LTNs reveal 'tale of two Hackneys', says campaigner

Hackney traffic filter in Middleton Road.

Traffic filters like this one in Middleton Road, Hackney, are at the centre of a debate about LTNs and their impact on disadvantaged communities. - Credit: Gary Manhine

Residents have been invited to have their say on low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) before Hackney Council decides on whether to make them permanent.

The consultation comes as the High Court mulls whether the scheme is rightful - following complaints. The first stage of engagement on London Fields and Hoxton West LTNs is set to end on August 1.

Both of those LTNs were introduced in September as part of plans to rebuild a greener Hackney after the pandemic by encouraging people to walk, cycle and shop locally. 

But some residents have protested the scheme. The group Horrendous Hackney Road Closures (HHRC) has mounted a judicial review, which commenced at the High Court on June 30.

Hoxton West LTN.

The council consultation period for Hoxton West LTN is set to end on August 1. - Credit: Gary Manhine

Anti-LTN campaigners argue that the road measures, which prevent or limit through traffic on some streets, have merely shifted cars and congestion onto main roads causing more pollution for the disadvantaged.

HHRC campaigner Clair Battaglino said: “There are a lot of people with lower incomes [and] from the Black and minority ethnic community who live in social housing on Amhurst Road, on Dalston Lane [and] Graham Road.

“Schools on the main road are very high in terms of deprivation. You don’t get the sons and daughters of our councillors attending City Academy on Homerton High Street or Mossbourne School.”

Congestion photographed outside Mossbourne Parkside Academy on May 12.

Congestion photographed outside Mossbourne Parkside Academy on May 12 as children leave school. The Hackney school is located off Dalston Lane which is a main road. - Credit: Clair Battaglino

Clair, who lives on a main road, believes that rather than the council waging a war on cars, “it’s actually a war on pedestrians and poor people”.

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The former teacher, who has worked in some of the most "deprived schools" in Hackney and Islington, called it a “tale of two Hackneys” adding: “It’s not about, wanting to drive everywhere.

“We all want less pollution."

Clair worries that many Hackney residents may not have taken part in the “complicated” consultation process. She says there are plenty of other ways to discourage car ownership such as the alternate parking system in Manhattan, where "nobody owns a car".  

A traffic filter on Richmond Road. 

A traffic filter on Richmond Road. - Credit: Gary Manhine

Still, coordinator of the Hackney Cycle Campaign Jono Kenyon says LTNs are not about “displacing traffic on to main roads”, but instead about putting traffic “back on main roads”.

Hackney Cycle Campaign is part of a coalition of charities supporting LTNs in the borough.

Jono added: “I don’t think the evidence supports this notion that disadvantaged people predominantly live on main roads.”

A Hackney traffic filter

Low traffic neighbourhoods are made up of various traffic reducing measures such as traffic filters and School Streets. - Credit: Hackney Council

The road safety campaigner pointed to a study, conducted by Westminster University’s Active Travel Academy with climate charity Possible.

It reports that across London about 90 per cent of people live on residential streets, with few disparities across demographic differences including income, ethnic background, disability and access to a car.

Jono says the aim is to get people out of cars “unilaterally” so that all people, including people living on main roads, can benefit from greener and safer streets. 

He says LTNs can improve road safety and help prevent road injuries and deaths in Hackney as well as combat health issues such as obesity.

The latest government figures show there were 114 casualties from road traffic incidents in 2019.

Jono lives on the edge of a 40-year-old LTN in Finsbury Park.

“Nobody would ever dream of ripping it out,” he said.

“LTNs are not new to Hackney. They are not new to anywhere – lots of parts of the country have cul-de-sacs or estates which don’t have traffic running through them."

In the last seven years, the miles driven on Hackney’s roads has increased by 40 million, nearly all of which - according to London-wide Department for Transport statistics - has ended up on neighbourhood streets not built to cope with large traffic volumes. 

Annual traffic by vehicle type in Hackney, Department for Transport statistics. 

Annual traffic by vehicle type in Hackney, Department for Transport statistics. - Credit: Department for Transport

Government figures show a gradual decline in traffic in Hackney until 2013 when the numbers began to increase. Jono attributes this increase to the rise in Sat Nav use.

Residents can have their say on the London Fields and Hoxton West LTNs by 1 August at