Main road residents forgotten amid low traffic scheme roll-out
This aricle by Winchmore Hil Community First councillor Dinah Barry was first published in Enfield Dispatch, March 2021. It is reproduced with Cllr Barry's permission.
"It's a bit more complicated than blocking off a few roads"
I am an unrepentant nerd; some of my all-time heroes are Tim Harford, Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre because they delight in using evidence and facts to debunk nonsense and understand the world better.
One of Ben Goldacre's favourite comments was "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that" which, had he ever written about them, I am sure he would have applied to many of the arguments being aired over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNS).
If you were unaware of LTNs, they are areas where roads are closed to through-traffic forcing drivers, to use 'main' roads around the periphery.
The arguments for building these are laudable: cars cause pollution which harms health and causes climate change, many car journeys are so short that they are not necessary and walking and cycling are healthier means of transport because they combat obesity and heart disease. Therefore if you can deter people from making short journeys by car, you will improve health and reduce damage to the climate.
Two LTNs were installed in Enfield last autumn and are nearing the end of six month trials. More are planned, indeed Cllr. Ian Barnes who is in charge of the project, is keen that all of Enfield has them.
There are many arguments made against the LTNs. I am going to concentrate on the evidence and facts, or the lack of them. I am not going to discuss 'traffic evaporation' a phenomenon about which there is an astonishing lack of supporting evidence.
If you are interested visit https://communityfirstgroup.org.uk/raffic-evap-evidence.
By contrast these facts seem to be unarguable:
• Not all short car journeys are unnecessary especially for people who have mobility difficulties.
• The council may designate some roads as main or peripheral roads but whatever they are called, people live in homes on all the roads in Enfield.
• Car journeys and therefore pollution may have reduced since the autumn but we aren't living in normal times so we cannot tell what has caused this. What is certain is that some journeys are made longer causing more pollution, and that that pollution is on the peripheral roads.
• Cllr. Barnes rightly says that to collect data at the moment would be meaningless because we are not living in normal times. But that begs the question: Why start trails at a time when no meaningful measurements could be collected?
I think that the money spent on LTNs would have been better used widening narrow footways so that we could all exercise more safely LTNs are a simple response to a complex problem; they are unfair and divide communities. Encouraging people to walk and cycle more and to use cars less is a bit more complicated than this.
Cllr Dinah Barry
Community First, Winchmore Hill ward
07812 673 023
writes WH councillor Dinah Barry