The LTN one month on. The good, the bad and the ugly.

The Low Traffic pilot in Kings Heath as been fully in place for about a month now. For some it may seem much longer and others may argue that it hasn’t really properly started yet what with the Tranche 2 funding being announced!

As the planters were largely ignored we should count from when the bollards were fitted which was around the 16th of October. I have been riding a 10km loop covering the roads effected on a daily basis and so have seen how the town has been affected generally rather than just one point on the map.

So – how has it been?

If you spend time on Social Media, you might be forgiven for thinking that Kings Heath is currently a gridlocked battle ground. Stationary idling traffic polluting the lungs of small children whilst the government carry out their secret plan of gentrification on us all.

Thankfully the reality I have seen has been no where near that. The first few days after the trial began was hectic, people finding their usual routes blocked and a resulting snarl up on the main roads. People complained their usual 5 minute journey was now taking 20 and some said they would stop coming the Kings Heath altogether.

Schools out…

As the days progressed however things were remarkably calm, helped by a Half Term break which saw a week of no queues at all. It became quite apparent to me that the school run is possibly the biggest issue the town faces in terms of traffic flow. This is for a number of reasons:

Literally dropping off your kids at the door

A rush hour that needs some Mr Muscle

We must take into account we have been in Tier 2 restrictions and a National Lockdown during this initial few weeks so traffic levels are not as high as they might normally be.

It is anything but quiet though and I started to notice how the reality in the morning at least is a short period of high traffic levels resulting in queues. These blockages don’t actually last a long time with the roads being clear before and afterwards. This blockage moves its way through the town with predictable pinch points on Institute Road, Vicarage Road, Grove Road and Colmore Road.

Just leaving 10 mins earlier or later would mean encountering this blockage at a different point on it’s journey. It is safe to say if you were travelling amongst this it would feel like the whole town was gridlocked, when in reality there was lots of free space either side.

The Good…

Let’s look at some positives – there has been great engagement with the community getting involved to plant flowers and shrubs in the planters that have been set out. I have also noticed more people cycling and walking. Whether this is just I can see them now without the traffic or perhaps the beginnings of some shift in how people are making journeys – it is really good to see.

Positive change

Julia’s Scissors talking about the LTNs

We have also seen some people mellow their stance on the LTNs a good example being Julia’s Scissors on York Road who initially seemed against when interviewed on The One show but has subsequently clarified that she is not against them and interested to see what happens.

The Bad

The main roads are busier – it would be wrong to deny it and this brings with it legitimate concerns from people living on these roads. We need to be doing whatever we can to try and ease the pressure on these routes whilst people adapt to the situation.

Based on other pilots around the country we can be hopeful that we will see a reduction in car usage which will hopefully go some way to balance the changes. Only time will tell!

There is also lots and lots of arguing going on with people seemingly at opposite ends of the debate. The lack of middle ground on places like Facebook is staggering and with the venom coming from both sides of the debate I really hope we start to see some more reasoned thoughts appear as things go on.

and the Ugly.

Sadly it seems some people are unwilling to let the trial actually take place. This was evident right at the beginning when the initial temporary signs were moved and knocked over and things took a more serious turn this weekend with one bollard being run over on Saturday night and 3 or 4 stolen on the following Saturday.

This is such a shame as this is not a permanent situation and it is harder to see if it is a positive or negative idea if it doesn’t get a fair chance. It is really important to look at the positives and negatives and make changes and alterations to try and find a solution that works for the majority. Vandalism and theft only means that measures will have to be taken that are less movable and more costly which isn’t in the interests of any of us.

Where do we go from here?

With the lockdown coming to an end in a couple of weeks and a likely Christmas rush it will be interesting to see how the roads (and people’s sanity) hold up. I am going to continue my daily loops and Air Quality measuring and will report back when the dust has settled on 2020 and we hopefully start a more positive 2021!