There has been a huge amount written about the 15-minute city with the emphasis on glamorous city centres in global cities. The reality though is that the 15-minute city is perhaps less likely to find its fullest expression in those city centres where relatively few people live than in local urban high streets and town centres.
When we add the impact of the pandemic, with more people working from home and making use of local shops and services, these local centres have even greater potential to become the heroes of sustainable living.
If you are keen to get involved in the local elections that are coming up on 5th May, London Living Streets has put together a vision that sets out how the Councillors that are elected can help make the borough they live in and London overall a great place to walk.
We are asking candidates to embrace policies that enable people to walk by improving the opportunities and experience for all abilities and ages to use our streets without fear of vehicle danger. Please do discuss these issues with Councillor candidates and let us know who is up for this kind of change.
The Vision is based around 5 main themes:
1. Clear footways.
2. Reducing the dominance and volumes of motor traffic on our streets.
If you could take a few minutes to repond to the survey before the deadline of 6th October perhaps including some or all of the following that would be really appreciated
London Living Streets supports:
1. The retention of the increase in the charge to £15 and the removal of Autopay discount. We wish to see mechanisms for future regular increases in the charge at above inflation levels with the potential to link the CCZ charge to the achievement of the traffic reduction targets set out in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.
2. The principle of charging at the weekend.
Overall we believe that if the Mayor wants people to come into the CCZ area to socialise at weekends and evenings, it makes no sense to encourage people to drive in thus creating an unpleasant, polluted and unsafe street environment at the same time that many who have arrived by public transport and active forms of travel are using the streets (as part of the night-time economy). Enabling driving into this part of central London will have the effect of making London more dangerous for people walking and cycling, because of increased traffic volumes. It is vital that we remember that across the Inner London boroughs almost two-thirds of households do not have access to a motor vehicle. While we need to enable access for those who are disabled, in the light of the MTS targets and now the climate emergency, the priority is to support those who make use of active forms of travel (walking, cycling and public transport). To be enabling driven journeys in this way is contrary to transport policy in London.
London Living Streets recommends:
1. That owing to the numbers of people walking, cycling and using public transport in the evenings, that the charge should continue until 10pm on all seven days of the week and that the charging period at weekends should begin at 7am. Overall we believe that ending the charge at 6pm will be a retrograde step that will reduce London’s efforts to a) improve air quality, b) reduce CO2 emissions and c) meet Vision Zero obligations. A specific analysis of the impact of the earlier end to charging should appear in the impact assessment.
2. That the discount for residents is excessive and should be reduced significantly.
3. That a far wider principle of charging for motor vehicles using London’s roads is needed and that for many reasons (inc reducing road danger, improving air quality and reducing CO2 emissions) London needs to move on very quickly to a London-wide universal smart road pricing system (potentially as set out by the Centre for London in 2019 in its report https://www.centreforlondon.org/publication/road-user-charging/)
Here is something you may have seen, but never heard of – al fresco streets! And you won’t have heard of them because the term has only just been invented by some enterprising officers at Wandsworth Council. In fact, this Council may be in the forefront of a move to transform some London streets in wholly unexpected ways.
The basic idea is to turn suitable streets into places where people on foot really are top dog. Motor traffic is largely or completely excluded and all parking suspended. This happens either at weekends or every day. In summer, and perhaps all year round. The al fresco street takes off from the already hugely popular ‘streateries’ (the name given to what has been done in Soho) that have caught on all over the country with restaurants during the Covid epidemic[i] — the difference being a ‘whole street’ treatment (individual businesses do not have to apply for permission to spread across the road) and the exclusion of motor traffic.
It was the Covid pandemic that kicked off these ideas. Lockdown rules (a constantly changing kaleidoscope, of course) ordered almost all retail outlets, pubs, wine bars, restaurants, coffee shops etc to close. And when they could eventually open, social distancing initially said patrons must stay outside. In early summer last year, Wandsworth Council identified two streets with a concentration of such businesses, and introduced the al fresco experiment. One was Northcote Road in Battersea, SW11, already a very popular shopping and eating out street. The other was Old York Road in Central Wandsworth, SW18. And most recently, a third street, part of Bedford Hill in Balham, SW12 is trialling a similar, temporary makeover. All three, during their operational times, are closed to delivery lorries, cars and other motor vehicles. Businesses are allowed to spread out seating and tables across the pavement and on to much of the carriageway, with the strict requirement that a wide passageway is left along the carriageway for pedestrians, disabled people and their mobility vehicles, and cyclists. In Northcote Road this happens at weekends only; in Old York Road, every day. Local circumstances, flexibility, experimentation are the name of the game in terms of what physical measures, traffic orders etc are introduced. And throughout, it is important that Officers considered the needs of disabled people, including ease of access and installation of dropped kerbs where these are missing.
