In this piece, two Camden Disability Action community reporters, Jill and Mik, and the project lead Tom talk about how Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) affect Disabled people, how they could be made more inclusive for Disabled people and the importance of cutting pollution.
Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, Camden Council has added 20 new road closures to the 80 already in place. Most of the new schemes consist of bollards blocking off single roads but some are more extensive than this, with multiple roads blocked.
The council has created these ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ (LTNs) to cut through traffic and pollution on residential streets, boost current trends towards increased cycling and walking and discourage people from using cars more than they already are.
The Town Hall says these changes will cut congestion, pollution and traffic accidents while boosting people’s wellbeing and local economies.
Mik on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods
Click here to listen to Mik talking about Camden’s LTNs.
Transcription of Mik’s audio
Low traffic neighbourhoods near me. I live in the Arlington road low traffic neighbourhood and I’ve a very mixed emotion about it. On one hand it is part of a bigger plan to cut traffic and that is, of course, good in the long run.
But for Disabled people I do not believe it has been implemented correctly. It has closed roads entirely. So, Jamestown road is now closed going towards Camden High Street which adds huge amounts of time to my journey as a driver but also if I was to get a cab. And cabs are one of the ways I get around for my work.
My journey has now added easily 10 to 15 minutes to get back to the same place I would have been at the start! (Mik)
And because of the other closures around the area as part of this… it means that my journey has now added easily 10 to 15 minutes to get back to the same place I would have been at the start of my journey. And because there are more going in all over Camden my ability to travel has been shrunk dramatically.
Now, that’s great! Less cars! The problem is I don’t have the same choice as other people. I cannot get the tube. It isn’t accessible. Camden has no accessible tube stations in Camden Town at all so I can’t get the tube. Buses are not viable for me for lots of my journeys. So it has to be a car or a cab.
Now, that’s great! Less cars! The problem is I don’t have the same choice as other people! (Mik)
I have a hand-cycle but it is not a viable means for getting around especially in winter. And because, again and again I keep saying these things, but there is a public sector equality duty for Camden Council to ensure Disabled people are not negatively impacted by their policies. That’s exactly what’s happened!
A solution I feel would be that there was the use of technology. That cameras filmed and let blue badge holders for they are recorded and mobility care..are recorded. They are charged for congestion charge. So they could be allowed in. You could register for a congestion charge exemption which would mean you could then register that car to be allowed into those zones. And taxis could also be allowed the same right, which would then mean that I wouldn’t be paying huge sums extra for a journey that is my only means of getting places. And I think if that happens then you’re starting to make it fair.
The other thing that has to happens is..you can hire a bike you cannot hire a handcyles, you cannot hire a tricycle and until we start to understand that there has to be schemes that allow those people that can use alternative methods like cycles, like bikes, like walking then you know, that’s no good.
And also, can we do the pavements up! If we’re going to have low car neighbourhoods can we make it so you can actually walk somewhere?! You know the pavements in Camden are appalling. They’re all full of A-boards, they’re all uneven, they’ve not been maintained so until we actually get a uniform approach, low traffic neighbourhoods just aren’t ready to go! And it’s ridiculous to use this period as if yeah that’s the panacea it’s going to cut traffic! Because it isn’t! And there you go, I’ll get off me soap box.
But the big question is: if pollution kills a lot of people is it a good idea to cut it?
You can cut the traffic, but they need to talk to people first before putting these things in and expecting us to follow new rules. The changes mean our journeys take longer and cost us more in petrol.
The solution to pollution can’t make our lives harder in other ways. What’s needed is solutions that work together. Many of us can’t use public transport or cycle easily so have to use cars and taxis.
The solution to pollution can’t make our lives harder in other ways. (Mik)
If our public transport was accessible, pavements safe and accessible, bike hire schemes included adapted cycles & taxis were all electric, changing roads so cars couldn’t use them would be great for everyone. The way it’s being done right now really only works if you aren’t disabled yet both sides of the argument keep trying to use us to support their side.
Pollution is bad but so us being trapped at home because you can’t get around like you used to. It’s not about being for or against ideas like low traffic neighbourhoods but wanting them not to discriminate against disabled people by taking away choices. They could work for everyone but aren’t being made that way right now.
Click here to listen to Tom’s question.
Transcript of Tom’s audio
Just playing devil’s advocate for a moment. If the cameras were to allow taxis through as well as blue badge holders what’s to stop any Tom, Dick and Harry using taxis to go through those areas all day and all night more or less which would mean the traffic would be busy still? So how would we keep it to just disabled people or emergency vehicles?
Key is to make taxis part of the public transport system. It’s impossible to know when there’s a disabled person in one, but that isn’t a reason to ban them. Reasonable adjustments and Public Sector Equality Duty would expect taxis to be allowed just as blue badge holders. Easy to do using the Congestion Charge system. They’re both exempt already so no need to develop anything new.
Cutting all traffic except cabs & blue badge holders would make huge cuts in pollution. Especially if after a period only electric cabs were given exemptions. Once the charging tech was in place. Same goes for the accessibility of public transport. Once London matches Barcelona they could stop the blue badge exemption and give them only to those who cannot use public transport.
To read Transport for All’s report on the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on Disabled people click here
To read information on the effects of pollution read here
To read an article on the economic effects of low traffic neighbourhoods click here
To read about the effects of low traffic neighbourhoods on traffic injuries click here
To read about the effects of low traffic neighbourhoods on congestion click here