A government scheme to reduce traffic flow in residential areas of Leeds has caused controversy.
Leeds City Council are trialling a scheme to encourage residents to be more conscious of their travel choices. If the trial is successful, areas such as Hyde Park and Beeston could have permanently reduced access for cars, planters in the roads to divert traffic and sign changes.
The neighbourhoods targeted will be known as Active Travel Neighbourhoods and are to encourage residents to consider alternative methods of travel such as walking and cycling, as well as creating safer streets for families.
This scheme is part of the emergency active travel fund distributed throughout the pandemic, after assessing what kind of environmental and social impact the first lockdown had on residents.
Wider pavements and cycle lanes are also going to be introduced and have been completed across Leeds, to ensure people feel at a safe distance from other pedestrians.
Though in the early stages of the trial, locals have already demonstrated their contempt towards the scheme.
Though only implemented on Monday, the planters have caused a lot of anger from Hyde Park residents who feel inconvenienced by the disruption.
Isobel Bates, a resident of the affected Hyde Park area said: “It’s harder to get round now.”
Resident Karen Allen said: “It’s a nightmare. They’re setting us up to fail!”
An engineer for Leeds City Council explained that Leeds residents were made aware of this trial through a letter drop which directed recipients to the community website, Commonplace.
On this website, residents had the opportunity to comment on the trial and whether they wanted it to go through or not.
He explained: “Usually with these projects, we can have a community meeting where people can have their say in real life, but with COVID-19 we had to adapt the best we could.”
Have Leeds Council been clear about the trial?
The trial is expected to last up to 18 months and will also be put in place in the Beeston area of Leeds, after the original trial there was put on hold. But, many Beeston residents claimed they did not get a proper say in whether the trial went through or not.
One resident who feels this way is Muriel Rogers, who said: “I didn’t get the first letter, just the second without the map of the plans.” Rogers is not alone in thinking that the council were lacking in their contact with the residents. Jane Knighton claimed: “hardly any of the residents in LS11 got their letters.”
The scheme was inspired by the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods introduced in Waltham Forest, London. These ‘mini-Holland’ like schemes have not been well received by London residents, who say it just “diverts traffic to other roads and pushes families out of areas.”
Leeds locals like Rogers are concerned that the outcome of the London schemes are a worrying foresight into the results of the trials in Leeds. Based on the tipping of the plant pots, some residents have even taken measures into their own hands.
In response to the upturned planters, Leeds City Council said: “We are learning as we go what people want and don’t want. It is a trial for a reason and we will see it through to know what to change.”
Despite the negative reaction from some locals, it is not the unanimous view. Mark Griffin, from Beeston, said: “We we robbed of our trial by people objecting before the trial. I would like to know what the areas who allowed this to happen have to say.”
These planters will be kept in Hyde Park despite the current backlash and the council hope that people will reconsider the five minute drive to the shops and instead pick alternative forms of travel.