Don't treat low traffic neighbourhoods as 'political football', cycling charity urges government

Rishi Sunak's Conservative government positioning itself as "pro-motorist" with reviews of LTNs and 20mph speed limits incoming

A Low traffic neighbourhood in Birmingham
(Image credit: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

The government should not use low traffic neighbourhoods as a "political football", Cycling UK has said.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used an interview with the Sunday Telegraph to lay out his opposition to low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), which he portrayed as "anti-motorist". LTNs, schemes that seek to promote walking and cycling by stopping motor vehicles from using certain local streets as cut-throughs, rose in popularity during the pandemic.

“The vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and are dependent on their cars," he wrote. "When I’m lucky enough to get home to North Yorkshire, it’s more representative of how most of the country is living, where cars are important.

“I just want to make sure people know that I’m on their side in supporting them to use their cars to do all the things that matter to them.”

The Conservative government is also considering further restricting councils' ability to create safer roads by using 20mph schemes, the Guardian reported on Sunday evening.

Sarah Mitchell, Cycling UK's chief executive said on Sunday that it was "lazy" to label LTNs as "anti-car", and that they were popular.

 “Rather than attempting to pit drivers, cyclists and pedestrians against one other through divisive rhetoric, and turning low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) into a political football, the government should be celebrating their popularity and success," she said in a statement.

“Evidence shows LTNs are overwhelmingly popular, and their support only increases once they’ve been implemented and people see the benefits. It’s lazy to label LTNs anti-car, people want to be less car dependent. Liveable neighbourhoods give people the opportunity to drive less and cycle more, consequently enjoying cleaner air, safer streets and less traffic and congestion.

“LTNs are not always a magic bullet on their own," Mitchell continued. "They need to be designed in consultation with communities and may need additional measures, such as investment in healthy and sustainable alternatives. This will ensure they reduce traffic overall rather than simply sending it elsewhere.

"If done well, their benefits are enormous. That's why Cycling UK is urging the government to encourage their take up - for the benefit of everyone in our communities, and for the planet."

July was the hottest month ever recorded in human history according to the United Nations, with its general secretary António Guterres saying last week: "Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived."

On Monday, Sunak announced the approval of about 100 new North Sea oil and gas licences, claiming the move would help the UK reach its target of meeting net zero by 2050. This is something environmentalists and many scientists have disagreed with.

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