Leeds City Council has begun the trials for its first ‘Active Travel Neighbourhoods,’ designed to stop drivers using residential streets as rat runs.
The scheme involves large planters being placed into the middle of the road to prevent cars from easily cutting through areas of Hyde Park and Chapeltown with plans to also introduce them in Beeston.
Neil Walshaw is a councillor for Headingley and Hyde Park and the chair of the Leeds climate emergency advisory committee and development plan panel. He said: “Leeds is the largest European city without a public transit system, we’ve got 40,000 cars moving around each day so I don’t think anybody would argue that there’s not a problem with traffic.”
In the initial trials, the council will have installed around 120 planters in 60 locations; however, the roads will still be accessible for residents, deliveries, emergency vehicles and business owners.
Funding from the scheme is part of a £730,000 sum given to Leeds by the Department for Transport through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, meaning that there was a limited period to consult the public on the plans.
Coun Lisa Mulherin, the council executive member for climate change, transport and sustainable development explained the short consultation period.
“We would normally have undertaken extensive local consultation before delivering anything like this on the ground, but the conditions of the government’s emergency active travel funding required councils across the country to submit, design and deliver schemes on the ground in a matter of weeks.”
Adam O’Malley, 22, a geography and transport studies student and Hyde Park resident said: “I’m supportive of the scheme as it tackles the growth of cut through traffic on residential streets, brought about by the adoption of satellite navigation apps.
“Data shows residential streets have borne the brunt of the growth in traffic … exposing them to worsening air pollution, congestion and traffic danger.”
The trials will last a minimum of six weeks, during which the council says it will “closely consult, monitor and evaluate their impact.”
Coun Neil Walshaw also highlighted the importance of drivers to consider why the scheme has been brought in. He said: “People don’t realise the levels of deaths on our roads, they’re not there to be used as a racetrack, they have a purpose.
“There’s a lot of young families, a lot of kids under 12 and not a lot of gardens in these areas so we need to make it a safe environment.”
To find out exactly where the planters have been installed you can visit the council’s commonplace website at https://leedscovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview, where you can also provide feedback on the scheme.
There’s the clue: “……the government’s emergency active travel funding”. Free cash from Boris to temporarily widen pavements and promote walking/cycling as safer Covid alternatives to problematic social distance buses and trains.
It wasn’t provided to block roads and segregate Hyde Park.