A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) sounds great in theory. Who wouldn’t want to see a reduction of traffic in city centres alongside an improvement in air quality? It’s the same with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). Limiting traffic to resident access only and having a street that’s quiet and safe must be great for those living in an LTN. It’s pretty crap for everyone else though…

All CAZs and LTNs do is shift the traffic elsewhere. Having looked at how these are being implemented, it does seem that it’s often neighbouring working class areas that find themselves enduring an influx of displaced traffic. With the recent implementation of a CAZ across central Bristol, residents in surrounding areas are seeing a massive increase in traffic and a consequent decrease in air quality. This is just one of a number of examples of how this happens: Residents of busy road in Bristol say impact of Clean Air Zone is ‘horrendous’ 20.12.22.

Unless there are serious long term plans to offer people an alternative to using their cars in busy central districts, all CAZs and LTNs are going to achieve is move the problem of traffic congestion and pollution from one area to another. CAZs and LTNs can only work if there are viable alternative options for people to use to move around cities. That means reliable and effective public transport. With a railway network that was butchered way back in the 1960s and a bus ‘service’ notorious for its unreliability, the residents of Bristol are stuffed when it comes to alternatives to using their cars.

Yes we know that people can cycle and walk but… For starters, Bristol is a hilly city. It’s not obvious cycling territory. A lot of people cycle because they see it as more reliable than public transport. This is despite the hills and the fact that the infrastructure for cycling is a lot less than desired. As for walking round Bristol, as non drivers, we have done a fair bit of that and trust us when we say that given the state of the pavements, it’s often a far from pleasant experience!

Until the local authorities in the region get their act together to deliver a comprehensive public transport network that’s attractive enough to get people to leave their cars at home, measures to reduce traffic and air pollution are about as much use as p***ing into the wind. CAZs and LTNs are little more than performative gestures to make local authorities look as though they’re doing something while ignoring the problems caused by decades of shit planning policy and underinvestment in public transport.

For the record, here’s everything we’ve written on 15 minute neighbourhoods and other so called traffic management measures so far: More thoughts on fifteen minute neighbourhoods… 28.12.22 and: 15 minute neighbourhoods revisited 6.12.22, plus: 15 minute cities / neighbourhoods – a good or a bad idea? 23.3.22, with this as a bit of a qualifier: Connectivity vs convenience 15.4.22.