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"Huge cost": Repair bill tops £850,000 for councils fixing vandalised low-traffic neighbourhoods

One local authority has spent almost £400,000 on repairs since 2020, with councils across London left to foot the bill caused by vandals

The "huge cost" of repairing vandalised low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) schemes — introduced to improve air quality and boost active travel — has been revealed by councils in London.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by reporters at the Guardian found that the bill for repairing vandals' work has now exceeded £850,000, with Hackney's council paying almost £400,000 for repairs. Lambeth had the second biggest repair bill, spending £310,000.

LTN vandalism (via Lambeth Cycling/Twitter)

The cost relates to damage to infrastructure since 2020 and includes signs being painted over, cut cables, cameras being tampered with, as well as damage to bollards.

The nationwide bill will be even greater, with incidents this year including masked youths ripping out LTN bollards in Exeter — before somewhat ironically fleeing by bike, a mode of transport likely made safer and more accessible by quieter streets. In Rochdale too LTN planters were overturned and set on fire by vandals on the first day of a scheme's trial, while repeat vandalism has also been reported in Oxford.

> Low-traffic neighbourhood 'human bollards' step in following repeated vandalism

A councillor from the worst affected London council Hackney stressed the vandalism is the work of a "small minority".

Mete Coban said: "The evidence shows our LTNs and 'school streets' work, with traffic down, more people walking and cycling and children benefiting from being able to walk safely to school.

"A small minority of people continue to vandalise enforcement cameras, wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds that could be better spent on freedom passes for older people, introducing more cycle parking and road safety classes in schools.

"In addition to working with the police to identify those responsible, we are also trialling new types of camera and equipment that stops the vandalism, as well as CCTV surveillance of sites where this is happening."

Oxford LTN planter arson (Just Think Oxon/Twitter)

One Hackney resident, 29-year-old Nicki Wedgwood, told the newspaper the low car ownership in the borough (around 30 per cent) is "one of the best things about living there".

"There's no reason why you should feel entitled to continue causing air pollution, noise and traffic," she said. "I think it's a real shame that people are vandalising this stuff and it's causing a huge cost to the council, but if Hackney council stopped repairing it then you just let these people win, don't you?"

An independent survey from the borough found that LTNs had encouraged a quarter of residents to cycle more. Despite commonly heard internet accusations about the schemes slowing emergency services, ambulance trusts across England, Scotland and Wales denied this, while police in the Tower Hamlets area of London in February urged against scrapping the schemes due to a reduction in anti-social behaviour.

> Firefighters delayed by low-traffic neighbourhood... because vandalised bollard wouldn't unlock

Analysis by Hackney's council revealed that 82 per cent of drivers fined during the first months of the scheme's implementation did not live in the borough, with more than £2.7 million raised in fines in that time, relating to 44,525 penalty charge notices.

The schemes have been once again thrust into the spotlight in recent times and are likely to be a significant campaigning issue ahead of the next general election. Last month, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the government wants to end funding for policies "that are about... banning cars or making it difficult for motorists".

Shortly after, Cycling UK urged Prime Minister Rish Sunak not to use low-traffic neighbourhoods as a "political football" after he ordered the Department for Transport to undertake a review of them, a pledge he first made while bidding to become Tory leader last year.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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17 comments

Avatar
MarsFlyer | 8 months ago
0 likes

In Camden we have a loading bay, that has had the sign removed multiple times by local vandals - effectively preventing the proper use of one-side of the experimental cycle lane for its entire 18 months.

Avatar
neilmck | 8 months ago
9 likes

It is a shame they cannot send the bill to the newspapers that are inciting this vandalism.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to neilmck | 8 months ago
1 like

neilmck wrote:

It is a shame they cannot send the bill to the newspapers that are inciting this vandalism.

GB News (news, lol) is not a newspaper.

Avatar
brooksby | 8 months ago
12 likes

It's funny how so many people will jump to defend destroying things and setting them on fire because they stop them rat-running whilst also criticising the actions of groups like JSO: vandalism like this, with the costs then being passed on to the taxpayer, is really not the same as sitting-in-the-road civil disobedience.  IMO.

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
0 likes

I've got a good idea on how we can save costs. 

Don't install an LTN in the first place. Simple really.

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
18 likes

Well done! Winner of the "Stupidest Comment of the Day Award", and strong contender for the monthly prize!

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers replied to marmotte27 | 8 months ago
0 likes

marmotte27 wrote:

Well done! Winner of the "Stupidest Comment of the Day Award", and strong contender for the monthly prize!

Thank you, thank you!

You've made my day. I'll wear the badge of honour with pride. 

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
15 likes

The_Tory wrote:

I've got a good idea on how we can save costs. 

Don't install an LTN in the first place. Simple really.

An excellent idea and one that should be applied to all areas of public governance. A system where nothing is ever changed if there's a chance that a few violent morons could take illegal action against said change, what could be a more perfect recipe for a happy and progressive society than that?

Avatar
Jitensha Oni replied to Rendel Harris | 8 months ago
10 likes

Good justification for Tyre Extinguishers actions against 4x4s too. Don't buy one in the first place.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Jitensha Oni | 8 months ago
3 likes

Jitensha Oni wrote:

Good justification for Tyre Extinguishers actions against 4x4s too. Don't buy one in the first place.

And reduce the number of buildings damaged and people killed and injured by not driving into buildings or people in the first place.  Or by not using your phone, not driving too fast for the conditions and not skipping your observations of the road ahead and what's around you.

Or even ... stop all that AND stop congestion on the roads by stopping driving.

Avatar
Steve K replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
14 likes

The_Tory wrote:

I've got a good idea on how we can save costs. 

Don't install an LTN in the first place. Simple really.

Let's also stop the Just Stop Oil protests by, erm, just stopping oil.

Avatar
Clem Fandango replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
8 likes

This is almost as funny as your alter ego's other one today.

 

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
2 likes

The_Tory wrote:

Simple really.

Self awareness is a useful trait.

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 8 months ago
5 likes

The_Tory wrote:

I've got a good idea on how we can save costs society and the planet. 

Don't install an LTN tory government in the first place. Simple really.

FTFY.

Avatar
chrisonabike | 8 months ago
6 likes

Not good news now that this has become a political football - with the help of many politicians of course!  However unless we regress and go back to chasing the US car culture this will go away.  After all we've had "LTNs" by other names for decades, if not forever.  (Even one or more of our contrarians favour / live on cul-de-sacs, IIRC...)

Just wondering what's the saving in terms of people (rat-runners, joyriders) not speeding through them and crashing into other cars / the buildings?  Yes - LTNs are still fully car-accessible and I imagine most have not lowered speed limits so some people will still crash into things of course.

Avatar
jh2727 | 8 months ago
13 likes

I suppose the simple way to recoup the costs is to increase the fines.

Avatar
lonpfrb replied to jh2727 | 8 months ago
4 likes
jh2727 wrote:

I suppose the simple way to recoup the costs is to increase the fines.

Along with making non-residence in the area an aggrevating factor in the fines..

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