Transport for London (TfL) had to re-reroute buses, now for the second year running. The Met was asked to review, and agreed, that adequate measures had been put in place to deter a terrorist attack. Businesses were brought on board. The pubs and wine-bars on Northcote Road agreed a community toilet scheme where everyone could use their facilities even if not drinking or eating at the particular establishment. Money was found for planters, water-filled barriers, even concrete caissons at certain locations. Traffic orders were drawn up to minimise inconvenience to residents on side roads needing to use their cars. None of this was easy.
We are now in the 2nd year of this experiment. It has proved immensely popular, not only with local people, but other Londoners from further afield. All day Saturday and Sunday, Northcote Road is awash with throngs of people, including many families. Eating and drinking establishments are obviously doing very well. Retail shopkeepers, particularly clothes shops on Northcote Road, had been very hesitant originally, but most are now seeing upturns in their turnover. And in the few weeks the Bedford Hill experiment has been going, local businesses and residents living on that stretch of the road are welcoming it with enthusiasm. One group there however, called One Wandsworth that was started last year in reaction to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Tooting, has filled the airwaves with a host of objections, often virulently worded, allegedly in the name of residents – to the removal of some parking.
There are examples of these al fresco streets elsewhere. A short stretch of Kensington Park Road in Notting Hill, W11. And, most delightful of all, Church Street in Twickenham which lies a stone’s throw from the Thames opposite Eel Pie Island.
Have you got any al fresco street in your part of London with a similar experiment in hand? And if so, do let us know (if possible sending a pic too), as well as what you think of it, and how it might be improved.
And if you haven’t, can you suggest a possible candidate street in your borough where your Council could try out the idea next summer? Do talk to your Ward Councillors and/or appropriate Council Officers and suggest they look into the idea.
And would you like a guided tour of one of Wandsworth’s al fresco streets? WANDSWORTH LIVING STREETS would be happy to show you around. And talk through the difficulties that can arise and how they can be overcome. We can also put your Borough Officers in touch with the relevant Officers in Wandsworth (and the Councillor responsible for the project) if they would like to learn more. Contact Robert Molteno, Secretary, Wandsworth Living Streets at Robert.Molteno@gmail.com
It has now been just over a year since the first Low Traffic Neighbourhoods were introduced in London in response to the first lockdown and initial monitoring results are in from 4 of the London boroughs that introduced them at that time – Islington, Hackney, Lambeth and Southwark.
We thought that it might be helpful to summarise what the results have been so far. If we have missed anything (highly likely!) then please do get in touch and we will amend and add to these findings.
There are a couple of things to note before we get to the results. Firstly, with the exception of Hackney, all of the final results have been adjusted (normalised) to take into account the changes that were occurring in traffic volumes (owing to the pandemic) across the borough/London at the time that the post-implementation monitoring took place. So hopefully like is being compared with like. In Hackney, the council has given other data to allow comparison but has not adjusted the figures.
Secondly, cycling numbers do appear to increase dramatically when LTNs are introduced. The exception seems to be in Islington but that appears to be because the pre-implementation research was done during summer 2020 and the post-implementation work was done in November 2020 and February 2021 when overall cycling numbers are likely to be far lower.
Thirdly, we have always thought from previous research in the Mini-Holland boroughs (Waltham Forest, Enfield and Kingston) that the big winners when LTNs are introduced are people on foot but unfortunately none of the data released so far captures the impact on walking. The available data to date therefore probably understates the active travel benefits of the new cohort of LTNs in London.
All of the raw data from the monitoring reports can be downloaded here. This spreadsheet has links to all of the Council monitoring reports.
So what have the results shown so far?
1. Motor traffic volumes.
All Roads. While there are exceptions, the trend is one of a reduction in overall traffic volumes (across the roads that are both internal and external/peripheral to the LTN) with an average decline of 8.6% in total traffic volumes across the 7 studies (5 Lambeth and 2 Southwark) where estimates are given of this measure.
Roads INSIDE the LTNs. There are 15 studies where we can assess the impact of the LTN on the volumes of traffic inside the LTN. There is an average decline of 45% in motor traffic volumes across the 15 studies with a maximum decline of 79% and a minimum fall of 17%.
Roads OUTSIDE the LTN. On average, across 15 studies traffic volumes on external/peripheral roads have increased by 4.5% with a maximum decline of 17% and a maximum increase of 44%. Across the 15 studies, there was a decline in traffic volumes on these roads in 7 studies and an increase in 8 studies.
All roads. Total cycling volumes were measured in 7 studies (Lambeth and Southwark). All studies saw an increase in cycling volumes with the average across the studies being a 63% increase in cycling (the range was maximum +135% and the minimum was +33%).
