My borough shows low-traffic neighbourhoods are a roaring success

Initially, so-called Mini-Hollands were met with protests. Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader of the Council explains why the evidence from Waltham Forest shows they work.

In 1966 The Times reported on a new traffic management scheme in Westminster aimed at halting the rise of motorists zipping through the residential back roads of Pimlico. Similarly, forty years ago, the residents of Bushwood in Leytonstone successfully campaigned to reduce what they called “rat running” through their residential area, securing what transport experts call “modal filters” that transformed their neighbourhood.

These kind of schemes have a long pedigree, but in 2014 Waltham Forest, where I have been a councillor for over two decades, was among the first London boroughs to introduce what are now referred to as low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs). The projects were originally billed as the Mini-Hollands programme, part of an attempt by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London at the time, to encourage more active travel. Then, as now, misinformation and fear led to angry protests from some residents. The local authority listened, amended the project, and, after careful consideration, pushed ahead. As a result, far from being a vote loser, there were huge swings in support of candidates that dared to go against the status quo by supporting LTNs. Today nearly half of Waltham Forest’s residential roads sit within an LTN, and more residents are actively asking the council to have their areas converted.

Despite an abundance of evidence showing LTNs’ popularity with residents and the wider public, the government is loudly proclaiming its opposition to low-traffic schemes in the hope of winning some electoral benefit. An anti-low emission zones and anti-LTN cottage industry has swiftly emerged on talk shows and on social media. The principal effects of the measures councils are taking to encourage people out of their cars and to reduce unnecessary car journeys are forgotten – they are proven to make ourselves, our neighbourhoods and our planet healthier.

Perhaps the most striking figure that has emerged from long-term studies is that the number of households exposed to dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide is reduced dramatically. In Waltham Forest it fell from 58,000 in 2007 to 6,300 in 2017. People born in the borough can now expect to enjoy an extra six weeks of life expectancy, according to an independent study by King’s College London published in 2018. Data on the number of road traffic injuries within LTNs across the capital showed a marked decrease. Last year Waltham Forest had one of London’s largest declines in car ownership. We have seen the number of journeys by bike double in the three years up to 2023.

To hear opponents of LTNs or the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) talk, you would think the only people behind the wheels of private vehicles are delivery drivers, people with disabilities, taxi drivers and plumbers carrying heavy equipment. The stark reality is that too many people who could easily choose other options simply refuse to consider other forms of transport. When they are done well, these schemes are pro-people, not anti-car. They’ve been around for longer than many of the most pro-motorist commentators let on, and in Waltham Forest they’ve been proven to be a roaring success.

This article was originally published in The New Statesman

A kerbside strategy? – A new tool for councils delivering fairer, greener streets.

Public spaces affect health. The design of a street influences whether we can enjoy a walk to get fresh air, how safe we are from potential accidents, and how much toxic air we’re exposed to.

Impact on Urban Health,  Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation, recently spoke to to Rezina Chowdhury, a Councillor of the Streatham Hill East Ward in Lambeth and a Cabinet Member for Sustainable Lambeth and Clean Air; and David Wilson, Climate Response Strategy Manager for Transport and Public Realm at Lambeth Council, about how and why councils can reclaim the kerbside to improve people’s health.

The ‘kerbside’ – or the space where most people park their cars – represents one of the largest public assets councils have control over. Today, 94% of the kerbside in Lambeth is used to manage where cars can and cannot park.

In January, Lambeth Council launched an ambitious new kerbside strategy to reclaim some of that space to reduce air pollution and improve people’s health.

The strategy reimagines the kerbside to enable accessible and active travel, improve air quality, create social spaces, and reduce carbon emissions.

But how did Lambeth Council create the strategy, how do they plan to implement it, and what advice would they give to other councils around the country?

What is the kerbside strategy and why was it needed?

Rezina: We’ve been hearing loud and clear from residents in Lambeth that how we use our public spaces needs to change to make people’s lives better and to address the climate crisis.

In 2021 we held a Citizen’s Assembly where people told us they wanted it to be easier to walk, cycle, and wheel around Lambeth. People said they wanted more space for socialising, including safe space for children to run and play, and more greenery on the streets.

This all helped to inform our Climate Action Plan. We started to think about how we could reimagine the kerbside in Lambeth to put people first, rather than cars. People want safety for their children and public space should prioritise that.

David: 60% of households in Lambeth don’t have access to car, but 94% of our kerbside is currently used to manage where cars can park. That is striking disparity, and it seemed obvious to us that we needed to address that imbalance. We think the kerbside can and should be used for much more than parking.

