When Sadiq Khan’s cycling tsar went on a podcast to brag how business has boomed across London thanks to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), small traders felt in their bones this was wrong.
The remarks of Will Norman, the capital’s first walking and cycling commissioner, sparked fury among struggling shop and café owners whose businesses had been impacted by one of the hundreds of traffic-stopping measures.
He claimed footfall had increased by up to 40 per cent in parts of the capital where vehicles have now been shunned, but his figures were not only 10 years out of date, they were taken a year before the first LTN had even been built.
Alev Kotch, 31, who runs the Bowes Café in Myddleton Road, Haringey, North London, claimed the traffic filters had reduced her trade by up to 70 per cent and forced her into bankruptcy. She told MailOnline: ‘I survived the pandemic, but I can’t survive LTNs’.
Similarly, Alfonso D’Auria, 47, said his wholesale ice cream supplying business, which his family have run since 1979, is under threat after an LTN installed in Bounds Green, Enfield, in August.
Tara Hawkins (pictured) said she was forced to close down her business, My Little Emporium, on Myddleton Road in Haringey and move it a few miles away to Crouch End after it ‘devastated’ her trade
An ‘LTNs kill business’ balloon flies in the now closed down My Little Emporium shop on Myddleton Road
He said: ‘We have six companies saying they are not going to be delivering to us (because of the LTN). So we have a big, big problem.
‘If our main suppliers don’t supply to us, we are pretty much finished because we can’t sell. And this business has been our family since 1979.’
On Thursday night, Mr Norman told the News Agents podcast: ‘The studies that we have done in London show that where you have got areas that are more walkable, more cyclable, you had a 40 per cent increase in footfall in shops and on trade.
‘There are streets now which previously had empty retail units that are now part of those Low Traffic Neighbourhoods that for the first time in living memory haven’t had an empty retail outlet.’
It has now transpired, however, that he was referring to data first published a decade earlier in 2013 – a year before the first LTN was installed in London’s Waltham Forest.
The report commissioned by Transport for London (TfL) in 2013, said that those who walk or cycle to the shop are likely to spend 40 per cent more than those travelling via a motorised vehicle.
Mr Norman’s comments on empty retail units were referring to a study conducted by University College London for TfL back in 2018 which said retail vacancies were 17 per cent lower when improvements to walking and cycling on high streets was improved.
However, this was conducted before the majority of LTNs were installed and did not specifically focus on the use of traffic filters.
LTNs prevent cars from driving down through roads, pushing them on to main roads instead. The traffic schemes are implemented and ran by local councils.
London business owners said the use of decade old statistics as a positive defence for the LTNs, which on the whole were not introduced until 2020, was ‘not fair’ and ‘misconstrued’.
Susan Hall, leader of the Conservatives at the Greater London Authority (GLA), said that more up to date figures needed to be used and that the mayor’s office ‘should stop and think that in 2020 we had a great pandemic’.
The Tory councillor for Harrow told MailOnline: ‘I think it [the data] is very misleading and typical coming out of the mayor’s office. They will work everything around if it is something they want to do.
‘All Will Norman is concerned about is people cycling and walking. He should come off his high horse, or high cycle, and think about the disabled or elderly – rather than those who are well enough to walk and cycle.’
Steve Carpenter, 56, who runs a maintenance and building company in and around Islington and Highbury, said the LTNs have made his future business prospects look ‘bleak’.
He told MailOnline the use of older data to defend LTNs was ‘ridiculous’, adding ‘they come out with all this data, but anyone stuck in this traffic every day can see for their own eyes that they are not working’.
