We hear this a lot about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. So let’s examine this issue.
Though most people in Croydon North didn’t vote for this government, we have to concede it won the election. So it must be quite hard to argue that one of the governments’ key projects it has delivered is not democratic.
Back in May, the Government issued its Statutory guidance: Traffic Management Act 2004: network management in response to COVID-19. It is worth quoting the first three paragraphs as it gives the background:
“The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has had a terrible impact on the lives and health of many UK citizens, as well as severe economic consequences. But it has also resulted in cleaner air and quieter streets, transforming the environment in many of our towns and cities.
And millions of people have discovered, or rediscovered, cycling and walking. In some places, there’s been a 70% rise in the number of people on bikes – for exercise, or for safe, socially distanced travel.
When the country gets back to work, we need them to carry on cycling, and to be joined by millions more. With public transport capacity reduced, the roads in our largest cities, in particular, may not be able to cope without it.”
Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, then ends with the following call:
“The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel. I’m pleased to see that many authorities have already begun to do this, and I urge you all to consider how you can begin to make use of the tools in this guidance, to make sure you do what is necessary to ensure transport networks support recovery from the COVID-19 emergency and provide a lasting legacy of greener, safer transport.”
As if that were not clear enough the government went on to publish Gear Change: A bold vision for walking and cycling where they amplify their ambition “to get England moving differently”.
The democratically elected Mayor of London and most democratically elected councils in London responded positively.
The Mayor set up the London Streetspace Plan which finances the schemes. This map shows where they are operating:
Now lets look at the two council wards on Auckland Island: Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood and South Norwood. As all six councillors come from the Labour Party (winning with hefty majorities only two years ago), lets revisit what they promised us in their election manifesto. Under Transport and our environment:
“Our plans will encourage and enable people to get out of their cars, for improved health and a cleaner and more pleasant environment for everyone. We will particularly focus on reducing the number of short car journeys that could be made by more sustainable alternatives and on encouraging a switch to less polluting vehicles.”
They go onto pledge “healthy and safer streets that encourage more walking to tackle our obesity crisis… and reducing the number of short car journeys that could be walked, cycled or taken on public transport.”
We would argue that our Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are the very embodiment of the council democratically carrying out its promises. Similar measures being brought in across the borough are already enabling even more people to benefit.
We expect all Labour councillors to support the policies outlined in their manifesto and not give in to the voices who want to destroy the advances that they have committed to. It is worth noting that Waltham Forest Councillors increased their vote after their Mini Holland experiment proved popular.
In conclusion, we can think of no other policy this millennium that is more democratic – a Conservative government, a Labour Mayor of London and a Labour Council all working together to try to improve our environment during a period of emergency.