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What are low traffic neighbourhoods?

‘Low traffic neighbourhoods’ (LTNs) are groups of residential streets, bordered by main roads, where “through” motor vehicle traffic, or “rat-running”, is discouraged or removed, while every resident can still drive onto their street, or receive deliveries. This can be achieved in two main ways:

  • by installing planters, bollards or other ‘modal filters’ that physically block the road to cars/vans but not bicycles/pedestrians; and/or
  • by camera-enforced ‘gates’ that do not physically block the road, but enforce illegal use through fines.

Most authorities provide exemptions to LTN camera-enforced gates for emergency service vehicles, and for Blue Badge holders who need access within their ‘home’ low traffic neighbourhood. Some authorities also exempt taxis and some private hire vehicles, although this can depend on the LTN in question.

LTNs have been around for many years but have only recently become known by this name. One of the first LTNs in the UK was created in the early 1970s in De Beauvoir Square in the London borough of Hackney, to make residential streets safer for children.

LTNs can be created by local authorities across Great Britain using Traffic Regulation Orders created under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (see Q6.5 below).There are numerous examples of LTNs, particularly in London, but also in other cities in England and Scotland. They are often created to safer school streets and/or to reduce traffic on residential streets with high rates of ‘rat running’.

What is the Government’s role in LTNs?

LTNs gained renewed attention as part of the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In statutory guidance published in May 2020 (and updated in April 2022), the Department for Transport (DfT) explicitly encouraged local authorities to reallocate road space for walking and cycling, including the use of modal filters (where roads are closed to motor traffic). Some LTNs were funded by DfT Emergency Active Travel funds.

The Government’s Gear Change Strategy, published in 2020, included a commitment to creating “many more” LTNs, and to consult on creating a “community right” to create them. That consultation never happened.

The Government has taken a different stance of LTN-style measures since the publication of its Plan for Drivers on 2 October 2023, in which it committed to issuing new LTN guidance and to reviewing LTNs “to ensure that they are deployed fairly and with local support”. The statutory guidance which had promoted modal filters was withdrawn on the same date.

On 17 March 2024 the LTN review was published, alongside draft LTN guidance which emphasises the need to secure local support for LTNs before they are implemented. In the guidance, the Government say their preferred approach is to work “co-operatively with local councils” but that “ultimately Government can make changes to the legal framework if advice is overlooked.”

How do LTNs affect people with disabilities?

The DfT’s 2024 LTN review found that so far the impact of LTNs on disabled people is mixed, and the available evidence is limited and inconclusive. Whilst LTNs can improve accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists by improving safety and minimising traffic, they can unintentionally impair mobility for disabled people who depend on vehicles, and therefore affect residents’ quality of life.

The review was based on qualitative research conducted by disability charity Transport for All, who interviewed 84 disabled participants from across different impairment groups, from 19 London boroughs as well as 5 locations outside of London in their 2021 ‘Pave the Way’ study. The charity note that they do not consider their sample to be representative of all disabled people, and did not use the data to test a hypothesis or draw conclusions.

The ‘Pave The Way’ study found that 83% of participants felt strongly impacted by LTNs, including the following positive impacts:

  • 18% of participants reported a decrease in traffic danger, especially for deaf and visually impaired participants.
  • 6% of participants discussed feeling more independent, or felt that they had gained more independence and freedom to travel.
  • 14% of participants reported that their journeys had become easier or more pleasant.
  • Several participants reported that LTN measures had enabled them to make more active travel journeys, thereby improving their physical health. Participants also reported that the added freedom and independence had a positive impact on their mental health.

However, participants also reported the following negative impacts:

  • 77% of participants reported an increase in their journey times
  • 46% of participants reported that their journeys had become more difficult for them.
  • 33% of participants reported an increase in traffic danger – for example, feeling unsafe crossing roads.
  • 45% of participants discussed barriers disabled people face to Active Travel/ cycling (for example: high cost of adapted bikes, education, cultural attitudes)

3 out of 4 participants also reported feeling frustration at the way in which changes had been communicated, and reported that there had been a lack of information and warnings prior to the installation of an LTN.

