Can’t afford to be anti-car

I’ve received lots of comments about Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), the experimental traffic schemes which Birmingham, like other councils, are trying. They designate areas, often one or two streets, as no car zones.

They have enthusiastic supporters and immediate beneficiaries are often keen. Less happy are those who have diverted traffic forced onto their roads.

I carried out my own survey. Over 80% of people, in one of the highest responses I’ve ever had, told me they supported measures to make walking and cycling safer. Fewer people use the bus as their main mode of transport than you might expect, which could be down to cost.

Over two thirds complained about measures in the Brandwood area. I haven’t been able to discover how areas were selected for LTNs, but to my knowledge there aren’t any in Billesley, but residents there experience knock-on effects and part of the displaced traffic is now on a walk to school route.

Traffic changes always generate controversy so it’s not surprising these measures are doing so. I’ve spoken to people on both sides. Most are reasonable but a small number have been downright abusive. That’s an unacceptable feature of modern politics especially on social media.

I raised my findings with the Leader of the Council who convened a meeting and set up a working group to examine the project.

I’m not against LTNs and welcome moves to improve air quality and make our streets safer, but those who experience adverse outcomes must also be heard. A young Councillor McCabe was the architect of many of the city’s early bus priority and traffic calming schemes. I’ve always believed experiments like this need extensive consultation.

There are those who are passionately anti-car and practise what they preach and those who seem to be anti-other people’s car, but there’s over 500 automotive businesses, employing thousands across the West Midlands.

We can’t afford to be anti-car but we can be anti-pollution. It’s in that context that I think about these experiments but I caution, no good comes from policies which maximise satisfaction for a few and ignore the frustrations of others.

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