By Hadia Bakkar and Isabella Nova
Angry Hackney residents opposed to the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in the borough staged a protest outside the town hall as councillors met inside to discuss their aim of reaching net zero by 2040.
Hackney Together, the community group that organised the protest, believes the LTN schemes – which have divided opinion across the Eastlondonlines boroughs and around the country – have made their lives more challenging.
Within the last year, there have beenfive LTNs introduced in the borough in areas such as Hackney Downs, Hoxton and London Fields, more than any other borough. Stoke Newington is the most recent area to have a LTN in place and Homerton, which was temporary, was made permanent by the council last month.
Among the protestors was Asgar Iqbal, 33, a driving instructor who lives on Evering Road, Stoke Newington, who told Eastlondonlines that while the LTN network could be beneficial to the borough, it has been implemented the wrong way.
“They’ve put barricades and bollards in places where they don’t need to be. There’s a school on Northwold Road and all the traffic from Evering Road, Brooke Road, Maury Road, Bentley Road … it all goes on Northwold Road … 8 o’clock in the morning until about 9, there are traffic jams, even in the afternoon.”
Iqbal said that LTNs should be fair for everyone, but that the council’s response has been underwhelming. “None of them are here today, none of them are listening … the LTNs separated most of half of Hackney from the other half.”
Olu Adesanu, a member of Hackney Together who lives on Northwold Road in Clapton and works at an education charity, told ELL: “I live on a main road and what we’ve seen on the traffic especially on my road and from the council’s own data that they’ve provided to residents, [is] that it’s gone up 40 per cent.
“If you’ve got 40 per cent more traffic, it makes it less pleasant to be in that place, so as a resident I am determined to make a difference and try and do something about it.”
He added: “Our quality of lives has been negatively impacted and I really think that the council has done this at our expense. “I noticed from September, when I was sat at my desk in my front room and the traffic was going no more than ten yards outside my house, it was disturbing throughout the day and it was really hard to focus and concentrate on things and it made me quite upset.”
Adesanu wants the council to review the LTNs and their consultations, which are opposed by many people across the borough.
Councillor Simche Steinberger, a Conservative councillor for Springfield ward in Stamford Hill and an opponent of LTNs was the only councillor at the protest.
He said: “I think we should continue this because it’s so important, so vital.. the fact is this had made a lot of problems for everybody… unfortunately it’s not just with the roads that this is happening, this is happening with many other things in Hackney.”
One of the parents, who lives on Graham Road in the centre of the borough told the crowd: “Is it fair that these children are exposed to unacceptable levels of pollution, meanwhile residents of roads like Richmond Road enjoy an 85 per cent reduction in traffic?[…] But is that right that people who live on quieter streets with more expensive houses now enjoy next to zero traffic while the less well-off living already on busy roads have to suffer worse pollution than before? Is that progress?”
The protest took place as Hackney council was holding a full council meeting. In the meeting, they discussed plans to ensure their goal of reaching net zero by 2040. The meeting included a brief discussion of LTNs in the borough and how the schemes help the borough towards reaching that goal.
New data, collected by the London Boroughs Healthy Street Scorecard Coalition, showed Hackney had 55 per cent coverage in areas it called “suitable” for a LTN. Hackney has the highest number of LTNs in the four Eastlondonlines boroughs.
Supporters of the LTNs says their purpose is to help reduce traffic, improve air quality and encourage residents to cycle and walk. Recent data published by the council indicates the traffic is down in and around Homerton LTN and West Hoxton LTN among others.
Opponents, however, said that LTNs do not reduce traffic, but merely displace it onto other residential streets, causing a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged residents. They also said that the council data is flawed.
Councillor Mete Coban, cabinet member for energy, waste, transport and public realm, told ELL in a statement that Hackney has been facing “unacceptable rises in traffic in the last ten years, with most of this rise borne by minor roads due to the increased use of sat nav apps”.
“We introduced new low traffic neighbourhoods and School Streets to tackle these rises, reduce air pollution and create cleaner, safer and greener streets for Hackney residents, the majority of whom do not own a car. Evidence from our low traffic neighbourhoods so far shows that traffic is down inside the LTNs and on boundary roads.”
He said that people may have concerns about traffic and air pollution, but that’s the reason council is “monitoring [data] in such depth, and reporting back to communities.”
“We’re also not afraid to make changes to schemes if the evidence shows it’s needed and there are solutions we can adopt.”