'Women fear walking down car-less streets', say campaigners against LTNs
- Credit: Courtesy of Clair Battaglino
Women have written to Hackney's mayor about their experiences of low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), with some saying the measures have made them frightened to walk streets devoid of cars.
LTNs at Hoxton West, London Fields and Hackney Downs were installed by Hackney Council last year in a bid to encourage people to walk and cycle and help make Hackney’s streets cleaner, safer and less congested.
Hackney resident, Clair Battaglino, posted a compilation of messages about the LTNs to Mayor Philip Glanville for International Women's Day on March 8.
Clair says many of the people leading a campaign group known as Horrendous Hackney Road Closures on Facebook are women from all backgrounds - some are mothers and others carers of family members with disabilities.
“After exchanging ideas, feelings, concerns and experiences, we came to the realisation that nobody had thought about what women need our streets to be,” said Clair.
“These 'liveable streets' were turning out to be not so liveable for so many women in our community."
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One resident from London Fields, Clarissa Horilczenko, 47, said: “I don’t feel safe walking or cycling in the roads that are cut off from cars.”
Others shared Clarissa's concerns, saying they now feared being attacked or robbed on quieter streets in LTNs.
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In response, Mayor Glanville said: “No one takes away from the lived experience captured here, but we have also heard from residents, including women, who feel they are now able to walk and cycle more safely because of these changes."
He encouraged residents to share their views with the council, stating he is “keen to hear from women from as many backgrounds as possible” to help shape the council’s plans.
Other women explained how the measures have disrupted journeys.
Parent of three, Shiva Scott, said driving to her work in a school is her only “long-term option” with no direct routes via bus and long walking times.
She said: “Having a car enables me the flexibility of dropping and collecting my youngest child.
"It is difficult enough being a working parent with young children without the now added stress of worrying about being caught in traffic and being late for work or late collecting my child while trying to enter or exit the LTN where I live, with now limited routes available and extra congestion caused by the closures.
"I cannot avoid driving in my LTN as I live inside, yet residents get no exemptions."
Others like Christina Pitt, 64, told the mayor about the difficulties LTNs have caused her as a woman living with disabilities like fibromyalgia.
She is dependent on her car for travel and, due to asthma and diabetes which can exacerbate coronavirus, is avoiding public transport during the pandemic.
She said: “Why would you want to force vulnerable people out of their cars and onto public transport during a pandemic, when we were urged by health professionals not to use public transport and to keep ourselves safe in the best way possible - in our cars.
"As a disabled older woman, I feel seriously let down and betrayed by Hackney Council."
The council, however, says LTNs can benefit people with disabilities and can create “a safer, more pleasant environment for those with mobility impairments because of lower traffic levels and fewer cars making shortcuts".
A spokesperson said the council does "not want to make the lives of older and disabled residents harder”, adding: "We are looking in detail at residents’ comments in order to understand the impact of the measures on older and disabled residents and determine how we can address any potential issues.
“Our School Streets always have allowed exemptions for residents and blue badge holders."
Nurse and mum Alyson Prince told how the traffic restrictions have impacted her ability to look after loved ones.
She said: “I help care for my mum but now I spend more time sitting in traffic than seeing her. I can no longer help her to collect her shopping, so she struggles home with it."
Mayor Glanville said: "We value all contributions to this debate as we work to rebuild a greener Hackney for the benefit of everyone living in the borough, as well as future generations."
Residents can leave a comment at rebuildingagreenerhackney.commonplace.is or by writing to Freepost Streetscene.