Zipcar flex
Zipcar flex

What Are Low Traffic Neighbourhoods?


Low-traffic neighbourhoods are shaping our local communities. Otherwise known as LTNs, these are residential areas with restricted vehicle access. While they’ve been around in some form since the 60s, until recently, they may not have caught your eye. That’s because during the COVID pandemic and due to restrictions on public transport, London introduced 72 official LTNs to make more space for bikes and pedestrians. Now, local councils are introducing even more LTNs across London and beyond. From safer communities to more people travelling by bike and less noise, here’s what LTNs mean for residents. 


LTN sign

How do LTNs work?


LTNs restrict traffic flow through physical barriers, like planters and bollards, making it impossible to pass through in a vehicle. Other LTNs use road signs and cameras to prevent access for anyone who’s not a resident or visitor. Breaking the rules will land you a hefty fine set by the local council. Preventive traffic measures are sometimes called model filters, so you’ll usually hear this term when talking about LTN (LTN sign on the right).


Covent Garden london

Why were LTNs started?


The Department of Transportation (DfT) pays for low traffic neighbourhoods with money from the Active Travel Fund. A £3.2 billion government investment, the fund supports cycling, walking, or any other form of ‘active’ commute. LTNs receive this funding as studies show they can reduce the number of cars on the road and promote active travel - more on this later. 


All this helps the government tackle air pollution - less cars lead to fewer emissions. Meanwhile, councils hope to prevent rat-running - a tactic where drivers weave through residential roads to skip busier streets. Any London resident will know all too well of this problem - it can be a real nightmare for local residents. It’s also thought that LTNs could help to reduce road accidents.


How do LTNs affect Zipcar

Zipcar car in London street

How do LTNs affect Zipcar

In the neighbourhoods where this scheme is in operation, bollards or planters with signage have been installed at entry and exit points to signal the restrictions to drivers, though some roads do not include bollards and only have signs.

Although some road entrances are no longer accessible, all Roundtrip car bays will have a free route available to access the car club bays, and leave the area at the start of your reservation. Anybody who drives through a restricted traffic filter within a Low Traffic Neighbourhood is subject to a PCN fine.

If your car lives in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood, you are still able to access the car club bay, however, an alternative route may be required. After making a booking, your confirmation email will detail if the car club bay is located within or near an LTN. For further information, click here

zipcar in london

How are Low Traffic Neighbourhoods Chosen?



Local councils are responsible for choosing and implementing low traffic neighbourhoods. After picking out a particular zone, they apply to the DfT for funding. Usually, the council will confer with residents before making a decision - a process that can take time, according to community feedback. Many people support and oppose the construction of LTNs.  

Most of the UK’s current LTNs are in London. That’s because Mayor Sadiq Khan first implemented the Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme in Spring 2020. Now, low traffic neighbourhoods are present across London’s boroughs, including Islington, Croydon, Newham, Hounslow, Camden, Lambeth, Waltham Forest and Ealing. Future plans in the Capital include mass expansions in Hackney, where the borough hopes to make 75% of its roads low traffic by 2025. Other cities like Bristol and Manchester have also followed suit and built their own LTNs.


What are the benefits of LTNs?


LTNs are a hot topic, and it seems people either love or hate them. Starting with the benefits, let’s weigh up the pros and cons of LTNs. 

Have you ever woken up at night to the sudden sound of a car whizzing past? Noisy through-traffic or rat-running can upset your beauty sleep and challenge otherwise peaceful meetings. While electric vehicles are one solution, LTNs cut noise and air pollution by reducing the number of cars on the road. LTNs also make for a safer home. Not only does less traffic equal fewer accidents - and more freedom for kids to play outdoors - it also results in reduced crime. Statistics from the DfT show a 10% drop in the number of average street crimes in LTN areas. Other arguments include possible boosts for local businesses, with greater footfall where people walk instead of driving.

How have Low Traffic Neighbourhoods been successful in reducing traffic?


The million - or should we say billion-dollar question: do they actually work? Researchers from the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy did a deep dive into LTNs. On analysing London’s low traffic neighbourhoods, they found a 32.7% median drop in traffic and a 46.9% mean reduction - that’s nearly half the number of cars! While this looks pretty successful on paper, does it tell the full story? Let’s look at the potential disadvantages of the scheme.


london traffic

What are some of the disadvantages of LTNs?


One argument against it is that LTNs plaster over the traffic problem; they don’t really fix it. That’s to say there’s potential for LTNs to push cars elsewhere, as car commuters may find different routes to get to their destination. This could create more traffic congestion, prolonging journeys and producing even more emissions. 


LTNs could make life more difficult for emergency services. While some people argue LTNs make access easier, the fact is many of the roads don’t give enough room for larger vehicles. There is a case that navigation could also become difficult for emergency responders as well as everyday drivers. If you don’t know the area, you’ll need to rely on a SatNav - and we all know SatNavs can get confused. For LTNs that aren’t regularly updated, a route might appear clear when, in fact, it’s inaccessible. 


Despite the disadvantages, LTNs are here to stay. The government wants further investment, making travel easier for those commuting by bike or on foot - negating the need for a car. If you live in the Capital, will you still need to own a car for those longer journeys? Not necessarily. With Zipcar you can rent a car for your journey. We even cover the cost of fuel, insurance and congestion zone charges for you. Why not go green, and share with friends? Book your Zipcar today.