Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTN)

The key principle of an LTN is that an area of residential streets become a sanctuary from ‘through traffic’.

This means that residents- and services for them- can still drive and park on their street, but simple measures like bollards or planters are used to make access one way or at slower speeds. This discourages motorists who don’t live in the area using it for cutting through onto main or ‘distributor’ roads.

Such schemes enable children to play outside more and foster a greater sense of community between neighbours, especially when combined with “pocket parks” featuring trees, benches and flowers. They also boost the number of people walking and cycling for shorter journeys.

Walthamstow, London

In 2014 Waltham Forest was one of the winners of the ‘Mini Holland’ competition – to boost cycling in outer London boroughs – and was awarded £27m.

They spent the money creating segregated cycle lanes on main roads and providing secure bike storage in streets and at train / tube stations. Thousands of school kids and adults were also trained to cycle. In addition to this ‘Copenhagen’ pedestrian crossings were introduced, and bollards / planters were used to close many streets to through traffic. Many of these streets had new trees planted and 30 pocket parks were created in total.

In terms of results, there's been a 103% increase in cycling, and walking has risen by 32 minutes a week per resident. NO2 exposure was cut by 15 to 25%. Many residents have expressed how much they love the changes, and traffic levels on 12 key roads in the area fell by 56%, or 10,000 fewer vehicles a day,

Barcelona: superblocks

Image: Agéncia d'Ecologia Urbana de Barcelona

Let’s fill the streets with life!

A ‘superblock’ consists of an area 3 streets by 3 streets; within this mini- neighbourhood access is restricted to resident and delivery vehicles only, and they must enter at a greatly reduced speed of 7 mph. The idea is to create ‘citizen spaces’ where residents can socialise, create pocket parks, have picnics, concerts etc. and children are safe to play.

The plan was a response to that fact that Barcelona is extremely densely populated (16,000 people per m2) and the number of cars was making the city unliveable in terms of congestion, air pollution and traffic noise.

A 2017 study concluded that the cumulative impact of these issues was roughly 3,000 cases of premature mortality a year.

The first superblock was introduced in 2017 in Poblenou, in the north of the city, and was met with opposition by car owners and also those who claimed it would be ruinous to local business.

However, opposition has faded as residents have begun to enjoy the benefits of a traffic-free neighbourhood. There are also 30% more local businesses than previously and a significant increase in the numbers of people making journeys on foot or cycling.

Superblocks were complemented by the introduction of 300km of new cycling lanes, and reformation of the bus system so that most apartment blocks are no more than 300 metres from a bus stop– and average waiting times reduced from 14 to 5 minutes.

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