Alfonso D’auria’s (pictured) family have been running their wholesale ice cream business in Bounds Green since 1979. He said his business is down 40 per cent since the LTNs were installed
D’auria Brothers Ice Cream and Catering (pictured) first set up shop in Bounds Green in 1979, and supplies ice cream vans, cafes, and restaurants with goods
Alev Kotch, 31, took over the Bowes Cafe on Myddleton Road back in 2017. She said business is down at least by 50 per cent since the LTN trial was introduced in August 2022
Alice Webster Interiors was first set up more than 25 years ago and while the owner has gone through a severe recession and the Covid-19 pandemic, she said that the period following the installation of the LTNs has been the most difficult. Pictured: Owner Alice Webster (left) with other local campaigners trying to speak with Sadiq Khan
Susan Hall (pictured), leader of the Conservatives at the Greater London Authority (GLA), said that more up to date figures needed to be used
Mr Carpenter added: ‘I work in Islington every day and have lived there all of my life for more than 50 years. I have always done the same job, working for the same people, maintaining properties.
‘I used to be able to do around five or six jobs a day but now I am down to three jobs. A quick journey to pick up keys for a job has become a nightmare.
‘A trip that would usually take five minutes now takes an average anywhere between 25 and 40 minutes.
‘And it’s not just me. There are loads of shops that I use for parts who also struggle to get around and so they’re losing trade. I am just one person in thousands.’
He added that because of the traffic calming scheme, the future of his business ‘looks really, really bleak’.
LTNs in Highbury and Islington were first installed in the borough at the end of the first Covid lockdown in July 2020, with the most recent one being installed by the Labour-run Islington council in February 2022.
Mr Carpenter said he has been advised by some to use cargo bikes or walk to the jobs nearby, but he says this is impossible when he has to carry plaster boards and expensive tools.
‘A third of my production has gone down because I am stuck in traffic’ he said.
The London Mayor’s walking and cycling commissioner Will Norman (pictured) claimed that in areas made more walkable and cycleable ‘you have a 40 per cent increase in footfall in shops and on trade’
While speaking on the podcast, Sadiq Khan’s walking and cycling tsar sourced his information from a TfL study back in 2013 that found people who walk to the high street spent 40 per cent in shops than those who drive
Speaking on The News Agents podcast he also claimed in areas where there are Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) footfall and trade in businesses had increased by 40 per cent
‘You get people arguing saying use a cargo bike, they might work for niche businesses, but they don’t work for tradesmen that have ladders, plasters boards and tools.
‘At the end of the week, I am not making any money, I am just surviving because everything seems geared against you. The LTNs to me feel like entrapment.’
It is a similar story for interior designer Alice Webster, 54, who lives in Bounds Green, North London.
Mrs Webster has been affected by a series of LTNs which started to be installed by Enfield council in 2020 and Haringey council in 2022.
She said Mr Newman’s use of the 2013 data was unfair: ‘You have to use true data, it’s not fair to compare data that is not from the present time.’
Alice Webster Interiors was first set up more than 25 years ago and while the owner has gone through a severe recession and the Covid-19 pandemic, she said that the period following the installation of the LTNs has been the most difficult, with many of her contractors refusing to come into London.
She said: ‘My business has suffered severely. I have to use my car and my small team of contractors – plumbers, electricians, carpenters, joiners, decorators, furniture installers, curtain fitters – have to use their vans and cars to carry their tools, ladders, furniture, paint.
‘We cannot do the job without our tools and equipment. Increasingly my team and I are stressed arriving late to clients’ homes, fed up wasting time sitting in traffic going nowhere, missing appointments because of circuitous routes imposed on us by the LTNs we get less done daily.
LTNs prevent cars from driving down through roads, pushing them on to main roads instead
Mr Norman (pictured), who was previously director of global partnerships at Nike, told the podcast that the Ultra low emission zone (Ulez) was not ‘an anti-car agenda’
Sadiq Khan’s (pictured) walking and cycling tsar insisted the Mayor’s ULEZ scheme was not part of an ‘anti-car agenda’
‘Some contractors now refuse work within an LTN and have chosen to work outside London only now. And because parking has also been reduced by councils, unless the clients can park our vehicles, we may have to say sorry we cannot help you.
