Tim Collingridge, a keen Lewisham cyclist, offers a personal view on Mayor Damien Egan’s move to change the Lee Green LTN
Mayor Egan’s recent controversial decision to “open up”the Lee Green Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) is unlikely to prove satisfactory to either the many supporters of the LTN or the very vocal opposition.
For opponents the changes will be seen as too modest with the one-way nature of some of the re-openings just adding to driver confusion, while for supporters the failure to see out the trial period will be a huge disappointment.
The local view is that after an overly extended implementation period the LTN was just beginning to function as planned with the residential streets carrying dramatically lower levels of motorised traffic, families starting to walk and cycle more, local businesses taking advantage of the released street-space and some using cycle deliveries.
There is a sense among supporters that the Mayor is primarily responding to a coordinated and vocal opposition campaign from motorists from both within and outside the ward, somewhat discounting the views of the many local residents who are in favour of the scheme.
It is also worth remembering that just under 50 per cent of Lewisham households do not have access to a car. The Mayor has called a public meeting on October 22 at 7pm where both sides will have an opportunity to express their views on the adjustments to the scheme.
The decision to allow motor vehicles through several of the filters, in one direction only, undermines the basic principle of an LTN that there should not be any through motor vehicle routes.
Fast moving through traffic will again blight the lives of Lee Green residents deterring people from walking and cycling. Narrow roads like Leahurst Road will go back to carrying the high levels of through traffic normally associated with a main road.
There have admittedly been issues with traffic displacement to adjacent areas which have been exacerbated by the extended implementation period of the LTN and continued contravention of the camera controlled filters.
However, local residents believe the traffic displacement issues could be alleviated by introducing further filters in these areas, expanding the LTN and bringing the benefits to more Lewisham residents.
The roll-out of LTNs across the borough is an established council policy and an essential element in its response to its declaration of a Climate Emergency.
All London boroughs are facing the same multiple critical issues – Climate Emergency, Covid19 epidemic, pollution crisis, obesity crisis and traffic danger, all of which are caused or exacerbated to a greater or lesser extent by motorised traffic.
LTNs are seen as the only proven way to solve these issues, particularly as there has been a relentless, and continuing, increase in motorised traffic on London’s residential streets over the past 10 years.
Other South London boroughs like Lambeth, Southwark and Greenwich are also grappling with these issues but are continuing their LTN roll-outs despite opposition.
As the current measures are temporary, being implemented under the Covid legislation, formal consultation with local residents would be needed before they become permanent. So this is a trial and it seems very pre-emptive to dramatically modify the scheme at this time rather than waiting for the end of the period.
Experience in other parts of London suggests associated reductions in traffic volumes due to “traffic evaporation, as people choose other active modes of transport or other routes, take quite a few months to take place.
In Ladywell there are many residents who are calling for similarly enforced reductions in through traffic in their residential areas and there is a long-standing active campaign in Brockley for filters to inhibit the traffic.
As we are all too aware much of this traffic ends up queuing on Vicars Hill every afternoon. Campaigners are concerned that although Mayor Egan has confirmed that he is still committed to LTNs, his watering down of the Lee Green one will make it harder for him to raise further funding from TfL/DfT and also face-down future opposition.