Infrastructure is burning. Fake news is circulating. Allegations of bribery and corruption are flying. There are demonstrations on the streets and protesters have risked their lives to shut down the roads. Checkpoints are being rammed by thugs in 4x4s. Neighbour is turning against neighbour and rancour stalks the land. This is not Aleppo, or Bogota, but the dreaming spires of Oxford, where spitting rows over the introduction of low-traffic neighbourhoods — LTNs — have escalated to the point of civil unrest. Since the first “mini-Holland” was trialled in Waltham Forest, northeast London, in 2014, these new traffic-calming measures have begun springing up all over the country. But during the pandemic, with cars idling in driveways, councils given emergency powers and government funds made available for cycling and walking schemes, the country has witnessed a surge in LTNs. There are now more than 100 in London alone, with others springing up in Bath, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle. Even Oxford Circus in London is now due to become pedestrianised piazzas. For some, these changes represent the long-overdue arrival of a new green utopia. For others, they’re an example of technocratic middle-class fantasies ruining the lives of ordinary working people. In east Oxford, the introduction of three LTNs in March has caused a furious backlash, with residents claiming they were not properly consulted and arguing that the measures have caused a massive displacement of traffic, disrupting commutes and school runs, damaging business and diverting pollution and congestion onto main roads.
Times 26th June 2021 read more »