As noted earlier, the data for the internal and external roads is thrown by the dates of the Islington research but in Lambeth cycling on roads inside the LTNs averaged a 68% increase and on the periphery roads an increase of 62%.
Summary. So although these studies were often the first in a series of monitoring, is it reasonable to suggest the following?
There is solid evidence to suggest that on the roads inside an LTN motor traffic volumes are likely to fall by up to a half.
There is evidence to indicate that traffic evaporation is likely to occur when an LTN is introduced and that depending on the design and location of the scheme overall traffic volumes (inside and outside the LTN) will decline by more than 5%.
Again, depending on the design and location of the LTN, traffic on external/periphery roads may rise by up to 5% and that when LTNs are developed, complementary measures should also be delivered that work to reduce traffic on nearby main/boundary roads. London Living Streets has developed a checklist for what should be considered and this is summarised in the chart below.
Detailed Results. The detailed results are shown in the jpegs below and are brought together here.
 Making use of the data from Hackney as shown in the spreadsheet.
The hope is that, as we emerge from the pandemic, our high streets will return to the bustling places they were. But beneath the bustle an intense competition is taking place for access and space: walking, shopping, eating and drinking, parking, loading, sitting etc.
We’re deliberately seeking two distinct perspectives on this issue in order to illuminate it:
Mário Alves is Secretary-General of the International Federation of Pedestrians and a long-time advocate of providing good facilities for walkers. Mário will draw on work he’s doing as part of the Horizon-2020 MORE project as well as his broader experience.
John Crosk has been involved with Brewery Distribution for over 40 years. These days he is Vice Chairman of The Brewery Logistics Group (responsible for over 75% of London beer deliveries) and manages the Central London Freight Quality Partnership, which brings together London boroughs and freight operators.
Between them, our speakers know a lot about the subject under discussion and we look forward to a stimulating discussion, perhaps even a bit of a debate? Walking@Tea-Time is a joint initiative ofLondon Living Streets and the Active Travel Academy at University of Westminster
Your chance to quiz the London mayoral candidates on environmental matters. Our Friends at CPRE have organised an online debate for Mayoral candidates to forward their policies on nature, climate and our streets to London’s voters. If you want to cut air pollution, transform our streets, make walking easier, improve road crossings and end pedestrian deaths and injuries this is your chance to ask the next Mayor for them. It is being organised as part of the More Natural Capital campaign we have been working on as part of a coalition of environmental groups.
Getting to a railway station can be difficult. The railway line itself can act as a barrier, severing a community in half with limited connections including dingy tunnels, or poorly maintained and badly lit footbridges. The streets that link to the station are often heavily trafficked, polluted and unattractive. Station forecourts are generally designed around the needs of taxis rather than passengers.
This free event hosted by Urban Design Group and London Living Streets looks at best practice in providing inclusive access to railway stations, aiming to provide passengers travelling on foot, by bicycle or bus, safe, comfortable, attractive and direct routes, that will help to make railway use a first choice over the use of a car.
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:
Traffic in streets within the LTN fell overall by 57%.
Speeding (above the 20mph limit) on streets within the LTN fell by 65%.
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.
There has been no significant impact on London Fire Brigade response times.
As of 1st March 2021 there have not been any reported delays in London Ambulance Service response times.
Air quality within the LTN has improved.
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:
Inside the LTNs, injury numbers fell three fold.
There were no identifiable changes in injury numbers on the LTN boundary roads.
Analyses of fatalities and serious injuries showed similar patterns to 1) & 2) but small numbers meant changes were not statistically significant.
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.
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.
Emma Griffin, co-founder Footways, vice-chair London Living Streets
Central London was running at full tilt when we started work on Footways. Our network of quiet and interesting streets was designed to lure people out of crammed tubes and crawling taxis and onto streets where they could travel healthily and enjoy the city.
By the time we published our Central London Footways map with Urban Good last September, everything had changed. Footfall and spend in the centre had plummeted. London lost almost a quarter of a million jobs between March and the end of 2020, the highest fall in the UK (GLA). Arts, culture and London’s night-time economy were at particular risk.
But our network was even more relevant. People wanted the safety of distance that walking could provide. Months of lockdown strolls were already changing travel habits. According to a recent TfL report, 31% of Londoners said they are walking to places where they used to travel by a different mode.
But now we’ve got a roadmap out of the latest lockdown, we think it’s time to look further ahead – at central London’s future and the role that walking and brilliant public realm could play in that.
The next two years are critical — to bring people safely back to city centres on foot and bike; to revive the life on streets; to make most of new healthy travel habits; and to decarbonise our roads.
We’ve listed some research below to guide thinking, but tell us what you think in the comment box below.
How will your journeys into and around central London change?
How many days will you return to your central London office?
What do you miss in Zone 1 the most?
