judgement.

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Rendel Harris replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
8 likes
Awavey wrote:

their latest story at the weekend was that LTNs prevent priests giving last rites.

Wow, that's some desperate stuff right there. Perhaps it could be countered by pointing out that LTNs will reduce the number of people needing last rites from RTAs...or maybe the Church ought to be providing priests with bikes? Back in the day the local vicar or priest on his bicycle was a familiar sight, as I recall.

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Rich_cb replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
1 like

Ignore the headline and this is a quite well balanced piece that subtly refutes most the of the anti-LTN arguments.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/06/29/motorists-take-streets-b...

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eburtthebike replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
5 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

I'm not sure you're being entirely accurate with your summation there. The claims were made by One Lambeth. They were reported by the Telegraph.

Yes, the Torygraph reported a claim made by One Lambeth, but will they report this judgement and give it the same prominence?

There's a reason XR were protesting over the weekend in London about the extreme bias in the British media.

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Rich_cb replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

Let's wait and see.

Personally I doubt it.

Bias is everywhere unfortunately. It's been interesting watching today's contrasting coverage of the Nissan Gigafactory news as just one example.

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Dave Dave replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
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eburtthebike wrote:

There's a reason XR were protesting over the weekend in London about the extreme bias in the British media.

Yes, because they're far-right loonies who hate 'the Jew-controlled media'. They were protesting alongside their allies the anti-vaxxers.

I mean seriously, we're talking a group who openly advocate genocide here. Vile, as is anyone so naive as to support them without checking what they actually stand for.

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Dave Dave | 2 years ago
1 like

"A High Court judge has today rejected a legal challenge to low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) introduced last year in the London Borough of Lambeth, ruling that the council acted in line with regulations governing their implementation and that they did not discriminate against people with disabilities."

That is a highly dubious characterisation of the judgement. It categorically did not rule on those matters. Rather, it ruled that the claimant failed to present a winning case. The door is still open for a better case based on similar matters to win. I doubt that will happen, but no precedent has been set.

in general, such cases are almost impossible to win, as this one was. There was no realistic prospect of a win, because even if the council acted wrongly, it's still necessary to prove it was unreasonable, unlawful, negatively affected the claimant, etc. before a challenge can even begin to stand up.

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Rendel Harris replied to Dave Dave | 2 years ago
9 likes
Dave Dave wrote:

"A High Court judge has today rejected a legal challenge to low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) introduced last year in the London Borough of Lambeth, ruling that the council acted in line with regulations governing their implementation and that they did not discriminate against people with disabilities."

That is a highly dubious characterisation of the judgement. It categorically did not rule on those matters. Rather, it ruled that the claimant failed to present a winning case.

Umm...the judgement did, in fact, rule that there was no illegality in the introduction of the LTNs and that the council had not failed to fulfil its obligations to comply with the Equalities Act. It's not a "dubious characterisation of the judgement", it's exactly what the judgement said.

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eburtthebike replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
8 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:
Dave Dave wrote:

That is a highly dubious characterisation of the judgement. It categorically did not rule on those matters. Rather, it ruled that the claimant failed to present a winning case.

Umm...the judgement did, in fact, rule that there was no illegality in the introduction of the LTNs and that the council had not failed to fulfil its obligations to comply with the Equalities Act. It's not a "dubious characterisation of the judgement", it's exactly what the judgement said.

Please don't confuse Dave Dave (so bad they named him twice) with facts; he's been vaccinated against them; twice.

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Philh68 replied to Lance ꜱtrongarm | 2 years ago
8 likes

Yeah, because disabled people just love being used as an excuse so able-bodied people can get what they want no

If that's the best they can argue this time, that journeys might take longer and increase stress which would apply to all equally and therefore is not discriminatory, then one has to wonder what desperately imaginative load of bollocks they'll invent for an appeal. I doubt there will be one.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to Philh68 | 2 years ago
2 likes

And they have opened up some of the LTN APN pinch points for Blue badge holders as well so are being courteous on needs when possible (albeit this one might not be controlled that way). I do wonder if Lambeth one would be so accomodating to the disabled needs if the same lady stated all disabled people who drive should have larger parking spots outside their homes for their vehicles and their carers ones similar in size and space needed per a supermarket one.

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Dave Dave replied to Philh68 | 2 years ago
0 likes
Philh68 wrote:

Yeah, because disabled people just love being used as an excuse so able-bodied people can get what they want no

If that's the best they can argue this time, that journeys might take longer and increase stress which would apply to all equally and therefore is not discriminatory, then one has to wonder what desperately imaginative load of bollocks they'll invent for an appeal. I doubt there will be one.

That is not the argument here. Are you being deliberately dishonest? Clearly LTNs without exceptions for vehicular access for the mobility-impaired are having a disproportionate impact. 

Frankly, the argument is bonkers. Are we suggesting ambulances and fire engines are barred from LTNs? Obviously access is permitted, as it should be for anyone with a blue badge.

This is about specific, badly implemented LTNs which have rendered mobility-impaired people housebound. The major discrimination argument against LTNs in general is completely different. It is that traffic-shifting from richer neighbourhoods to poorer ones is obviously (given London's socio-economic distribution) going to have a disproportionate impact.

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Rendel Harris replied to Dave Dave | 2 years ago
8 likes
Dave Dave wrote:

This is about specific, badly implemented LTNs which have rendered mobility-impaired people housebound. 

No mobility-impaired person has been rendered housebound by an LTN. There is not a single house in any LTN that is not accessible by motor transport when it was before; because some roads have been sealed at one end, cars may have to go a slightly longer way round to reach their destination, the houses are still accessible by car so no disabled person who relies on a car is left housebound and it's both stupid and dishonest to claim they have been.

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markieteeee replied to Dave Dave | 2 years ago
11 likes

I live in an LTN and it is a massive improvement for my disabled neighbours. They tend to travel by mobility scooter, although some cycle as a mobility aid; and those who do need to drive would now find it easier to park close to their homes as they are no longer competing with travel winding round the side streets looking for places where they won't get a ticket. I'm not sure any do though. But taxis can also park closer to their homes due to the calming. We live in an area of low car ownership - the majority of households do not have cars and the proportion is even lower for disabled people; the implication that they need to use cars for everything and that LTNs restrict them tends to come from other groups.  Of course they need to be considered but be suspicious of cabbies and the motor lobby claiming they speak from disabled people. Disabled people are disproportionately affected by pollution, so benefit from the removal of rat-running cars and lorries we were previously subjected to. And to claim that LTNs favour richer neighbourhoods is a complete fabrication.  Maybe you can find an example or two among the many LTNs in London but it would be clutching at straws; it seems to be a nonsense argument made by people seeking a way of making their oppostion to LTNs look 'worthy'. The vast majoirty do no such thing - studies have found this but when you live here, it's obvious to see. They'd find it impossible to as neighbourhoods rend to be a mismash in the areas they've been implemented.  Most people making this claim have zero knowledge of the areas they claim are benefitting from displacement.  But it does make me smile to read that I live in richer neighbourhood, escpecially by people who wouldn't even dare walk down my street.

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