For Blue Badge holders, local authorities can, and often do, create exemptions from camera-enforced LTNs. However, for LTNs implemented through bollards or other physical features, exemptions cannot easily be made, meaning all drivers must take a longer route.

Petition Debate

On 20 May 2024 there was a Commons petitions committee debate in response to two parliamentary e-petitions:

  • One petition asking the Government to ‘Carry out an independent review into LTNs’ had received 15,906 signatures by 16 May 2024. The Government responded by saying it had already commissioned such a review to be published “in due course” and that “that traffic management schemes should always be developed [by local authorities] through consultation and engagement with local communities.”
  • Another, asking the Government to ‘Exempt Blue Badge drivers from LTNs’ had received 1,232 signatures by 16 May 2024. The Government has not responded to this petition.

In the debate, Guy Opperman, DfT Parliamentary Under Secretary of State with responsibility for roads, responded for the Government. He said that it was impractical to create a national exemption for blue badge holders from LTN enforcement, because badge holders can use different vehicles and “it is [therefore] not possible to flag with the DVLA every vehicle in which a blue badge holder may travel.”

He also said that local authorities should be mindful of the public sector equality duty when considering LTNs. DfT guidance encourages local authorities to carry out equality impact assessments, which can show how a local authority has met this duty, and identify potential impacts on disabled road users. He said some local authorities were currently not carrying out such impact assessments.

Is there an offence for cyclists causing death by careless or dangerous riding?

No, but the Government has said it will introduce such an offence.

In a DfT press release on 15 May 2024 the Government said that it will introduce such an offence via an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, currently going through parliament. The press release said:

Ministers have backed an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, put forward by Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, to introduce the ‘Offence of causing death by dangerous, careless or inconsiderate cycling, and causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate cycling. The government will bring forward an updated amendment to the bill as it enters the House of Lords where it will be further debated.

The Government accepted an amendment tabled by Iain Duncan Smith, which would amend the Road Traffic Act 1988 to include new offences of “causing death or serious injury by dangerous, careless or inconsiderate cycling” and amend the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to include new punishments for these offences, up to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment for causing death by dangerous cycling.

However, the Government suggested in the press release and also at the report stage debate on 15 May that they may amend this part of the Criminal Justice Bill again when it comes to the Lords, so it is not yet clear exactly what the offences and punishements for dangerous cycling may end up being.

As the law currently stands, Section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, ‘causing bodily harm by wanton or furious driving or wilful misconduct’, has been used in cases involving a cyclist causing serious injury or death. This allows for a prison sentence of up to two years.

In September 2017, the DfT appointed independent legal expert Laura Thomas to conduct an “urgent review into cycle safety” following a series of high-profile incidents involving cyclists. The review looked at whether a new offence equivalent to causing death by careless or dangerous driving should be introduced for cyclists, as well as wider improvements for cycling road safety issues. In 2018 the report concluded that in order to bring cycling into line with driving offences “there is a persuasive case for legislative change to tackle the issue of dangerous and careless cycling that causes serious injury or death.” The Government then launched a consultation on new cycling offences in August 2018, asking whether a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling should be implemented. 

The Government responded to this consultation on 15 May 2024 saying it would legislate to create new offences around fatal dangerous cycling “once Parliamentary time allows”. It said the “precise nature of the potential penalties for any new cycling offences has not yet been confirmed”. It also said it would consider other changes to existing dangerous cycling laws as well. 

Other topics addressed in this paper

Active Travel policy and funding

Who is responsible for policy on active travel in England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland; what the governments are doing to encourage it; funding; cycling benefits; cycling safety.

Cycling: general

Cycle to work scheme; bicycles on trains; bikeability.

Cycling: safety and offences

Liability for accidents; wearing helmets; local authority powers; registration, insurance and road tax; riding on pavements; tackling bad cycling; rules on lights and bells.

Delivery riders

Registration and identification; insurance; delivery company responsibilities


Rules for using e-bikes, e-scooters, and mobility scooters on the road; when and where e-scooter trials are happening; e-scooter safety; battery fire risk.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

What are low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs); 15-minute cities; public perception of LTNs; effectiveness of LTNs.

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