LTN infrastructure repairs costs over £850,000

Local authorities in London are expending substantial amounts of taxpayer funds to repair defaced bollards and surveillance cameras that were initially installed to enhance air quality and road safety. As showed in publicly available data, damages exceeding £850,000 have been inflicted upon infrastructure related to low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) since 2020.

Instances of vandalism include cutting cables, impairing cameras and adjusting their angles, dismantling or defacing bollards, and obscuring signage with paint. Hackney Council encountered the highest expense, allocating nearly £400,000 for repairs. Hackney Councillor Mete Coban attributed the damage to a minority faction.

Coban remarked, “Empirical data supports the effectiveness of our LTNs and ‘school streets,’ evident through reduced traffic, increased pedestrian and cyclist activity, and safer routes for children to travel to school. However, a small number of individuals continue to deface enforcement cameras, wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds that could be better allocated towards providing elderly residents with freedom passes, introducing additional bicycle parking, and organising road safety education in schools.”

Coban, responsible for energy, waste, transport, and public spaces, detailed the council’s endeavours to identify and apprehend the culprits. He stated, “Apart from collaborating with law enforcement to identify the vandals, we are piloting novel camera technologies and equipment to deter such vandalism. We’re also implementing CCTV surveillance in targeted locations experiencing these incidents.”

Following Hackney Council, Lambeth faced the second highest repair expenses, amounting to £310,000, attributed to defaced LTN equipment.

LTNs are designed to encourage walking and cycling by regulating local streets to facilitate vehicle access while restricting them as thoroughfares. Although LTNs have existed in various forms for years, their expansion received impetus during the COVID-19 pandemic with support from the Boris Johnson administration. The government provided funding to councils to establish new schemes.

These initiatives do not burden drivers with extra costs and predominantly aim to encourage active modes of travel. Research and surveys suggest they are generally effective and well-received, though they have spurred political disputes. Recently, Rishi Sunak instigated a review of all LTNs and 20mph zones, asserting alignment with drivers’ perspectives.

This development followed the Conservative Party’s narrow triumph in the Uxbridge by-election, where opposition to the expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) by Mayor Sadiq Khan influenced voter sentiment.

Critics have accused Sunak of forsaking crucial environmental and climate policies, including LTN backing, in an effort to mollify the more conservative faction of his party and introduce divisive issues ahead of the next general election.

Greenpeace admonished the administration for undermining the UK’s climate endeavours while engaging in divisive politics. Aside from targeting cameras and bollards within LTNs, vandals have also attacked monitoring systems designed to track traffic reduction and the uptick in cycling and walking, damaging cables and equipment.

Coban conjectured, “These actions indicate that those responsible are disinterested in the evidence illustrating the efficacy of these schemes.”

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