Northernlands 2 - Low traffic neighbourhoods: enabling a sustainable recovery
What has the coronavirus crisis taught us about rapid infrastructure changes that encourage different travel behaviours
This transcript comes from the captions associated with the video above. It is "as spoken".
Hi everyone. My name is Catriona Swanson and I'm a transport
planner at Arup leading on walk insight across the
North West and Yorkshire region. Today I'm going to be giving a few
thoughts about walking, cycling infrastructure particularly in light
of COVID-19. For me some of the silver linings of this awful
situation, but that many people have discovered or rediscovered
cycling, and that people are shopping more locally and using
the local high street more.
We're currently facing a number of crises while coronaviruses
dominating headlines the climate emergency hasn't gone away, and
while air quality improved at the beginning of lockdown, it's
rapidly deteriorating as the economy reopens as the cars come
back. Speaking in parliament earlier this year, Chris Boardman
said pick a crisis and you will probably find cycling as a solution.
Coronavirus wasn't on our radar at that point and Christ was talking
about climate, air pollution and health more generally. But
as usual, he was absolutely right and walking, cycling are a
key part of the government strategy to enable people to
travel safely. Re-open the economy and build back better.
So now more than ever, we really need to step up several gears and
start delivering the right infrastructure in the right
places as quickly as possible.
And like the climate, air quality emergencies, COVID-19 has
actually led to some relatively fast action on the ground in the
UK, including pop up cycle lanes in Leicester being delivered at the
rate of a mile a day and lots of trial modal filters springing up
in the forward-thinking London boroughs.
There really does seem to be the recognition
in most councils that fast and meaningful action needs to be
taken when we have more political will for enabling walking,
cycling than ever before.
Following the publication of statutory guidance from the
government as well as funding to deliver we should hopefully
see many more schemes implemented over the summer.
What I found really interesting about the guidance from the DfT
is that they recognize that cycle lane on main roads are not
necessarily the answer here. In normal times they're expensive,
controversial and take a long time to deliver. The DfT has
recognized even pop up cycle lanes using bolt down infrastructure
are tricky to deliver safely and quickly, particularly at junctions.
As a result, the DfT
have advised the quickest and cheapest way of reallocating
road spaces is point closures, including creating low traffic
neighbourhoods. These are areas where all through traffic is
prevented so that drivers have to use the main roads. This
creates safe and attractive environments on residential
streets for walking and cycling. I understand that quite a few
local authorities, including Leeds City Council and Salford
where I live, are facing a number of low traffic
neighbourhoods as part of their response. For once, I agree with
the government: low traffic neighbourhoods are the quickest
and cheapest way of
getting more people walking and cycling particularly for short
journeys, you also bring a lot of other benefits, including
less air and noise pollution. More civilized streets where
people can stop for a chat and kids can play out and stronger
local economies where people use their shops and high streets more.
But how I hear you all ask, does this link to data?
Well, data has never been more important, not only to identify
and prioritize schemes quickly and to ensure that we get good
value for money for schemes, but also to ensure that the address
of social justice issues that are exacerbated by climate
change, air pollution and COVID-19. For example, we know
that people on the lowest incomes, BAME communities and
disabled people are hit the hardest by all of these things.
There's a phrase 'you count what you care about'. For a very long
time the only thing many transport planners and highway
engineers have really cared about his maximizing traffic
flows, reducing journey times for motorists. As a result, we
have a dearth of data on cycling and particularly walking
However we do have lots of data on things like air quality,
deprivation, access to public transport, and car ownership
that we can use to prioritize load traffic neighbourhoods.
We can also use online platforms like
commonplace, Why do my path and even the traffic layer in
Google Maps as well as network planning techniques to identify
where there are issues with
rat-running or speeding to identify where measures are
needed. However, then collecting data gets really important.
Although low traffic neighbourhoods are relatively
quick and cheap to implement, they can be just as
controversial with local residents as cycle routes on main roads.
We need to make sure the collecting the evidence to
demonstrate that they work Waltham Forest have led the way
on low traffic neighbourhoods in the UK and they've been really good
at collecting data - a whole range of factors to demonstrate
the benefits of the approach. This includes the increase
in the amount of time spent walking and cycling improvements
in air quality and changes in
traffic levels on both the streets that have been filtered and on the main roads.
The data provide compelling arguments taking this approach.
Including evidence of traffic evaporation, and
huge improvements in air quality
and health. I put some really good qualitative evidence about
it as well, leading a quote from a lady who said that the
changes and doubled the time it takes to walk to the shops
because she stopped so often to talk to people. That kind of
data and feedback is really important because it means we
can move away from talking about these schemes as cycling
schemes and frame them in terms of the things that matter to
people who live there.
But despite the great work done by Waltham Forest, and other London
boroughs we've been really slow to roll them out in the rest of
the country. As I said before, the guidance from government on
COVID-19 explicitly recommends this approach meaning that councils
can legitimately tell their residents it's something that
they have to do as a result of COVID-19, and that the funding can
only be spent on these measures.
But while councils need to act quickly and get schemes done,
it's really important measures are monitored. Unfortunately, in
most cases we won't have much data from before COVID-19, but
traffic is fast returning to normal levels, collecting data
before and after schemes are implemented creates the evidence
base needed to demonstrate the
benefits. This evidence can then be used to make schemes permanent
and roll them out across towns and cities. That also means
councils can act quickly if something isn't working as
planned. So, in summary, the COVID-19 epidemic is giving us
the funding, guidance and political will to move faster on
active travel and embrace trials of measures like point closures.
But as important as ever to monitor schemes so we make the
most of this opportunity to build back better.
Thanks very much for your time.
Senior Transport Planner
Catriona is a walking and cycling infrastructure specialist and a chartered town planner, with more than 11 years’ experience and a record of securing funding for and delivering award-winning walking and cycling infrastructure across the North West and Yorkshire.
Projects include a number of ambitious walking and cycling infrastructure schemes for Salford City Council, one of the foremost local authorities on walking and cycling infrastructure nationally. Catriona led a multi-million-pound programme to upgrade Salford’s traffic-free network, designed to meet the diverse needs of users and to maximise the numbers of people choosing active travel methods. She also worked on Chapel Street East Phase 1 which was awarded the Healthy Streets Proposal of the Year Award.
Nothernlands 2 is a collaboration between ODI Leeds and The Kingdom of the Netherlands, the start of activity to create, support, and amplify the cultural links between The Netherlands and the North of England. It is with their generous and vigourous support, and the support of other energetic organisations, that Northernlands can be delivered.