Rezina: Issues like climate change and air pollution don’t affect people equally. People from low-income backgrounds, older people, and people with longstanding health conditions are going to feel the effects much more. It’s fundamentally unfair that people who are less likely to own a car are more likely to be subject to the harmful effects of traffic and pollution.


What were the biggest challenges putting the strategy together?

David: Just defining the ‘kerbside’ as a space was a challenge.

While there are some councils that have thought about the kerbside, it’s been done mostly in the context of car parking strategies. But there’s a lot more to the kerbside than parking. It’s also a space for trees, places to sit and rest, cycle parking, electric vehicle charging, and parklets and a long list of other uses.

Once you’ve defined ‘the kerbside space’ you need to think about what you’re trying to achieve in and think about how your streets could support you along the way.

Making a bold commitment to repurpose the space is helpful. Lambeth’s Climate Action Plan does exactly that and helped set the scale of ambition. It feels radical at first, but once we started to tally it up, we realised that we are so far from having a proportionate use of this space, that 25% of the kerbside being sustainable is actually quite reasonable.

Do you have any advice for other councils that are thinking of doing something similar?

Rezina: I think it’s important for councils to pilot new kerbside policies before making any major changes.

Before we launched the kerbside strategy in Lambeth, we trialled some interventions we thought could work on The Cut, which is near Waterloo station. We converted car-parking into space for scooter hire and new seating areas for restaurants. These spaces mean people can see that re-purposing space to prioritise health, wellbeing is effective and works for businesses too.


Can you explain why it’s important for other local authorities in the UK to have similar strategies?

Rezina: When people walk or cycle a two-mile journey instead of driving, it’s better for their heart and blood pressure, and that means it’s good for the NHS. And it’s great for the local economy because people spend more time in and around their neighbourhoods.  

Some people might be upset about having to pay extra for their car. But those people have the privilege of having that choice; something lots of people don’t have. I see this through a lens of social justice. It’s unfair that streets are designed for cars, so we see this as a way of embedding some equality in our communities. 

David: 75% of councils have declared a climate emergency. That means they’ll be asking questions about how we’re we going to cope with extremely hot summers and the risk of flooding overwhelming streets. 

That’s something that struck me: Just how much physical space our Flood Risk Officers and Street Trees Teams were saying we need to re-purpose to meet these challenges, and that will be the case across the country. In that context it’s key to start thinking about how to re-purpose public spaces like the kerbside.  

It’s not just about building infrastructure and resilience. The bonus is you get nice things in return! Greener streets, more trees, more open space, clean air that doesn’t cause terrible illnesses: These are things that that improve people’s lives. More outdoor space, as we saw during the pandemic, also proved to be a real advantage for local businesses as well.

What role do other organisations have in helping councils put strategies in place like this?

RezinaI’ve been a councillor for eight years and residents have always spoken to me about re-imagining streets.  

When low traffic neighbourhoods were introduced in 2020, it demonstrated that reclaiming space is possible and effective. More people began to see the benefits of clean air, active travel, and safer streets.  

That’s when I got to know organisations like Mums for Lungs and Clean Cities Campaign, among others. These groups are key. From a political perspective, they help councillors realise there’s a significant voice out there who want to be heard and want to help. 

David: It was fundamental to draw on the expertise of local people and that should be clear in the strategy. For example, people with mobility impairments, or who are neurodiverse, have been asking for improvements to public spaces for decades.   

There are organisations like Mums for Lungs, Trees for Cities, and Transport for All that have done extensive research, and our job at the Council was to make sure all of that is embedded into our kerbside strategy. Councils aren’t experts on everything, they need to draw on local expertise and lived experience.

When writing this strategy, in what ways did you consider equity and fairness? And how did you make sure communities consulted when developing the strategy?

David: We saw the kerbside as a way of implementing other strategies which we had consulted on extensively. There are lots of examples: Our Transport Strategy, Air Quality Action Plan, Health and Wellbeing strategy, our work with the Citizens Assembly on Climate Change – all of these are embedded into the work we’ll now do on the kerbside, and they’re the result of extensive consultations with residents, community organisations, and businesses. We see the kerbside strategy as providing the space on our streets to help make these happen more quickly. 

There’s even a role in engaging with our own teams internally! That’s a challenge for councils. Like many organisations, council teams can sometimes work in siloes. This strategy isn’t just about transport. It was put together by teams across the Council and we think that comes across in the final strategy. 

