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Reflections on the Railton LTN Survey

A recent survey claiming ‘huge support’ among residents for the Railton 'Low Traffic Neighbourhood' (LTN) was greeted warmly by LTN advocates and certain senior councillors alike. These claims piqued the interest of the OneRailton/OneOval teams, who decided to take a look behind the headlines.

Even before delving into the survey methodology and results, the authors' statement that they ‘aren't connected to Lambeth Council’ is quite intriguing, particularly as they don’t actually say who they are. There are numerous disclaimers in the report and, as the authors state that the full dataset ‘will not be released to anyone else for their own analysis’ we have focused our attention on some of the data they have seen fit to release.

The survey elicited 438 responses (out of a population of approx.7,500 people affected by the LTN). However, it is unclear as to whether there were any checks and balances in terms of verifying the addresses/identity of people completing it or even preventing multiple completions by individuals using different IP or email addresses. The authors do acknowledge that the survey design made it possible for respondents to skip questions, (only 366 answered all 12) and that multiple responses to questions were possible, although we are told that this affected ‘no more than 5%’ of responses.

As the survey was online only, a significant number of people without access to the internet, were excluded. As the National Audit Office reported in 2019, vulnerable groups, including older people, the disabled and unemployed, are all more likely to be ‘digitally excluded’ so the data collection method chosen was hardly ideal for such a diverse community living on and around Railton Road.

There are some striking imbalances in the response rates - from a total of 36 listed roads or streets, just six (Shakespeare, Barnwell, Railton, Mayall, Trelawn and Chaucer) provided over 50% of all responses whilst 17 of those listed recorded five or fewer responses across all categories. There were also some notable omissions from the list, including many of the cul de sacs on Shakespeare Road. Good practice would be to try to collect well-distributed, data (representative of the different groups in the wider population across all streets) or use weighting or other methods to attempt to correct these imbalances, but, as the authors say this is ‘not a scientific survey.’

Closer analysis of the claim that 75% of residents are in favour of the scheme reveals that, of 400 people who responded to this question, 46% said that they welcomed the scheme, 27% said that they welcomed it ‘in some form but it might need adjusting’ and 23% people stated that they ‘did not like the scheme at all (nb a further 8% stated that it is ‘slightly inconvenient’ for them and 6% did not have a view either way, suggesting some multiple responses to this question)

As a ‘clear majority’ of respondents stated that they cycle more than drive a few times a week and 44% (of 423 people) said that they use a bike to commute, it is likely that this group of regular cyclists were highly motivated to complete the survey (as of course were those who had concerns) and to say that they ‘welcome the scheme’. Although simple demographic data such as age group, sex, ethnicity and income bracket does not appear to have been collected for this survey, a 2019 TFL ‘Travel in London’ report states that, despite significant investment in cycling infrastructure, the majority of cyclists are still ‘white, male, middle aged / high income’ and ‘those who cycle regularly, do so more than 5 days a week’.

63% of respondents stated that they own a car, van or motorbike which the authors say is in ‘inverse proportion to Lambeth’s own figures of 1 in 3 residents owning a vehicle, They suggest that this might be due to the survey failing to reach those without vehicles, vehicle owners caring more about road changes or perhaps that the council’s 2011 census data is out of date and ‘may not reflect that ‘the area may be slowly transforming.’

58% (of 409 respondents) agreed or strongly agreed that there was ‘too much traffic on my road’ and 68% stated that they strongly agreed or agreed that there was ‘too much traffic in my neighbourhood’ No doubt many people living and working on the already busy residential roads surrounding the LTN (such as Coldharbour Lane, Effra, Dulwich and Milkwood Roads) which are now taking the displaced traffic, would also have agreed or strongly agreed with these statements, but there were very few responses from these streets.

Whilst only 47 people who said they ‘welcome the scheme’ felt the need to make any comment about it, there were 136 comments from respondents who either welcomed the scheme but thought it : ‘might need adjusting’ or didn’t ‘like the scheme at all' and a cursory glance through these (often very detailed) responses reveals some serious concerns:

  • ‘…for as long as this barrier remains there will be people who see the scheme as an attack on BAME communities and an unwelcome part of the general gentrification of Herne Hill and Poets Corner’

  • Please see beyond this very narrow view that cycling is the only way - there are disabled people, there are busy families doing late night pickups, there are people who need to urgently get to a doctors surgery, let’s look at the bigger picture of what we’re trying to achieve and get there together’

  • ‘It (traffic) has got noticeably worse in the last two weeks. If the scheme is to continue something must be done to protect our children from the knock-on effects’

Ultimately, the survey seems to raise more questions than it answers:

· What does 'resident-powered' really mean?

· If the authors are not connected with Lambeth council, as they state, who are they?

· How does a such a small survey containing so many disclaimers give LTN advocates the confidence to state on both social and mainstream media that a majority of residents in the area are in favour of the scheme?

Furthermore, although the survey authors state that there are ‘also less activist, equally engaged, people who wish to have a say on what they want for their community’, residents highlighting exactly the same concerns as already raised in the survey responses, are being repeatedly ignored or smeared as pro-car extremists with far-right associations (some even being called ‘rats’, just for wanting to drive down the very street they live on) by LTN proponents/activists, whilst councillors give no indication as how long these trials are due to last.

There were 7 deputations (each with at least 20 supporters) at the last full council meeting calling for the suspension of LTNs/traffic schemes across Lambeth and the various petitions are growing in numbers – at the time of writing, there were 523 signatures for Railton, 771 for Oval and 3393 for Lambeth.

We are urging the council to take note of these and indeed all feedback from residents across the area (as well as businesses, some of which are suffering loss of income from the sudden imposition of traffic barriers), and conduct a full, fair (and statistically sound) consultation now, which proactively gathers views of our diverse communities across the area, in order to shape fairer, more inclusive schemes that deliver cleaner air and safer streets for the many, not just for the few.

This would indeed be ‘a bold step towards a possible future’

OneRailton/OneOval are diverse groups of local people who are worried about the adverse impact that LTNs are having on many residents and businesses across our communities. We are entirely self-funding and do not have any links with any motoring special interest groups.

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