The big LTN debate

Healthcare worker Jessica Bronstein and local resident Julia Saperia share their diverging views on the borough’s ongoing low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trials

Demonstrators gather to protest against three LTNs introduced in Haringey this year (credit Simon Allin/LDRS)
Demonstrators gather to protest against three LTNs introduced in Haringey (credit Simon Allin/LDRS)

The argument against LTNs: Jessica Bronstein

I work for Haringey Palliative Care Team, which means I visit patients who have life-limiting illnesses in their home. Although we are not counted as an emergency service, we often attend homes urgently to provide end-of-life care, symptom control or emotional support. My office is located within the St Ann’s LTN and, since the trials have been implemented, they have made us late to a lot of visits and caused our morning commute to be longer and more stressful.

I need a car for work, but as a result of driving I now sit in standstill traffic, which is frustrating and adds to an already difficult job. The LTNs also mean I have to park far away from my patients’ homes and carry equipment through the streets, which is unsafe and unhygienic, and also not a good use of my time.

It is not so much the LTNs themselves – from which healthcare professionals are now exempt – but the continued adding of one-way streets, ‘no entry’ roads and flower boxes that even people with exemptions cannot pass. I have found myself going around in circles. A journey that should take three minutes now takes 20. 

My whole team has been impacted by the LTNs, as have multi-disciplinary teams such as district nurses, carers, consultants and GPs. Some of my colleagues travel into Haringey from the outskirts of London and it’s now taking a ridiculous amount of time for them to get to work. It’s also causing us to take longer routes and sit idle, meaning we are spending more money to refill our cars with petrol. 

The trial is also having a knock-on effect for patients, who are struggling to travel to oncology appointments (for these palliative patients, stressful and extended journeys can be extremely detrimental). We rely on their family members to alleviate our workload, too. They monitor how patients are doing and report concerns. However, families are now struggling to visit their loved ones, with the burden of traffic and extra driving exacerbating an already difficult situation. 

I am not saying LTNs should be taken away completely – I can see the benefits they may have to the environment. The LTNs have also meant that when I eventually turn on to a road that only permit holders can use, there is no traffic. But I don’t think healthcare professionals were considered enough when planning the LTN trials. The council has closed every road that is a shortcut – for example, leading from St Ann’s Road to Westbury Avenue – and this pushes traffic into the surrounding areas. I do not believe the roads are wide enough for this kind of traffic, especially with bike lanes. It needs to be reconsidered.

I do not live in the area so speak only as a professional, but I think the roads that are completely blocked off need to be reopened as permit admissible roads. It would also be extremely helpful if we as permit holders and healthcare professionals could access bus lanes during rush hour so we do not sit in the traffic with all the other vehicles.

Low-traffic neighbourhoods use barriers to prevent through-traffic accessing residential roads

The argument in favour of LTNs: Julia Saperia

I’m Julia, a pedestrian, a user of public transport, a mother of young children, a daughter of octogenarians and a person with impaired sight who can’t drive. I’m a local resident and my children go to school in one of the new low traffic neighbourhoods. 

When I visited what is now my children’s school in 2018, I couldn’t believe how the sound of traffic on two sides of the site drowned out children’s voices, both on the walk to school and in the playground. My partner liked the school but was worried about air pollution in growing lungs – it was hard to miss the fumes in the yard where the reception children played. And on top of that, the volume of traffic simply made life dangerous for everyone, on their way to and from school, with pedestrians crammed on to a tiny area of pavement.

The school now sits at the boundary of the LTN. On one side, the only motorised traffic is buses and an occasional car, where once there was a constant stream of cars, vans and motorbikes tearing up the road. Around the corner is a boundary road – a road on the edge of an LTN to where many argue LTN traffic is displaced – where my sense is that the traffic is reduced, as are the speeds. I understand there are studies going on into traffic volumes. The school environment is noticeably quieter and the air smells and tastes cleaner. This is not fantasy.

Along with the road to the local park being far safer to cross, I’m looking forward to a new zebra crossing on the main road outside the school, which is long overdue and will hopefully be in place next month. Many families at the school are similarly happy with the environment in which their children are now learning and that their journeys to and from school are safer.

I know local families who are pretty addicted to their cars, for convenience. But among them, there is a shift from “I will go by car” to “maybe I don’t have to go by car”. This could soon become “I don’t need to go by car and so I won’t”. And, to me, that is the exact point of the LTN: to reduce needless car journeys. I feel strongly that private car use is a question of public health, from both the air pollution and climate catastrophe perspectives.

I’m happy that the council has made the bold decision to implement LTNs. I’m sure they are not perfect but I hope that imperfections can be ironed out in a spirit of collaboration. I know there are some who feel their right to drive has been impinged; I hope they read this and are able to empathise with people whose lives are impacted by speeding vehicles, safety concerns and air pollution. Clean air isn’t a privilege, it’s a right; driving a car is not, for the vast majority of people.

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