Low-traffic neighborhood plans reduce air pollution on nearby roads

Schemes aimed at reducing traffic on certain streets have been accused of increasing road air pollution at their borders, but a London study found the opposite to be true.


November 24, 2022

Low traffic neighborhood in London

Eleventh Hour Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

Low-traffic neighborhoods (LTNs), which use giant farms, barriers and cameras to restrict vehicular access to residential streets, result in less traffic volume and nitrogen dioxide pollution within their perimeter and on boundary roads, according to a study of three such neighborhoods. schemes in London. The findings contradict claims by anti-LTN activists that the regions are merely shifting traffic and pollution to their borders.

“Not only is there less traffic and air pollution within LTNs as you would expect, but we also found some reductions in border areas, particularly in terms of air pollution,” says Audrey de Nazel of Imperial College London. “Concern about air pollution is no reason not to support LTNs.”

Over the past three years hundreds of LTNs have been introduced in towns and cities across the UK in an effort to cut traffic and air pollution and make residential streets safer to walk and roam. Traffic is usually restricted from certain streets, with pedestrians and cyclists allowed to pass unimpeded.

But the measures have drawn fierce opposition, with some residents and activists claiming that LTNs displace traffic and pollution from the wealthier residential streets within the district to the poorer communities living on its fringes. LTN barricades, like planters, have been vandalized and overturned in local conflicts.

To find out whether air pollution claims are accurate, de Nazel and her colleagues looked at three LTNs installed in the London borough of Islington in 2020, assessing the impact of traffic and air pollution within LTN areas and in the surrounding area using data provided by local government. The team looked at each region in the months before and after the introduction of LTNs.

They found that nitrogen dioxide concentrations decreased by 5.7 per cent within the LTNs and by just under 8.9 per cent at its borders, compared with the change in concentrations at other Islington sites not subject to any traffic interventions, which served as a control group. . Meanwhile, the volume of traffic decreased by more than half within the long-term networks and by 13 percent on the border roads after the implementation of the schemes.

De Nazelle says more research is needed to confirm the findings on a larger scale, but the findings chime with broader research on the benefits of LTNs in reducing traffic accidents and increasing rates of walking and cycling.

“What we find is not a surprise, we expect to find it elsewhere,” de Nazel says. “We have sufficient evidence that LTNs are beneficial to community and community members. There is no evidence of harm in border areas.”

Journal reference: Transport Research Part DDOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2022.103536

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