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Oil poured on roads and vandalism as protests against low-traffic neighbourhoods turn nasty

Schemes designed to stop rat-running drivers and make streets safer are increasingly being targeted by vocal minority

Initiatives to close roads to rat-running motorists in several London boroughs are being threatened by anti-Low Traffic Neighbourhood protesters – with one such scheme in Ealing not only seeing planters intended to block roads to through traffic vandalised or moved, but also having oil poured on the road, creating danger for cyclists.

The scheme in question is in the Northfields area of the west London borough, an area of residential streets that many non-local drivers use as a cut-through to avoid congestion on nearby main roads.

Similar schemes in other boroughs including Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth have also attracted vocal opposition.

However, there are strong suspicions among active travel campaigners on social media that in many cases it is not coming from people who live on the streets concerned and instead from what might be termed ‘NISEBYs’ – Not In Somebody Else’s Back Yard.

LTNs, which have been around for decades but are now becoming increasingly common in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as explained below, essentially work on the basis of what is called filtered permeability, with one common misconception being that they block local residents from accessing their own streets.

That’s simply not true. By placing obstacles such as bollards or planters in specific locations, they make it impossible for motorists to use residential streets as a short-cut between main roads.

But car-owners who actually live on those streets – and it’s worth highlighting that only 54 per cent of households in London have access to a car at all, rising to more than two thirds in some boroughs – can still drive to their homes, although they may have to take a slightly circuitous route to do so.

The effect is that those streets become quieter in terms of traffic and its associated noise, safer for children and people on foot or on bikes, and the air quality improves;  certainly it seems that once local residents with cars understand that they aren’t being prevented from driving home, the schemes are broadly welcomed.

One common argument deployed against LTNs is that they restrict access for emergency vehicles – with opponents eagerly seizing on this video posted to Twitter yesterday of a fire engine in Lambeth.

However, what is stopping the driver from getting through the gap is not the planter itself – it’s the poorly parked car on the right, and Lambeth Council confirmed that emergency services had been consulted during the design process.

Many opponents of LTNs on social media, it has to be said, seem to share common views on some of the major issues of our time – whether that be Brexit, wearing a mask when entering a shop, immigration … well, you get the idea.

Black cab drivers seem to be over-represented too, and are known to have participated in weekly marches on Upper Street to protest outside Islington Town Hall about street closures – while, coincidentally, effectively closing the street they are holding the protest on.

David Kurten, by the way, is stading for election as Mayor of London next year. He was elected to the London Assembly in 2016, representing UKIP, before subsequently declaring his ... well, independence ... from the party. 

And, just to finish off with, take a look at this post on Twitter this morning. It looks as though we'd all forgotten the bit in the Magna Carta about motorists' rights?

Simon joined 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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iandusud | 3 years ago

One of the common arguments I hear against these LTNs is lack of consultation. However I'm sure that if the residents of these streets were consulted the majority would be in favour for all the obvious reasons. The people who object are those who wish to use the streets as rat runs.

markieteeee replied to iandusud | 3 years ago

Yes, it's what people against LTNs commonly cite. When you live in one and know that there is live ongoing consultation during the trial period, it's all the werider to see the fury about lack of consultation. It kind of proves that most of the objections are not coming from residents. Even on the live consultation, you can read objections that betray lack of local knowledge and ones where the poster clearly has not seen them in practise.  

pockstone | 3 years ago

These brainless berks have had since 1215 to vandalise every five bar gate, stile, Keep Left arrow, No Entry sign and  Private Road sign in the name of Clause 61. What took them so long?

(I won't bother mentioning No Cycling, Cyclists Dismount, Pedestrians Only, Town centre PSPOs as that would spoil the narcissist's narrative.)

Along with punishment passes, booby traps and oil slicks, I wonder if we are closer to a real breakdown of law and order (at the hands of the 'law'n'order'...'British values' brigade) than we'd like to think. Teenagers with AR15s defending Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution here we come.

David9694 replied to pockstone | 3 years ago

The WW1 Western Front, 100s of miles of barbed wire and trenches was unplanned, and wasn't expected to be how the battlefield would look - one thing led to another and another, and that became it for most of the period of the war.  Breaking the deadlock with the tech they had wasn't easy. 

And so it is today with the car - no-one in 1920 imagined what or where we'd get to with this 100 years on. I wonder whether if we could have seen this future, whether we would indeed have chosen it. 

Thing is, having been on this trajectory for so long, and with this awful individualism so firmly implanted in some people's minds, getting off this track, like the Dutch did, is going to be a wrench. Also we're conditioned to it - many people don't know any different, or that things could be different.  People are very accepting: "ohh, that's a dangerous road". The next thought on is "Hang on, why is that OK?" The car destroys everything around it - other forms of transport, people's lives, the environment, etc.

Two things help power me on: (I) once a year our village main street is closed - we usually walk down just as the closure starts - it's so, so lovely to be car free down into the village. Like Sunday mornings and Christmas Day used to be. (Ii) walking down a street in Winchester a couple of years ago, a van wanted to pull up on the pavement - the driver wanted ME to get out of HIS way. This also happens in our village, with the outdoor chip shop queue - not to me - so far. We've been here 7 years and the main road now has parking on pavements, corners and frequent one-way "pinches" that weren't there at the start. Why wasn't I consulted?

If change is to happen, a strongly shared desire to promote the common good will be the force that drives it.  It will indeed take foresight and a lot of courage by leaders and leastways at national level that's something we're severely short of. 

spen | 3 years ago

I was tempted for a second or so to go on twitter and point out that clause 61 is no longer valid, but then I remembered how pointless that would be, plus someone beat to it

Velophaart_95 | 3 years ago

What kind of a country are we? I despair; almost every day there is something that makes me shake my head in disappointment.

I hate to remind these idiots, but driving is a privilege, not a right......

brooksby | 3 years ago

Playing devil's advocate for a moment, how much oil was there on the road?  Could it have been the usual that you always see after a heavy rain?

AlsoSomniloquism replied to brooksby | 3 years ago

In the twitter feed of the reportee of the main blog one, she said she walks that street every day and not seen any before. However it also had the central pillar ripped out so 2 + 2?

brooksby replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago

OK, you may have a point...

Awavey replied to brooksby | 3 years ago

no I dont think so, my commute route partly follows a bus route and one of the buses seems to always be leaking oil on the road, and its visible more so in the rain, but its nothing like as spread across the road as that picture posted on social media. thats alot of oil imo, thats like oil sump broken, or oil filter replacement deposits all oil in engine level type of slick, which is about a litre at least I think.

AlsoSomniloquism replied to Awavey | 3 years ago

Maybe they broke their car damaging the setup?

Awavey replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago

absolutely, I suspect thats the most likely cause, or someone driving over the bollard after it was damaged.

billymansell | 3 years ago

Proof, if it were needed, that many of these features have to become permanent.

These criminals have shown they consider their right to drive where they want as being above the right of the public to safety and not only have they destroyed structures that provided that safety they've acted to further endanger the lives of the young and the vulnerable.

eburtthebike | 3 years ago

Were any Pimlico Plumbers vans seen in the vicinity?  Maybe their security department got fed up of illegally arresting passing cyclists and decided to attack loads of cyclists instead of just one.

I'll be quoting that Magna Carta (did she die in vain?) thing next time I feel like riding on the motorway, I'm sure the police and magistrates will admit my infinite wisdom and release me to go on my way immediately.

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