'I'd never consider driving now': The success of London's first Low Traffic Neighbourhood 10 years on

(Left to right) Margaret McGuinness, Maureen Barry and Liz Ackers say the low traffic scheme makes Walthamstow a much nicer place to live
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

"I laugh when I think back to when I drove from Highams Park to the shops in Walthamstow," said Maureen Barry. "It's less than a 25-minute walk. I'd never even consider it now."

Ten years on from London's first Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) being introduced in Walthamstow, it's fair to say the bustling corner of East London has been transformed. Waltham Forest, along with Enfield and Kingston, was the first part of the city to win £30m to implement a Dutch-styled scheme to encourage more cycling.

A key policy of Boris Johnson's tenure at the Mayor of London, the scheme saw the previously car-lined Orford Road become pedestrianised, while dedicated cycle lanes were introduced along the length of Lea Bridge Road and Forest Road.

READ MORE: Empty Wilko in Walthamstow turned into brand new section of Europe's longest street market as traders 'thrilled'

Former cab driver Steve Gander, 70, believes the low-traffic scheme makes life easier for ordinary people
Former cab driver Steve Gander, 70, believes the low-traffic scheme makes life easier for ordinary people -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

Walthamstow Village has become a textbook example used by urban planners to encourage other areas to adopt low-traffic schemes. Independent shops line the street which locals freely stroll upon, while cafes and restaurants have been able to extend their outside seating areas.

Margaret McGuinness was among Walthamstow residents in favour of the scheme who attended the many consultations during the early 2010s. "They got extremely heated," she told MyLondon while volunteering in Change Grow Live, an addiction rehab centre on Orford Road.

"I was surprised by the people were so against it. Some people wanted to be able to drive to the Tube station which is only a 10-minute walk away.

"It’s all been good in my opinion. They’ve blocked off Grove Road which had become a massive rat run, but that’s just amazing to walk down now.

"I get quite cross when people say: ‘But it takes me ages to get around’. Yeah, you’re in a car." Fellow volunteer Maureen said the scheme has made the area much more pleasant to live in.

She said: "It's made Walthamstow much easier to walk and cycle around. People will always resist driving changes, whether it's about wearing a seatbelt or ULEZ."

Orford Road in Walthamstow Village has been pedestrianised
Orford Road in Walthamstow Village has been pedestrianised -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Research from Waltham Forest Council for the LTN's tenth anniversary found 54 per cent of residents agreed it made the area easier for walking and cycling. More than half said it had improved life in Walthamstow, while the same survey found just 18 per cent disagreed.

This has translated into a rapid surge in house prices across Waltham Forest as more people look to move to the borough. Data from the Office for National Statistics found property prices in Waltham Forest increased more than anywhere else in the UK between 2013 and 2023.

Although efforts to regenerate East London for the 2012 Olympics have contributed to this, the value of homes shot up 113 per cent from £235,210 to £515,320 in just 10 years.

Despite the praise Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Walthamstow have received across the country, many residents say their needs were not properly taken into consideration ahead of the schemes being introduced. Alan Cavalier, who lives within the LTN introduced around Lloyds Park in October last year, told MyLondon he's now constantly forced to sit in traffic as he's unable to use public transport while he receives treatment for lung cancer.

Restricted roads can now be seen across Walthamstow
Restricted roads can now be seen across Walthamstow -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Former black cab driver Tony Gander has sympathy for people whose lives have been negatively affected by the LTNs. "It can be a pain," he said. "I’ve got an autistic grandson who waits for me to turn up. But if roads are closed or have limited access it means I get there later and he’s stressed.

"When they started doing road closures in Islington and areas to tackle congestion it was difficult. I’d constantly have someone sat in the back asking ‘can’t you do a right here, or go left there?' I’d say I couldn’t without getting a £60 fine"

The 70-year-old now drives less after having his right leg amputated, and says road changes means the only time he uses his car is when travelling to Tesco in Edmonton. As a result of these lifestyle changes, Steve told MyLondon he's able to use his mobility scooter to easily travel across Walthamstow.

Steve Gander, 70, understands why some people are against the low traffic schemes
Steve Gander, 70, understands why some people are against the low traffic schemes -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

He said: "When I go to the hospital I go through the village and have a coffee or sit in the graveyard. It's really nice and peaceful."

Steve went on to perhaps some up the general opinion on low traffic schemes better than anyone. "There’s two sides of my story," he added. "As a driver it’s a pain in the arse, but for ordinary people it makes the place better.

"It’s made me drive less, I’ve also got a 25-year-old Jaguar I’m going to sell, I don't need it. We're very well connected here with buses and trains."

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