Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in UK: Purpose and Annoyance – Colossal Controversy

In 2016, Public Health England released a guide for local authorities to promote active travel as a solution to physical inactivity. Physical inactivity costs the UK billions of pounds a year when its impact on NHS, social care, absence from work caused by illness and other factors are considered. On 23rd May 2020, the UK government announced funding to local authorities in England for active travel schemes and encouraged them to make the changes as soon as possible. As a result, most London councils (by following the guidance by Transport for London) and some other cities in England started introducing modal filters to create Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) to access the government funding.

A cyclist going into a Low Traffic Neighbourhood using a modal filter
A modal filter into a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jackfifield/50579500182/in/photostream/)


  • Neighbourhoods closed to through traffic get less noise, less pollution & more space for activities
  • Encourages the use of alternative travel options which reduces car ownership and overall traffic in the area
  • Fewer interruptions to the flow of traffic on the main roads caused by side roads
Before and after of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Emphasises traffic displacement and reduction of overall cars
Cars on the side roads displaced onto the main roads but fewer cars overall


  • More vehicles on the main roads caused by the lack of parallel routes
  • Rise in pollution levels on the main roads due to the increased number of vehicles
  • Significant increase in driving distance for short journeys
Short journeys significantly lengthened by Low Traffic Neighbourhood modal filters
Short journeys can take significantly longer with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

What do you think about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods?

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have their pros and cons and it is probably one of the most controversial topics of the decade. Are you happy with the changes or do you think they should be reversed? Make sure your opinion is heard by your local authority.


5 thoughts on “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in UK: Purpose and Annoyance – Colossal Controversy

  1. Thanks for acknowledging that the boundary streets DO have permanently increased traffic as a result. Every LTN is creating an HTN somewhere else.

    These boundary roads are also residential streets, with families suffering increased noise and air pollution. This is rarely acknowledged. As it stands, the LTN policy is one of NIMBYism: supported by people who benefit because they live on an improved street, at the expense of others on the boundary streets.

    The schemes have another major negative which doesn’t factor in policy thinking: they set neighbour against neighbour, destroying the social harmony of previously happy neighbourhoods. A quick glance at the arguments on Nextdoor or similar forums is enough to witness this.

    1. I suspect any neighbour would be set against you on most issues. Please tell, where do stand on tower blocks?

    2. You are correct – boundary roads should be made low traffic as well, and private cars made very expensive to own and drive in the city.

  2. It is very dangerous to treat LTNs as monolithic – some work significantly better/worse than others depending on their relation to the wider transport network. It’s also important to note that against a covid background under which people are avoiding public transport and using the transport network differently than usual, it is impossible to separate which impacts are covid-related and which are LTN-related, as well as which are both, and which are neither.

    In some cases, peripheral roads have *much* higher capacity for vehicle throughput than those inside the LTN (and thus can soak up the extra vehicles with minimal extra congestion) and tend to have houses set further back from the road than do internal residential streets – not all the time, but this is something to consider as danger from some key pollutants drops exponentially with distance from roads, whilst other pollutants are so dispersed that you’ll be exposed no matter where in an urban environment you live. However, the above certainly does not always apply and needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    My other argument (being tentatively pro-LTN, context dependant) is that we will never resolve congestion problems with minuscule steps like adding more speed bumps or re-timing lights. Fundamental change is necessary, and the evidence so far suggests that people are mostly unwilling to change their habits without a lot of coercion. So, things like LTNs are necessary. There will naturally be winners and losers in the short term, but I would like to think that over the long term such schemes will reduce the total amount of travel by single-occupancy vehicles and everyone will benefit.

    NB: I live on the border of inner/outer London and cycle commute 8mi through/around LTNs a few days a week (despite not living in one), and have since October last year – so have quite a bit of personal experience!

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