‘What we are experiencing is not only a war against cars but on businesses who rely on their vehicles.’
Mrs Webster said that since the LTNs were introduced she spends on average each week ‘five to six hours’ more sat in traffic.
On top of the LTNs, her business is affected by the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez), set to expand into Greater London this summer, which charges older and more polluting cars that enter it.
While her vehicles are compliant with the Ulez, many of her contractors are yet to replace their older, more polluting vehicles.
As a result, they are opting for work outside of the scheme, which as of August, will mean outside of Greater London.
She added: ‘My petrol has gone up, my mileage has gone up, our stress levels are through the roof.
‘I would like an exemption for LTNs and the Ulez. It would make sense for us locally to get into our own area without having to do a mile detour. It’s just adding to congestion, adding to the climate issues – it’s not solving the problem.
‘We are all being forced to have a Ulez vehicle – our cars are becoming cleaner than ever, so I don’t understand why they keep changing the goal post.’
Mr D’Auria said his family business, that has been running for almost five decades, is under threat because of the traffic calming scheme.
D’Auria Brothers Ice Cream and Catering first set up shop in Bounds Green in 1979, and supplies ice cream vans, cafes, and restaurants with goods.
Since the LTNs were introduced, however, Mr Dauria said ‘six suppliers’ have been unable to get to him and customers are opting to find wholesalers who are easier to get to.
He said: ‘I say our trade is down 40 per cent in the last year. Our customers having to go elsewhere because it has become a headache to get here. You have to go onto the main road now and risk getting stuck in traffic. And it’s upped our costs because we are now having to deliver to them.
‘The access is very poor, and we have six companies saying they are not going to be delivering to us. So we have a big, big problem.
‘If our main suppliers don’t supply to us, we are pretty much finished because we can’t sell. And this business has been our family since 1979.’
In the nearby borough of Haringey, the businesses on the busy high street are also suffering after an LTN trial scheme was introduced in August 2022.
Ms Kotch, 31, took over the Bowes Cafe on Myddleton Road back in 2017 and is now facing bankruptcy – which she blames on the LTNs that were introduced in August.
She told MailOnline: ‘The first month and a half of the trial business was 70 percent down. It was basically a ghost town here.
‘I reached out to my local customers to tell them how they can get to me, where they can park their cars, there was a bit of an increase, so I was hopeful, but I am still down 50 per cent.
‘The future? To be honest is bankruptcy. I have already got a court date for unpaid bills; I can’t afford to pay the bills, so I don’t see any positive things happening.’
Ms Kotch believes that the LTNs are ‘deliberately attacking working class people’ and those who can afford it least. She hopes the council will realise its ‘mistake’ soon.
She added: ‘Business has been down everywhere due to the cost of living however, with the LTNs we have had a worse impact and LTNs have ruined Myddleton Road. Sooner or later all the businesses will be shutting down and everyone will have to relocate.
‘During the pandemic Myddleton Road was so alive. Everyone was walking up and down, everyone was ordering their takeaways. I survived the pandemic, but I can’t survive LTNs.’
In January, Tara Hawkins, 59, was forced to pack up one of her businesses after the installation of the traffic filters.
She said Haringey council ‘changed the business model’ of Myddleton Road, ‘overnight’ when they introduced the scheme.
Ms Hawkins said: ‘We had to move our business out of Myddleton Road, North London when Haringey Council slapped an LTN around the high street. It devastated not only our trade but many businesses along the street.
‘Loading bays were removed and as soon as that LTN went in it had a dramatic impact as our customers could not get to us.
‘There is this misunderstanding that you can rely on local customers that can walk to you – but we never relied only on local business because customers came from much further away: Highgate, Hamstead, some even from Hertfordshire would pop down.
‘Our shop was not in a poor area, but it was not particularly affluent, and we relied on a mixture of customers coming in, otherwise it impacts your revenue.’
As a result, Ms Hawkins decided to move her shop, called My Little Emporium that sells everything from furniture to clothing, a couple of miles down the road in Crouch End.
