'Safer cycling is not enough: Driving has to become harder'

Cycle commuting in central London

LTNs and cycle lanes aim to promote walking and cycling - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Not every cycle lane or Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) proposal can be a good idea. But the congestion and pollution they cause are not reasons to object.

As everyone knows, LTNs and cycle lanes aim to promote a ‘modal shift’ from driving to active travel – walking or cycling. We need this shift to reduce congestion and pollution on London roads. But LTNs and cycle lanes restrict road space for motor vehicles and in the short term increase congestion. However, that is not an accident. It is deliberate.

How could that be a good thing? The modal shift we need is not people no longer driving. It’s about replacing some car journeys with walks or rides. There is plenty of scope; many car journeys are short. But no one will tell us which car journeys to replace. No app pings you. We car owners have to work it out.

Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum's Stephen Taylor says we need to "think seriously and creatively" about Hampstead's future.

Stephen Taylor says that not every LTN proposal can be a good idea - Credit: Archant

This is Plan B for modal shift. Plan A was more fun and more fair: talk up active travel and wish very hard. Plan A failed: as long as driving is convenient, car owners prefer to drive. Making cycling safer is not enough. Driving – and parking – has to become harder.

There are other ways than restricting road space; other cities explore them. Our Congestion Charge is a form of road pricing. Set high enough it could clear the roads – for the rich. Or we could use our cars only on certain days, according to the number plates. If you want such schemes you should lobby for them. 

Restricting road space is hard on the few who must drive. Their journeys get slower and more polluted, while other car owners work out which journeys we would now rather walk, cycle or scoot. For the sake of everyone breathing, let’s get that done.

To keep this in perspective, only two in five Camden households own a car at all – and a third of car journeys are under 2,000 metres.

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LTN and cycle-lane proposals need scrutiny. But useful objections, please; not that they will cause congestion. That is not a flaw in the plan: it is the plan.