Kings Heath Low Traffic Neighbourhood has started, but as cones are replaced by more fixed bollards, will LTN bring us closer together?
Last week I walked along Howard Road to admire the new planters. As I passed Colmore Road, one resident returned the missing cone to the middle of the road to prevent cars from driving up the road. At the next road I decided to return the cone to the middle of the road, preventing cars from speeding down the residential street, but as soon as I had, a man came out from nearest house swearing at me, and swearing at Low Traffic Neighbourhoods for the trouble it had caused him and ‘everyone in Kings Heath’. At the time I thought he was already angry and I didn’t want to upset him further – it was, afterall, outside his house.
I regretted not talking to him, the moment I walked away. You see, my house is just a couple of streets down, and outside my house when my son turned six years old he had a serious road accident on our doorstep:
Jago’s fine now, but it was the start of a journey for us to campaign for safer roads – 20mph for our streets, and now Low Traffic Neighbourhoods so children can cycle and walk safely to school.
I wish I had talked to that man about why I think that our streets need to be safer. We need to talk more about why Birmingham City Council are implementing Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and what impact they may have for all the people who use our streets.
Since then I have had a lot more conversations, whenever I can, about LTN, and what it might mean to young people in particular. As a member of Woodcraft Folk I’ve supported young people to decorate planters on Cambridge Road with support from The Active Wellbeing Society.
It was a lot of fun, and seeing young people having fun on Cambridge Road, a road which until now would have been far too dangerous for anyone to spend time on – it took me back to my own childhood playing on streets. It was interesting to see children gravitate to where the new space was in the middle of the street, now protected with bollards. For the artwork we had asked children to think about ‘Hopes and Dreams’, but artwork focused on the Climate Emergency – something we already knew they felt strongly about.
On the Friday morning we fitted the new panels to the planters and some parents from Kings Heath Primary took the chance to talk to us, all of which were hugely positive about the new space, and the newly decorated planters. Graham the Traffic Warden was pleased as it made his job so much easier, ‘they [the planters] may do me out of a job!’
Some people asked about Poplar Road and why the bollards had not yet been fixed to prevent traffic there. One Comment asking why there wasn’t a similar space (between four planters) on School Road. While nearly everyone supported LTNs, one car driver stopped angry that he couldn’t drive down Cambridge Road:
‘I’ve just bought this car. I’ve spent £500 so I can drive where I want to.’
One supermarket delivery van driver showed his frustration that we weren’t able to lift the posts for him. One pedestrian voiced concerns over emergency vehicle access.
In the long term I don’t know what the effect of the planters, cones and bollards will be, but I do think it’s the right thing to try and find out. And if nothing else, it’s an opportunity to have proper discussions about our streets and how to make them safer and better for everyone.