She added: ‘It’s in the same borough but there’s no LTNs. So, this time I took a shop on a busy high street, where there are regular buses.
‘We have been busy ever since and that’s because it’s completely normal here in Crouch End.’
While there are currently no LTNs in Crouch End, it is still impacted by the Ulez.
She said: ‘It does not affect my car, but it does affect my business. I rely on skilled people to fix my lights, do the plumbing.
‘We can’t afford any of this. I am horrified about how much of our money is being spent on these schemes and cameras and fining.’
Mr Khan has come under increasing pressure to scrap plans to expand the Ulez on August 29
The current Ulez affects central London but from August it will be expanding to affect wider parts of Greater London
Speaking in the same podcast, Mr Newman said that the Ulez was not part of an ‘anti-car agenda’.
He added: ‘In London we have designed our city around the car for decades, and lo and behold what we have got is car journeys that result in the congestion, that result in 4,000 people dying prematurely just because of their air they breathe, that result in 3,000 being hit or seriously injured or killed every year on the street.
‘We need to change that because where that happens, it makes the city successful because people want to live in places where people want their kids [to] walk to school, cycle to school, cycle to the shops.
‘It is not saying people shouldn’t use their cars, we need fewer cars on our streets, everywhere around the world is saying that. And the cars that we need should be cleaner.’
Mr Khan has come under increasing pressure to scrap plans to expand the Ulez on August 29.
Just this week, however, it was revealed that the Mayor’s plans to expand the Ulez could be stopped after five councils – Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon and Surrey – after they launched a judicial review at the High Court over the road tax scheme.
The High Court ruled that two of the allegations raised have enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Last month, he said ‘anti-vaxxers, Covid deniers, conspiracy theorists and Nazis’ had joined ‘decent Tories’ in opposing extending the Ulez across the capital.
At a People’s Question Time in Ealing, he said: ‘Let’s be frank. Some of those outside are part of the far-Right. Some are Covid deniers. Some are vaccine-deniers. And some are Tories.’
This led to outcries from angry members of the audience who said: ‘We are not the far-Right – normal people are not the far-Right.’
Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands said the comments were reason enough for him to be voted out at the next election.
He said: ‘These are awful comments from the London Mayor, smearing anti-Ulez voices like this. I am not surprised the audience in Ealing pushed back. We need to vote Mayor Khan out next May.’
The comments came amid concerns that LTN schemes in the capital had resulted in 240 ambulances being delayed from reaching potentially life-threatening callouts since 2020.
Howard Cox, founder of the FairFuel UK campaign, said: ‘Millions will be open mouthed at so many local councils’ apparently cavalier attitudes towards human life for the sake of a pointless woke and green idealism.
‘It’s time our myopic central Government terminated the LTN experiment, ripped up these urban road blockades and allowed our emergency services to do their jobs without hold-ups.
‘These costly and senseless road obstacles are spreading right across the UK too, so these figures are likely just the tip of the iceberg.’
And it is not just the capital that is seeing pushback to the ‘anti-car’ measures.
Since LTNs have been introduced in Oxford and Rochdale, a number of violent incidences have been reported, including setting fire to the bollards just hours after being installed in some instances.
Many local authorities, however, have praised LTNs as a success story in tackling congestion and pollution, with 300 already set up or planned nationwide.
The schemes include pop-up cycle lanes, wider pavements and closing streets to cars while policing the new rules with warning signs, CCTV cameras and fines for drivers breaking them.
In 2021, Mr Nornman revealed that 62 miles of cycle lanes were built across London in just 12 months.
It is one of a series of measures that seek to prioritise cyclists and walkers over cars in a bid to bring down high pollution levels across the capital.
Since the pandemic, councils across the UK have been waging a war on cars by removing thousands of parking spaces, replacing them with bike shelters, flower beds and other street furniture.