Which trips will you switch to walking? Would you walk all way from Inner London? Or the final leg from a mainline or hub station?
What needs to change in the centre to bring you back?
One prediction is that people will visit London less, but spend more time in the centre when they do, to make the most of its culture, entertainment and public spaces.
But attracting people to a “playground city” requires “more emphasis on quality of place, including the public realm”, says Arup, LSE and Gerald Eve in a recent interim report for Greater London Authority, adding that London’s rivals, especially Paris, “have taken significant action in this space already”.
We think this means much more space and amenities for people on foot, much less traffic and lower air pollution. It also requires boroughs and Transport for London to focus on the connections between destinations, as much as the destination themselves. After all, the best of London is experienced from the street.
The good news is we’re walking more
31% of Londoners say they are now walking to places where they used to travel by a different mode (TfL)
57% say they now walk more for exercise and 42% walk for longer than they did before (TfL)
But we can walk more and further
Before the pandemic, the average distance of a walk stage across all of London was just 320 metres. The average distance of a walk-all-the-way trip was 840 metres. (TfL)
Almost two-thirds of visitors to central London are Londoners, whose residence is concentrated in inner London.
Some of these journeys could be walked all the way and many can be walked the final leg from mainline stations and transport hubs.
Before Covid, approximately 3,125 people took the tube between Waterloo and Tottenham Court Road on an average weekday, a journey that could be walked in 25 happy minutes (especially on our Footways routes).
Analysis by a major employer in central London found that 9% of its 5,000 staff lived close enough to walk (in 15 minutes). A further quarter, who came from outside London into hub stations, could walk the final leg of their journeys.
The future of central London
Central London suffered more than cities such as Paris and New York largely because it has fewer residents. Just 45,000 residents live within 1.25km / 15-minute walk of Trafalgar Square, compared to 120,000 residents who live within 1.25km / 15-minute walk of Notre Dame de Paris. (Arup et al.)
The majority of central London’s workers come from inner London and many are missing the face-to-face contact of offices, events and meetings.
Almost half of the 2,000 office workers (46%) polled by British Council for Offices (BCO) said they intended to split their work between home and the office. 30% were set for a full, five-day-a-week return to the office, compared to 15% who planned to only work from home.
Creative people seem particularly keen to return to the office. Only 7% of marketeers planned to work from home full time, with 62% of this group stating they enjoy the creative exchanges that occur in the office (BCO).
But less commuting needn’t be a disaster for central London if people “save their retail and leisure spend for the days that they are in town” (Arup et al.).
This is an opportunity for central London to reimagine itself, to “cater for a new generation of experiences, for a new and improved public realm, for lower congestion, inclusive growth, improved air quality, a strengthened cultural offer, and for attracting new types of residents, whilst preserving the existing diversity” (Arup et al).
Footways prioritises connections between cultural destinations and mainline stations and hubs. Check out our walks to the British Museum, for example from Waterloo or Victoria, which merge the journey into the visit.
Footways also connects world-class public realm improvements already complete or planned including the West End Project, Cheapside, Strand Aldwych and Clerkenwell Green.
More local journeys
A mix of home and office working will also help local town centres and create an opportunity “to create a truly polycentric city … each with their own identity and specialisation” (Arup et al).
There is also possibility of increased leisure and night-time spend outside the centre, especially in inner London.
Again, walking is important, so people access and enjoy town centres on foot rather than car. More on this in a future blog.
What do you think?
Has London’s walking environment become even more important in the pandemic? How do you plan to travel in months to come? What needs to change in central London to bring people back?
Once London’s residential streets were places to walk, linger and play. Over the last century too many have become roads to drive through and park cars. This is changing. While some low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) have existed for decades, they have sprung up more recently first in Walthamstow and, in the last year, in many, especially inner, London boroughs. Having removed the through traffic, the next question is what should be done to create a greater sense of place so that people of all ages once again linger, chat and play. Children have been driven off the streets; do changes need to be made to bring them back? Walking@Tea-time will be exploring these issues, looking at how they have been addressed in Barcelona and the plans for a London-wide campaign, and what can be achieved.
David Harrison, London Living Streets, and transport historian, will briefly explore the history of London’s streets.
Our two main speakers who will assist us with our enquiries are:
Sílvia Casorrán, who works with the Superblocks Office in Barcelona City Council. Since July 2019 she has been the mobility councillor for Sant Martí District in Barcelona. Since 2003 she has been actively involved as an activist for the Association for the Promotion of Public Transport, for the Poblenou Neighbors Association, and for the Poblenou Superblock Association.
Brenda Puech, Hackney Living Streets and parklets activist, will talk about a new grassroots London-wide parklets campaign that seeks to transform London’s streets, making applying for a community spot, or cafe spill-out space along our streets, as easy as obtaining a car parking permit.