A photo of an estate in Birmingham city with a low traffic neighbourhood system in place

Residents in Birmingham regions which have seen low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) implemented have highlighted a need for careful rollout that considers the impact of schemes on the wider area, new research suggests.

In a new paper published in Travel Behaviour and Society, University of Birmingham researchers have analysed qualitative data from online consultations carried out before and after the implementation of two LTNs in Birmingham City. The responses provided by Birmingham City Council were made in July – November 2020 and February – April 2021 and focused on expectations and experiences of people living in and around LTNs in Moseley and Kings Heath.

In total, there were 3,751 responses prior to the implementation of the two LTNs and 791 responses once they were in place. Key findings from the pre-implementation survey included a desire to encourage more active travel and a concern about the dominance of cars in those areas, including the safety risks associated with reckless and dangerous driving.

The findings reveal that careful implementation is key for ensuring that an LTN benefits the widest range of people

Dr Ruth Pritchett, lead author

Residents provided a mixed picture of the benefits and disadvantages of LTN schemes introduced in post-rollout consultation responses.

Proponents of the scheme cited reduced traffic and improved road safety in the scheme, as well as an increase in walking and cycling and an improved community atmosphere. Negative comments included a sense of frustration from residents of roads without a modal filter, who reported greater traffic being shifted to their roads; and amongst respondents who were not able to change their local travel method to walking, either due to a disability or the nature of their journey.

Dr Ruth Pritchett from the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham and lead author of the study said:

“This is one of the first qualitative studies of residents’ feelings before and after the implementation of LTNs outside of London. Respondents to the consultations have provided a mixed picture of how they felt the LTNs have benefited and disadvantaged the community, depending on their connection to the area and their usual transport methods.

“Residents on streets with modal filters generally reported enjoying decreased traffic and a better environment. However, residents of roads without filters, disabled car users and those who said they needed a car for work or commuting reported negative experiences of increased traffic, poor air quality and inconvenient journeys.

“The findings reveal that careful implementation is key for ensuring that an LTN benefits the widest range of people, and that there is a risk of creating a localised postcode lottery in which it is felt that some people enjoy the advantages of reduced traffic at the expense of others.

“It is important to note that the schemes considered in our study were introduced in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, which also affected traffic flow and peoples experience of their neighbourhoods. Nonetheless, this study demonstrates the need for careful consideration of the interwoven effect of different roads, schools and businesses within a neighbourhood when designing future LTNs for the UK’s second largest city.”

The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Image credit: Elliott Brown, Greeenfield Crescent, Edgbaston Village, Calthorpe Estates, 2022, accessed via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED.