Three months in, the new Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) in Stoke Newington is splitting opinion, with traders partly blaming it for the drop in Christmas footfall and parents saying it is easier to walk children to school.
Church Street, a popular shopping destination, is one of 19 roads that have seen traffic banned from 7am to 7pm.
The LTN was funded by Transport for London’s Air Quality Fund and followed consultations with residents from 2019.
The move also saw a bus gate installed opposite the Red Lion pub at the end of September.
Bikes, buses, refuse trucks and emergency vehicles are allowed through, but other vehicles are restricted.
Deliveries can access all parts of Church Street, but are not allowed to drive through the bus gate between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Sunday.
The council said: “We recognise there may be some inconvenience as delivery vehicles may have to change their routes slightly, or have a reduction in route choice.”
But it added: “We believe that the benefits to businesses in the area from an improved environment that can lead to increased footfall outweigh the inconvenience.”
Hackney Council has also created 40 school streets, which restrict traffic during school drop-off and pick-up hours.
These are designed to encourage “people to walk, shop and cycle locally and create cleaner, greener neighbourhoods”.
The new LTN in Stoke Newington has provoked mixed reactions, with many traders saying it hit business.
Florist and Green Room Cafe owner Oya Adem said: “It is very quiet and our suppliers are complaining. I think it is creating more pollution as traffic has to go around Church Street.”
It means her journey times are longer and she has to use Manor Road instead.
“I’m doing at least ten to 15 minutes more driving each way,” she added. “The congestion at 5pm on Church Street is horrendous.
“They have created the fumes all down the junction with the High Street.”
She also said passing trade has dropped off: “People used to come in with their car key and say ‘I saw that lovely bouquet’ and stopped to buy it.”
Nicolas, who works on Church Street, said there were pros and cons but felt people should generally use their cars less.
He said the health benefits outweigh some of the other issues such as factoring in extra time if travelling in a motor vehicle and for companies making deliveries.
“The closures are an inconvenience and burden but given the suffering of health [from pollution] it is no question,” he said.
“I think the pollution aspects are a time bomb for the NHS,” he added, before explaining that he suffered from breathing problems when there was more traffic near his home. His doctor attributed it to pollution in the city.
Another business owner who was unwilling to be named said the LTN had caused problems with deliveries as internet search engines say the road is closed.
“People do not know they can come to Church Street.”
He pointed out a lorry making a U-turn after delivering goods to a nearby shop: “It’s dangerous making a U-turn, because they can’t carry on down the road.”
Customer Helen Kirby said the change meant cars were using nearby streets such as Defoe Road as a short cut. She said Lordship Road also seemed busier.
She suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and said: “My breathing has got worse.
“We have still got bikes using the pavements and pedestrians are fighting buggies. I do not think businesses ar getting as many customers as they used to.”
However, others champion the LTN.
A local parent said: “There is less traffic outside my children’s school. It’s just easier to cross the road with my children. Before you could stand there for minutes in one place at the crossing.
“I can see the downsides as well. It’s making journeys longer as well. On the whole I think it is stopping the larger traffic.”
She added that parents have been concerned about traffic, with engines idling outside William Patten Primary School on Church Street.
The school planted a green screen to offset some of the pollution and has a monitor in the playground.
“It was not ideal outside the playground,” she added. “I think it’s a much nicer street without the traffic.”
The average number of motor vehicles seen daily on Church Street dropped by 39 per cent in the weeks after the change – that’s 4,215 fewer journeys a day.
The council also recorded a 2.8 per cent increase or 209 more pedestrians on the road every day in the first few weeks after the LTN was introduced.
The council is inviting feedback on the changes until 31 March 2022 at rebuildingagreenerhackney.commonplace.is/proposals/stoke-newington.