The kerbside is an abstract concept for most people. We had to find a way of making it meaningful and exciting not just for the public but for our own teams internally. We asked social workers, planning officers, school teams and many others about how they could use the kerbside to help their team, and the communities they serve. Every team had surprising and creative ideas which helped bring the strategy to life. 

Rezina: David and his team also did sessions for ward councillors, who need to be on board for change to happen. Those sessions helped councillors to re-imagine what their wards might look like and, ultimately, we became ambassadors for change. I think it was a good move to get ward councillors engaged early on. 

David: Another important point is that, whereas we now have the vision articulated in a strategy, the implementation will take place incrementally over the next seven years, as part of the Councils’ commitment to be net zero by 2030. That means the conversations with residents aren’t over. It’s crucial that we speak to people about their streets, so the conversation is just starting. Good engagement doesn’t end when a strategy is published – it’s ongoing.

In what way can businesses contribute to this kerbside strategy? What responsibility do businesses have?

DavidBased on our research we expect that businesses will benefit from people having better access to the kerbside. The need to revitalise high streets has never been greater so it’s great to use this public space and we saw glimpses of how businesses can use streets during the pandemic. The strategy aims to build on that energy. 

There’s an opportunity for public-private partnerships here too. Councils can and should collaborate with electric vehicle charge point providers or with car sharing companies. Another good example is for councils to work with businesses that provide secure bike hangers. 

RezinaIt’s up to councillors like me to help sell this vision to businesses, especially ones that might be sceptical. We’re saying to these businesses that they have more space, they’re more likely to have customers, and the areas they’re based in will be more welcoming for people.  

Join us in Liverpool for Annual Conference

Why and how should fairer, greener streets be delivered?    Join us at Labour’s Annual Conference in Liverpool as we explore this question and more with MPs, Mayors, Councillors and activists.

We will be on the conference floor stand, co-hosting an event with SERA and organising a walk and ride around Liverpool to look at active travel infrastructure.

Transport Action plans – the case for action

Councils from across the country are drafting emergency plans to protect walking and cycling.  Leading councillors joined our national webinar on Thursday 7th May to share the why, how and what of their plans.

Implementation in all cases included plans to widened pavements, introduce pop-up bikes lanes and key-worker corridors, 20 mph zones and emergency low traffic neighbourhoods.

Full  recording on YouTube

Screenshot 2020-05-12 at 21.57.09

N.B On Saturday 9th May, after this event, the Secretary of State for Transport issued fresh guidance strong encouraging councils to take ‘radical’ emergency measures and outlined the types of options and procedures that councils should follow. 

Cllr Claire Holland – Video

  • Deputy Leader of The London Borough of Lambeth
  • Portfolio holder for sustainable transport, environment and clean air

Cllr Holland launched an ambitious, people-focused transport strategy for her borough in 2019. On 24th April Lambeth were first local authority in UK to announce an emergency transport strategy

Key Quotes:

  • “70% of our households live in flats and a third of our children live in poverty, and the majority of households do not own a car. So running through all of this is an equalities issue as well.”
  • “How do we enable people to safely move around their neighbourhoods, to walk and cycle to town centres; how do we prevent our roads being clogged up again and the rat-running and a return to the dirty air we had before?”
  • “We were acutely aware that our residents were putting themselves at risk of one danger [road danger] to avoid another [covid]”


  • Emergency strategy based on data gathered as part of Lambeth’s ambitious 2019 Transport Strategy including rolling out low traffic neighbourhoods across the borough. Traffic reduction schemes already in development will be accelerated.
  • Phased approach, learning as we go and recognise that an agile approach is required as conditions change.
  • As well as using utilities permits for footway widening, a borough wide traffic management order (s14, RTRA 1984) is being put in place, this allows the highway authority to be more responsive and accelerate interventions.

Dr Rachel Aldred – Video

  • Professor in Transport Studies at University of Westminster 
  • 25+ peer reviewed publications


  • “One thing we can see is how habits can change very, very quickly” 
  • “We have to create the conditions for people to make good [transport] choices.”


  • Sport England research shows 3rd people getting more exercise now than before Covid 19.
  • Not just a return to car use but more cars on the road. ⅔ public transport commuters have access to a private car, ¼ of those same people live in household with access to more than one car. The propensity for bad choices to be made is huge. 
  • ⅓ of public transport commuters do not have a car in the household. However amongst coach and bus commuters ⅖ do not have access to a private car. 
  • With car ownership lower for single parents, those living with disabilities, black and minority ethnic groups and those on low incomes will have the fewest transport alternatives. 
  • Those who are already marginalised will be more vulnerable as public transport potential becomes less safe, less frequent and possibly more expensive. 
  • Two thirds of pavements in London are not wide enough for people to observe the government’s advice to stay two metres apart, according to new UCL analysis.