Parklets, sometimes described as ‘eyesores’ and a ‘waste of taxpayers’ cash’, have seen swathes of pavement and parking spaces replaced with seating areas and flower beds.
Over the pandemic the US-style parklets were built in Britain’s town and cities.
Councils gave businesses permission to build seating areas on parts of the pavement and sometimes side of the road so customers could sit outside.
Drivers have since warned that parklets were the latest example of their freedoms being eroded .
Hugh Bladon, founder of Alliance of British Drivers, a lobby group for motorists, told MailOnline back in 2020: ‘Councils all over the country, the one thing they hate is anybody using the car or any kind of four-wheeled vehicle.
‘They will do anything they can to make it as miserable as possible for drivers.’
Last month, the Mayor (pictured) said that ‘anti-vaxxers, Covid deniers, conspiracy theorists and Nazis’ had joined ‘decent Tories’ in opposing the extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone across the capital
The comments came amid concerns that LTN schemes in the capital had resulted in 240 ambulances being delayed from reaching potentially life-threatening callouts since 2020. Pictured: Paramedics stuck behind LTN bollards in Ealing, West London
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: ‘There is growing evidence which shows Local Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are playing an important role in tackling toxic air, reducing traffic congestion by almost 47 per cent and encouraging more Londoners to walk, cycle and boost their overall physical activity which is essential for the health and future prosperity of our city.’
The spokesperson reiterated the data collected from TfL in 2013 and another report from the same year, Just Economics for Living Streets: ‘Research from Transport for London (TfL) also highlight that people who walk to the High Street spend up to 40 per cent more than those who drive, and that active travel into our communities can also increase retail sales by up to 30 per cent.
‘There has also been a decline in empty retail spaces due to improved infrastructure in these areas and close to half of Londoners who either walk, cycle or take public transport into their local centre are benefitting from the social and community aspect of meeting with others and spending in the night-time economy.
‘The Mayor has been clear that the decision to expand the Ultra-Low Emission Zone London-wide was not easy but necessary. With around 4,000 people dying prematurely in London due to toxic air there is no time to waste – it is also stunting the development of children’s’ lungs and causing heart disease, dementia and other issues.
‘This is why the Mayor is taking decisive action to bring cleaner air to five million outer Londoners. The ULEZ is a highly targeted scheme and the latest data from TfL shows 90 per cent of cars driving in outer London now meet ULEZ standards and there is £110m support available to those who need it, including small businesses and low-income Londoners.’
An Islington Council spokesperson said: ‘We want to ensure our streets work for everyone, including Islington’s fantastic local businesses.
‘People-friendly streets are designed to encourage active travel, by making it safer and easier to walk, cycle and use buggies or wheelchairs. All of the changes ensure that every property that was accessible before the scheme was implemented, remain so.
‘We engage with businesses at all stages of the process of rolling out new people-friendly streets neighbourhoods – before and after trials are implemented, as well as during the consultations – to ensure that their voices are heard.’
‘Studies suggest that those who walk or cycle to shops spend more than those who drive – indicating the positive impact that these changes can have on businesses in Islington. But we know these are significant changes for some and we are determined to work with local businesses to make sure they work for them.’
Cllr Mike Hakata, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Climate Action, Environment and Transport, from Haringey Council said: ‘We’re introducing our low traffic neighbourhoods because we want to reduce the overall volume of traffic in and around the area so that the whole community can benefit from cleaner air and safer streets.
‘Evidence shows that people who walk and cycle to the shops tend to go more often, stay longer and visit more shops because they don’t have to think about parking or traffic. The weekend market on Myddleton Road is evidence of how we can work together to create a vibrant high street when people are encouraged to walk and cycle to their local shops.
‘We know that this is a major change to how people get around. All our LTNs have been introduced on an experimental basis. We engaged extensively with the local community, including traders, before introducing the LTNs and we continue to seek their views on how their local environment can be improved.’
Enfield Council have also been contacted for a comment.