New policy on Blue Badge exemptions in low traffic neighbourhoods
Blue Badge holders will be able to drive through traffic filters on applicable bus routes in future trial low traffic neighbourhoods, or those implemented last year if they are made permanent, following comments received from residents during the Council’s ongoing nine-month engagement and listening exercise with residents.
Hackney’s trial low traffic neighbourhoods are designed to encourage people to walk, shop and cycle locally in the aftermath of the pandemic, while maintaining access to all addresses for drivers.
The decision by the Council to grant exemptions for Blue Badge holders is aimed at addressing concerns outlined by some people with disabilities following the introduction of low traffic neighbourhoods, and mitigating the impact of alternative routes on those who find it harder to take them.
The Council has been carrying out a nine-month listening and engagement exercise with residents in the borough, who have been able to feed back on the Council’s plans to rebuild a greener Hackney online or in writing, with over 19,000 responses so far. The Council is continuing to listen and engage with residents, with an independent research organisation set to analyse engagement responses received from local people.
The exemption would see residents with companion badges - which register a specific vehicle number plate to a Blue Badge* - exempted from low traffic neighbourhood restrictions on classified roads with bus routes that are managed by the Council.
If this was applied to the trials implemented last year, this would see companion badge holders exempted from the camera-enforced traffic filters in Shepherdess Walk and in three locations on Richmond Road.
A decision on whether to keep, amend or remove the low traffic neighbourhood trials introduced last year, will be made following a review of comments and traffic data. The exemption would come into effect at that time, if schemes are made permanent.
As part of its plans to rebuild a greener Hackney, the Council has introduced 40 new School Streets and 15 low traffic neighbourhood schemes, covering approximately 17% of the borough’s residents.
Alongside the listening exercise, the Council conducted nearly 300 traffic counts in November**, which are being repeated this summer along with 20 new continuous traffic counters on main roads, to assess the impacts of the schemes.
As well as supporting increased walking and cycling, low traffic neighbourhoods are aimed at discouraging through-traffic from using neighbourhood streets as a shortcut.
About 40% of traffic in Hackney originates from outside of the borough and passes through without stopping, which is borne out by data from traffic cameras on trial traffic filters, which show that 82% of vehicles driving through are registered to drivers from outside Hackney.
I’ve been clear from the start that I’m passionate about rebuilding a greener Hackney, but that I’m also here to listen.
Alongside supporting people to walk, cycle and shop locally, one of the core aims of our plans to rebuild a greener Hackney is to reduce the number of car journeys in the borough, which have increased over the last ten years despite car ownership in the borough decreasing.
While many people are able to do this, we’ve heard from residents with disabilities who cannot make this switch because they can’t walk or cycle more.
That is why I am delighted to announce that Blue Badge holders will be exempt from future low traffic neighbourhood schemes, as we aim to make them more inclusive.
Over the coming weeks and months, I will continue to engage with residents to better understand the impact of our schemes, and where necessary, we will continue to make changes as we aim to rebuild a greener Hackney.
*Blue Badges are not assigned to a specific numberplate.
**Initial analysis of traffic levels in the London Fields and Homerton low traffic neighbourhoods has shown early signs of traffic reduction in each area, with traffic down on roads inside LTNs by between 40 and 44%, and on boundary roads by between seven and 22%.