Myth Buster

We’ve heard much about active travel schemes on social media, but it’s impossible to know whether the information is backed up by facts. Here is our brief guide to some common misconceptions about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, which is something we’re pushing the council to implement across Levenshulme and Burnage without delay.

Will I be able to drive to my house, if a Low Traffic Neighbourhood is installed?

While some streets would prevent through traffic, all properties with houses would still be accessible by car as they were before. Some journeys by car may have to take alternate routes, but this is to reduce traffic in mainly residential areas.

How will emergency services get access?

First and foremost, emergency services are statutory consultees for any traffic regulation orders. This means they must be asked about changes happening to our roads.

Low traffic neighbourhoods have been endorsed by the NHS in Greater Manchester , stating that low traffic neighbourhoods should be “prioritised”. In London, hospital trusts are contributing funding to put in MORE LTNS to tackle air pollution and obesity.

In the Waltham Forest LTN, the project that the Levenshulme and Burnage plans are based on, emergency service response times have reduced since the scheme has been implemented.

People are taken to hospital every day by both injuries due to dangerous driving, air pollution, and our ongoing obesity crisis. Obesity has a serious impact on economic development. The overall cost of obesity to wider society is estimated at £27 billion. The UK-wide NHS costs attributable to being overweight or obese are projected to reach £9.7 billion by 2050, with wider costs to society estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year. Decreasing car dependency and increasing active travel will go some way to fixing these issues and reducing the strain on our NHS.

Initially emergency services could have navigated round the planters by mounting the pavement if necessary, but some drivers not obeying the rules of the road resulted in the council installing pavement bollards to protect pedestrians. Emergency services have also struggled with parked cars and congestion for many years, both things that active neighbourhoods are beginning to reduce.

The hard truth is navigation for ambulances has been a problem long before LTNs were around. We as members of the public have access to Google Maps and Waze which send live route updates straight to our phones. The filters are now accounted for when planning journeys in Levenshulme (see manor road as an example), so the question we must ask is why are the emergency services not given access to this data we all have access to ourselves! Ambulance services are being forced to rely on local knowledge and road signs whilst anyone with a phone can be directed perfectly. Does this seem fair?

Is it good for business?

Research has shown cyclists spend 40% more than motorists in shops in London. With studies from around the world supporting this uptick in customer attendance and spending travelling by bike vs travelling by car. There is a clear business case for increasing foot and cycle traffic and replacing car parking spaces with bike parking.

Pedestrianisation entirely of roads, where cars cannot access, has led to an increase of 30% in trade in Wandsworth.

Living streets produced a HUMUNGUS report in 2018 on the business case for the “pedestrian pound”, the spending benefits of catering to those not in vehicles.

Will more traffic move onto main roads?

While this may be true in the first few weeks of a scheme as drivers readjust, traffic on our roads is already an issue and our roads are already struggling. In Greater Manchester 30% of trips under 1km (just over half a mile) are made by car. By changing some of those journeys to pedestrian or cycling journeys, it frees up space on the road for those who have no choice but to drive.

Evidence from Hackney and Lambeth showed that traffic on main roads does not necessarily increase significantly with the introduction of an LTN.

Low Traffic Neighborhood schemes plan to place modal filters on some roads, their location carefully considered to limit traffic that wants to cut through residential streets. The amount of traffic that will have their journeys blocked is relatively low and most journeys won’t be affected, so residents are unlikely to see a massive increase in traffic on the surrounding main roads once the scheme is in place.

Traffic on main roads in Waltham Forest increased, but only to the levels of earlier years. More information on the long term effects on main roads can be found here.

If you give cars more road space, including side streets, you will get more cars, this is “induced demand”, the flip side to “traffic evaporation”, and the evidence has been around for years.

Will my voice be listened to?

The original Levenshulme Bee Network team went to great lengths to try and engage with as many people as possible. The scheme should take into account as many residents and their views as possible. The old consultation website is still live and has almost 1,000 existing comments from residents that have so far commented on the scheme. Please read our website which hopefully explains any concerns that you may have as well as explaining some misconceptions about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

Please be aware that should a Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme take place in Levenshulme and Burnage, it will be Manchester City Council owned and managed, so any questions about their plans should be addressed to them. We are trying to get as much information as we can about their plans, while urging them to recognise that delays to implementation will have serious consequences in terms of safety, transport poverty, air pollution and climate change. Having wider consultation does not mean that implementation has to be slower.

Would a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Burnage and Levenshulme affect low-income areas more?

We have written a blog to address this very question. According to the indices of multiple deprivation the two most deprived areas of Burnage and Levenshulme were due to receive multiple interventions to reduce through traffic. There was no clear correlation between the deprivation level of an area and the amount of active travel measures the area was receiving.

In other low traffic neighbourhood schemes such as Waltham Forest overall traffic reduced for the entire area On roads where traffic still remained high the council continue to take extra measures to further lower this traffic for all residents. (keep your eyes peeled for more Waltham Forest analysis in the future!)

Why is this funding being spent on this and not the NHS or the police?

The funding for the Low Traffic Neighbourhood is ringfenced for Bee Network infrastructure schemes across Greater Manchester, specifically to indirectly benefit the NHS.

By enabling people to choose healthier, more active methods for moving around, it is envisaged that health benefits associated with this lead to a lowering of diseases associated with inactivity.

Around two-thirds of adults in Greater Manchester are overweight or obese, and around 50% of adults in Greater Manchester are physically inactive, costing the local NHS over £500,000 every week.

The idea is instead of putting large amounts of money into the NHS to try to stick plasters over diseases that are brought about by unhealthy living conditions and inactive lifestyles, we could prevent these diseases in the first place by creating healthier living environments so people live healthier for longer with less medical treatment, decreasing the strain on the NHS and allowing other treatments to be funded.

Why not just improve public transport?

The objective of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is to make walking, wheelchairing, rolling, pedalling, etc safer and more convenient for all for those short local trips. Public transport is in part being dealt with via re-regulation, and in any case deals with longer range trips.

Will there be monitoring during the trial?

Any Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme begins with a trial, so amendments can be made based on real-time data, which is a technique being used positively around the world (and to good effect in Waltham Forest, one of the inspirations for this scheme). There’s no reason Levenshulme and Burnage’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood should be considered exceptional in that sense.

All feedback from residents and monitoring of traffic, pedestrian and cycling levels as well as air quality levels will be considered before any of the filters are installed permanently.

To see some further questions and misconceptions that other schemes had why not have a read of Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign’s question and answer section which has more information about a similar scheme.

For more information about “traffic evaporation” see London Living Street’s information here.