There is nothing at all complicated about low traffic neighbourhoods, writes Danny Yee, even if urban planners turn them into acronyms (LTNs) and introduce jargon (such as ‘modal filter’). A low traffic neighbourhood is simply an area of residential streets in which motor traffic is restricted to access for households and businesses, for deliveries and services, and the streets are designed for people rather than motor vehicles.

The amount of motor traffic in Oxford has steadily increased over the last century. One result of this is that some neighbourhoods that were low traffic are now used by large numbers of vehicles rat-running around traffic lights, or avoiding sections of main roads. This has been accompanied by a decrease in the fraction of children walking, or cycling, to school and elsewhere.

Retrofitting low traffic neighbourhoods attempts to reverse some of these changes, which have been stealthily imposed on communities over decades. This doesn’t ban cars from anywhere, but blocks through routes for motor traffic, while preserving access for residents, deliveries and services. It can be done with bollards, gates that allow emergency access, planter boxes, or parklets, and it can be combined with traffic calming, junction tightening, and other measures such as School Streets schemes to restrict school-run traffic.

The obvious gains are in reducing road danger and air and noise pollution, but reduced motor traffic creates opportunities for broader healthy streets and public realm improvements.

Not everyone has other options to driving, but some people do, and some of these will switch to other modes: perhaps to public transport, or ride-sharing, perhaps to walking, or cycling. Some people may let their children walk, or cycle to school.

The evidence from places where low traffic neighbourhoods have been implemented is that overall traffic volumes decrease. One way to measure what happens on main roads is the impact on bus timetables: in the schemes that have been in place for the longest in London, there were no adverse effects on bus times on the surrounding roads. And Oxford does need better management of traffic on main roads, but a key requirement for this is first blocking ways to avoid potential control points.

It’s also worth noting that low traffic neighbourhood schemes have already been implemented in a variety of locations across Oxford. In Iffley Fields, when Meadow Lane and Addison Crescent were blocked to motor traffic; in the area between Barns Road and the B480, when Phipps Road was blocked to motor traffic; North of Jericho, when Hayfield Road was bollarded; and so forth. Once these are in place, residents and services adjust to slightly different routes and largely forget they exist.

There’s nothing at all controversial, or novel, about low traffic neighbourhoods. They are what planners now design in areas of new housing; they are what pretty much all residential neighbourhoods were fifty years ago. If you want to help make your streets happier and healthier, look to Oxfordshire Liveable Streets, Cyclox, the Oxford Pedestrians Association, or one of the other community groups.