London's emergency services show support for LTNs

Fire engines.

In a recent report the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said attendance times have not been affected by LTNs. - Credit: LFB

London's emergency services have expressed their support for low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).

In its report, Fire Facts – Incident Response Times 2020, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) said last week: “We haven’t yet noticed any impact on our attendance times due to the LTN schemes established in 2020."

The report, published on March 29, said the LFB will continue to monitor the impact of LTNs, at a local level. 

 "LTNs have been part of London’s transport strategy since the 1970’s. LTNs help to make streets around London easier to walk and cycle.”

But the London Ambulance Service said it recognises that changes to road layouts, traffic management schemes, and road closures "all have the potential to impede" responses to "the most critically ill patients and could delay life-saving treatments or their conveyance to the nearest emergency department".

However, they said: “the trust does not support withdrawing funding for active travel measures.”

Hatzola, a volunteer ambulance service, believes its ability to operate is being "impeded" by road restrictions and urged the council to "reconsider" the measures in a letter to Mayor Philip Glanville in January this year.

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.

While some residents are in favour of the scheme, others say it has caused more traffic on the main roads.

Jo Finburgh has lived off Homerton High Street for 11 years.

In that time, she explained “the rat run traffic has been unbelievable” stating she often has to wait over five minutes with her children on the way to school to cross small back roads, breathing in car pollution.

She said the school run was considered a dangerous activity until local roads were blocked to rat-runners with several children having been hit by commuters "tearing through tiny streets".

Traffic filter implemented on Powell Road in Hackney Downs

A traffic filter implemented on Powell Road in the Hackney Downs low traffic neighborhood which does not use bollards to ensures the emergency services pass through.  - Credit: Hackney Council

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LTNs have vastly improved her and her children’s lives. “They are an absolute necessity if we are to protect our health and urgently address the climate crisis by forcing people out of their cars, she added.”

Laura Cubitt, 41, a Hackney resident living close to Daubeney Fields, agrees the LTNs have been “wonderful.”

 “Traffic noise and pollution has reduced significantly. The streets are far safer for children and we’ve seen a huge leap in pedestrians passing through to use Daubeney Fields. I would be very sad to see it put back to the pre-LTN state.”

Laura-Louise Fairley, 35, mother to a five-year-old living in Hackney, has also loved the introduction of LTNs. She said: “Before, the traffic on the commute to school was so bad that I'd find myself wheezing at night from my asthma, and I could taste the pollution on the journey.”

Fairley is worried about bringing her daughter up close to a main road, adding: “Hackney was – and still is – choking with pollution.

"At least the LTNs have given us something to hope for.”

Other residents have criticised the scheme, including Hannah Bee, who lives on Brooksby’s Walk. She was unhappy there was no prior public consultation or discussion with the emergency services, and said: “Those of us on main roads experience greater traffic. Both of my neighbours either side have chronic lung conditions which are being made worse during a respiratory pandemic.”

Bady Josh, 33, said: “All the roads are blocked in Hackney. It’s a nightmare for people who desperately need to use cars for work and other purposes.”

A Hackney council spokesperson said: “We welcome these comments from the emergency services, which reflect the feedback we have had from emergency services locally.

"We consult the local emergency services on each of the schemes that the council proposes. As a result of this consultation the majority of our Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes have open closures that are controlled by CCTV, not bollards. This allows emergency services to drive through without being delayed."

Residents can have their say online at rebuildingagreenerhackney.commonplace.isor or in writing.