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The JRtB guide to... LTN 1/20

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Actually, its Local Transport Note 1/20, it's 'jargonised' into LTN 1/20. And it's important, so read on. 

Local Traffic Note 1/20, commonly referred to as LTN 1/20, is a design guide for cycling infrastructure. It is the practical side of the UK Government’s Gear Change cycling strategy, released in 2020.

A technical design guide for infrastructure would not normally result in quite so much interest – both positive or negative. However, this one seems to have really hit a sweet spot. In the main this is because it actually takes some evidence seriously, which Local Authorities have tended to ignore in the past. One needs only to look online for examples of terrible cycle lanes to see how much of a joke some Local Authorities have considered cycling (try for starters). 

What is deeply encouraging is the rapid rate of the change of mindset that is happening throughout transport authorities. Even the change of name from highways authority to transport authority speaks to a need to move away from cars as the dominate form of transport.

Because it is driven by 'Gear Change', LTN 1/20 sets out an ambitious vision for what cycling infrastructure should look like. The DfT have taken seriously the issue with collisions not just between cyclists and car drivers, but also cyclists and pedestrians. Whilst clearly these collisions are, generally, less serious (of course there are exceptions), there can be many more of them, which risks injury to all parties. Whilst car drivers colliding with cyclists generally only cause physical injury to one party.

The solution promoted by LTN 1/20 is of large scale, substantial segregation of cyclists and pedestrians and motorised traffic. This would seem to make sense. The evidence is strong for how successful this can be, in terms of attracting car drivers to mode shift to cycling, where they can see that cycling is perceived as safe, separated, and direct. LTN 1/20 is clear that cycle routes should be direct, rather than routing around indirect routes to services, employment and education as has happened in the past.

LTN 1/20 also suggests that substandard cycling infrastructure will no longer be tolerated. It does not mean that scheme will not be funded. What it means is that Local Authorities that ignore this guidance will start to see a lack of funding for any other kind of transport scheme in the future. So whilst ignoring LTN 1/20 guidance in the short term might not have any immediate impact, and hence the bluster of the ill-informed Councillor will still have impact. However, in the medium term those authorities that ignore such guidance will start to find that other, seemingly unconnected schemes will start to not be funded. Obviously there might be other ways of funding road schemes outside of central government, but it seems unlikely.

The major argument we hear is that ‘there’s not enough space’ to put in an LTN 1/20 compliant scheme. This is to misunderstand the guidance. Being compliant is a context-specific dependency. In low traffic areas, or non-urban areas, there well may be no need to implement a fully compliant segregation. In fact it would be a ridiculous waste of money to even attempt this. Good signage, good painting, clear routing, might be appropriate in those areas, as long as the evidence is strong, and residents believe this will support their mode shift needs. Where there’s not enough space, starts to fall down is in busy urban areas. Access to services, around schools, colleges and universities, employment sites and where roads cut through areas that should be connected, and where there should be a comprehensive active travel network. In these instances, and more, there is no argument that supports there not being enough space. The reason we say this, is that this argument is always premised on not touching road space. For all the big transport consultancies, and many local authorities that pay them, road space is sacrosanct. They are happy to put in over-priced cycleways, where this will have no impact on road space. So the narrowest margins have some paint applied, and authorities tick the box for ‘active travel network’. LTN 1/20 explicitly fights against this.

Active travel is the priority. We know that road capacity can be dialled up or down, which directly affects the number of cars on the road. We know we need to mode shift. So why on earth are we even bothering to keep road capacity the same, but limiting cycling space. This thinking is exactly what gear Change and LTN 1/20 seek to reverse.

There are, of course, detractors to LTN 1/20. But if you need to decarbonise, if you need to improve mode shift, if you want to improve where people live, if you want to encourage younger people to stay in your area, if you want children to cycle to school, if you want employers to support their employees to cycle, if you want to tackle pollution, if you want to reduce road traffic collisions, if you want to support economic levelling up, if you want to tackle in-work poverty caused by car ownership, if you want to make sure you receive future transport funding, then you need to take LTN 1/20 seriously.

Contact 07795 547069

Contact Andrew Brown on 07795 547069


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