Image: Matt Seymour / Unsplash

Image: Matt Seymour / Unsplash

The Governance of Controversies in the Allocation of Road Space: The Case of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods


Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) provide an important example of controversies around road space allocation, and they have recently made headlines across England. LTNs remove through traffic from residential streets, often through modal filters, while leaving streets 'permeable' to pedestrians and cyclists. They raise profound questions of governance, at both national and local levels, and also expose basic differences within local communities. Implementation of LTNs may appear to follow technocratic processes, but in reality they can lead to the formation of rival coalitions of different actors and generate intense conflicts, with both protagonists and opponents unwilling and incapable of listening to those with (perhaps slightly) different views and perspectives.

The project will investigate how policies put forward at national government level are translated to action at the local level. Controversy has been heightened in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, so that the Emergency Active Travel Fund (now the Active Travel Fund) that promotes and funds LTNs, was introduced initially to reallocate road space to pedestrians and cyclists to encourage more environmentally friendly travel behaviours. The roll out of LTNs has therefore accelerated, but has also intensified differences between those in favour and opposed to LTNs. The project will examine these processes, including implementation, finance, monitoring, and evaluation, and how local experiences can feed back into the national policy processes.

The project will also investigate the formation of different coalitions between communities, businesses, lobbying groups and interests, and politicians, and establish the impact of these on implementation and the success/failure of schemes. At both national and local levels, unconventional and unpredictable coalitions have developed, both in favour and against LTNs. For example, while LTNs are being promoted and facilitated by the Conservative government, at the local level many LTNs are being implemented by Labour controlled councils, while being strongly opposed by Conservative councillors. Over the past year, there has been a severe backlash against LTNs from motoring interests, road hauliers, public transport and taxi operators, and the emergency services, to the extent that several LTNs have been abolished after only brief periods. This raises basic questions concerning the ability of local authorities to defend LTNs against those who believe in their right to drive a vehicle throughout residential neighbourhoods.

The project will examine the processes of local implementation and their relationship with public acceptability. It will also comment on the dynamics of change in the context of LTNs being introduced as temporary measures, and how the temporary can be made permanent. The project will therefore examine the lessons that can be learned about how to negotiate the political obstacles to LTN implementation, and the factors that breed success or failure.

In analysing LTNs, particular emphasis will be placed on the role and evolution of advocacy coalitions at both national and local levels. Rival advocacy coalitions tend to create and mobilise their own narratives about the benefits and costs, and winners and losers, of interventions, including LTNs. Empirically, the project will address two case studies (the Levenshulme and Burnage LTN in Manchester, and a set of three LTNs in Cowley in Oxford) that are both locally controversial, and raise questions concerning the character of the coalitions that form around the concept of LTNs; the differing need and priorities of local communities; and the prospects for LTNs becoming permanent.

The outputs of the research will include a report on the outcomes for the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund. An Interim Report will also be submitted after ten months of the project. The results will be written up and disseminated via articles submitted to principal academic and practitioner journals. There will also be a database of relevant stakeholders, each of who, at the end of the project, will receive a four-page policy brief summarising key insights and recommendations.

Further Information

For more information on this research project please contact Dr Geoff Dudley.

In brief


August 2021 - October 2022


Rees Jeffreys Road Fund

Principal Investigator

Dr Geoff Dudley


Dr Geoff Dudley