Tory government minister says that no one group should be allowed to veto schemes that close roads to rat-runners. By JEREMY CLACKSON, transport correspondent
The Tory government has announced £175million extra funding for a new wave of traffic reduction schemes to encourage more people walk and cycle.
Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes have been introduced across the country, including in Croydon, since the first covid-19 lockdown, in an effort to influence public habits and reduce car use, especially for shorter journeys.
The Transport Ministry is telling councils that they should also not be derailed by a minority of noisy opponents to the LTNs and other traffic-reduction measures.
When announcing the measures, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, pointed to polling which shows significant support for such measures. The money will be allocated to councils partly for new cycle lanes and better pedestrian facilities, as well as LTNs.
In Croydon, some of the roads which have been closed to motor traffic have had more permanent bollard concreted in place in the past couple of weeks, after the wooden planters which were first used had been vandalised repeatedly. “This will save us money by not having to repair or replace damaged planters,” a council source said. “The new concrete blocks and steel bollards will be more difficult to vandalise.”
Announcing the funding, part of a wider £2billion allocation for walking and cycling unveiled in May, Shapps said councils should produce reports on LTNs after six to 12 months, and adapt them based on feedback.
But in a pointed message to some councils which have abandoned LTNs or other walking and cycling schemes following protests, Shapps stressed they are generally popular, with one poll showing 65 per cent of people across England back the reallocation of road space to cyclists and pedestrians in their local area.
In London, an independent poll showed that while 19 per cent of people oppose the schemes, 52 per cent support them and 25 per cent are neutral.
Shapps is sending a letter to all councils receiving the money to remind them that consultation on LTNs and other schemes should involve objective gauges such as polling, rather than “listening only to the loudest voices or giving any one group a veto”.
“Very few changes to anything will command unanimous support, and we do not ask it for these schemes,” he wrote. “But there is clear evidence that for all the controversy they can sometimes cause, ambitious cycling and walking schemes have significant, if quieter, majority support.”
Chris Boardman, the Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist who is now cycling and walking commissioner for Greater Manchester, said communities which prioritise cycling saw cleaner air, less congestion, a boost to businesses and their streets are “happier places to be”.
“If we get this right, many of these pop-up routes and low-traffic neighbourhoods will become a permanent and valued part of people’s daily lives,” Boardman said.
“The Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain, now we should lead the green revolution.”
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