Improving Road Safety with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

Hokman Wong (specialist brain injury solicitor at Islington firm Bolt Burdon Kemp) looks at the evidence for making streets safer with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.

Following a period of decline, road fatalities and serious injuries have plateaued from 2010. The need to improve this situation has now been in part recognised by the Department of Transport. In 2020 there were two consultations (road policing review and review of the Highway Code) on aspects of this problem.

In August 2020 I wrote about how low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) may help drive improvements in road safety and reduce road danger in Islington. Seven months on there has been a study on the effect of LTNs on road traffic injuries; and findings from Islington Council’s LTN six month monitoring report have been published. So what do these studies these tell us about how LTNs can help reduce the numbers of people killed and injured on our roads?

Islington Council LTN six month monitoring report

An LTN is an area in which “through” motor vehicle traffic is discouraged or removed. As well as reducing overall traffic levels, research has shown that LTNs can help to improve air quality, reduce noise pollution and make streets safer for people to walk and cycle and children to play.

In July 2020, Islington’s first LTN was put in place in St Peter’s Ward on an experimental basis with both residents’ and users’ views being collected during the experimental period. After an 18 month experimental period a final decision will be made. Islington Council’s six month monitoring report has been published and the key findings are:

  1. Traffic in streets within the LTN fell overall by 57%.
  2. Speeding (above the 20mph limit) on streets within the LTN fell by 65%.
  3. Overall across boundary roads, total volumes of motorised traffic showed a negligible change (-2%). Traffic on one boundary road (New North Road) rose by 32%.Journey times increased by an average of 26 seconds.
  4. There has been no significant impact on London Fire Brigade response times.
  5. As of 1st March 2021 there have not been any reported delays in London Ambulance Service response times.
  6. Air quality within the LTN has improved.
  7. There has been no significant impact on anti-social behaviour and crime rates.

The findings show significant reductions in traffic levels and speeding within the LTN. Intuitively one could reasonably conclude this ought to improve road safety. The study below sheds light on whether this is the case.

The Impact of Introducing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on Road Traffic Injuries

This study was published in January 2021. It looked at LTNs introduced in 2015 and 2016 in the London Borough of Waltham Forest and police injury data (STATS19) from 2012 to 2019. The findings were:

  1. Inside the LTNs, injury numbers fell three fold.
  2. There were no identifiable changes in injury numbers on the LTN boundary roads.
  3. Analyses of fatalities and serious injuries showed similar patterns to 1) & 2) but small numbers meant changes were not statistically significant.
  4. Traffic counts inside the LTN areas show motor vehicle trips fell by 56% from February 2014 to July 2016.

This study concluded that both absolute injury numbers and injury risk decreased substantially inside an LTN. The introduction of LTNs should be seen as an intervention that improves road safety as well as improving health through increased physical activity. Simultaneous interventions on boundary roads (e.g. building cycle tracks) may further enhance safety improvements.

Conclusion

The evidence above shows LTNs work to improve road safety within their boundaries. In some situations, there may be increased traffic on individual boundary roads, but this does not equate to increased numbers of injuries. Simultaneous interventions on boundary roads may counter any increased risk.

In the face of a failure to reduce the numbers of fatal and serious casualties on the UK’s road over the last decade and as traffic volumes have risen sharply on neighbourhood streets thanks to the take up of Sat-Nav technology, LTNs can be a much needed and effective tool to make our roads safer.

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