Cllr Waseem Zaffar – Video 

  • Cllr Birmingham City Council
  • Cabinet member for Transport & the Environment. 

Cllr Zaffar has overseen delivery of fully protected cycle ways on the A34 and A38, he is a bus user and suffers from type 2 diabetes but has seen his health improve significantly and he has cycled more local trips.


  • “Pre-covid in Birmingham ¼ of all journeys are less than one mile by private car, that’s 300,000 journeys any working day.”
  • “We want Birmingham to be a 20mph default city, 90% of Birmingham’s roads are residential roads”
  • “Car will no longer be king in Birmingham” with reference to Birmingham’s draft transport strategy (Jan 2019).
  • “We’d like to see this as the new normal, we don’t want to go back to how our cities and towns looked prior to this.”


Draft transport strategy priorities:

  • Reallocation road space to walking, cycling and public transport
  • Recreating a city centre with priority for walking cycling and buses
  • ‘Active Neighbourhoods’ (Low Traffic Neighbourhood – filtered permeability)
  • Parking demand management
  • 20mph default for the city

C19 is a catalyst for bringing these plans forward.

Cllr Clyde Loakes – Link

  • Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for transport and environment,
  • London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Cllr Loakes has championed the ‘Mini Holland’ programme in the borough which has including 51 point closures designed to reduce short, driven trips and created more than 25km of comfortable space for cycling. Follows these radical measures, Cllrs Loakes grew his majority in the May 2018 local elections. Their flagship 4.4km cycleway on Lea Bridge Road scheme has seen a 97% increase in usage since lockdown began.


  • “From today we’ve started stripping out car parking spaces in our town centres to increase the width of pavements”
  • “We’ve got a new batch of School Streets* that are ready to go as soon as schools go back, they were planned already but clearly have more significance now”
  • “We’re looking to roll out further our Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and we’ve got a couple we were planning to do permanently this year.
  • “With budgets hit hard the fixtures and fitting of our schemes may not be as originally planned but we will still go ahead.”
  • “It’s definitely possible to do it cheaply, its’ definitely possible to do it easily, as long you have the political will. To do it you can make it work”
  • “All the evidence is on our side for those of us who want to push for these responses, now I the time”

* School Streets is an intervention that restricts motor vehicles access in one or more roads outside school sites during morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up periods. In London school streets are often enforced by cameras. Hackney Council’s excellent guide to school streets can be downloaded here.

Cllr Adam Clarke Video

  • Deputy Mayor City Mayor at Leicester City Council
  • Portfolio holder for environment and transportation.

Leicester were the first council in the country to roll out a ‘Keyworker Corridor’ temporary protected cycleway linking to Leicester Royal Infirmary.



–   “Make sure you have robust partnerships and a really robust walking and cycling community that you lobby with and not against.”

–   “We all get it, It doesn’t feel brave to us, it feels right us.”

–    “Our free bike loan and free bike fix programmes go hand in hand with providing that segregated infrastructure for our key workers.

Data from survey

40 Councils responded on the webinar with data on the present state of planning:

Emergency Transport Plans - Councils in England, May 7th (Sample = 40) (1)Transport issues impacting plans_ Councils in England , May 7th (Sample = 40) (3)Measures being considered_ Councils in England , May 7th (Sample = 40) (1)

N.B. Question 4 was answered before the clear guidance on Saturday 9th from the Department for Transport.  That guidance clarified the powers of councils, make it clear that the need for Covid-19 was a reason to introduce emergency measures and made a an additional £250M of funding available to councils.

Councillors should note that because emergency and experimental schemes can be done quickly and generally involve paint, plastic blocks and planters, schemes should be possible at a fraction of their normals costs.

Factors holding back Emergency Transport plans_ Councils in England , May 7th (Sample = 40) (2)

Councils need for more information_ Councils in England , May 7th (Sample = 40) (2)

For more information on:

1- How to deploy temporary measures we recommend Urban Design Group’s new guide for local authorities on fast urban change for life-saving streets:

2 – For How to implement school streets, we recommend Hackney Council’s excellent guide to school streets can be downloaded here.

3 – More information on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, we recommend the Livings Streets guide for policy makers

4 For how to move quickly, we recommend the updated Department for transport guidance.

Active Travel Summit

Leading politicians, campaigners and academics met in Camden on the 16th March to explore how Labour can advance public health, community cohesion, jobs on the high street and social justice by enabling active travel.