‘Low Traffic Neighbourhood’ protesters block Upper Street

Demonstration follows latest road measures in St Mary’s

Friday, 4th February — By Anna Lamche

LTN protest

Traffic comes to a halt in Upper Street

PROTESTERS who want to see Islington’s traffic policies ripped up returned to Upper Street for a fresh roadblock protest on Tuesday evening.

They gathered outside the Town Hall in opposi­tion to a new “Low Traffic Neighbourhood” installed in the St Mary’s road network on Wednesday.

 

Islington has faced a series of similar demonstrations since pressing ahead with a series of road closures and traffic measures aimed at cutting rat-run routes and pollution.

A long queue of cars and buses were backed up as around 40 people with placards from the group Keep Islington Moving stretched out across the street.

Conservative councillor Rakhia Ismail and the chair of Islington Young Conservatives Harry Nugent, had been in Cross Street earlier in the day waving down traffic to inform drivers of the new LTN boundaries. The Tories are opposing the council’s approach.

Police were called to the demonstration, and after about 40 minutes, the protest dispersed and the road was reopened.

No arrests were made.

‘Please give us a way through LTN routes!’

LOW Traffic Neighbourhoods have stirred up “hostility towards disabled people,” the council has been told.

At 35, a spinal cord injury left Lois Keith unable to walk. Since the injury, she has devoted her life to improving disabled access to performing arts schools – receiving an OBE for her work in 2016. Now 72, Ms Keith is battling cancer.

“I’m disabled, I don’t walk at all, and I have stage four cancer – I have lots of hospital appointments at Barts, and I’m dependent on a car,” she said.

But because Ms Keith does not live within an LTN, she has “no right to apply for any LTN concessions.”

She said: “You have this irony of it taking 20 minutes to Highbury corner and then no more than 10 minutes to get all the way to Bart’s.”

She said that driving has allowed her to live independently.

“I brought up two children, I had a job, I paid my taxes – driving facilitated all of that,” she added.

“I think that there is an enormous amount of hostility towards disabled people.

“Disabled people are personified as not caring about clean air, but that’s absolute rubbish. It’s not that we don’t care.”

While some blue badge holders have exemptions that allow them to pass through the traffic filters in their home LTN, campaigners have argued that these exemptions are “too limited” for longer journeys.

Ed Cripwell, of Disability Action Islington, said: “It ticks all the right boxes in the official literature, but as we know, it’s only allowing you to drive through the filters in your own LTN.

“Realistically, people’s lives don’t exist in the little square that’s been designated by the council.”

Disabled people are keenly awaiting the council’s new ‘Exceptional Circumstance Dispensation’ (ECD) scheme.

The council said: “Exemptions have already been introduced in four people-friendly streets neighbourhoods, with a fifth later this month. We know some people may need a wider exemption, and will introduce an exceptional circumstance dispensation, to travel through other filters.”

LOIS KEITH OBE: “I’ve been disabled for about 35 years. At the beginning, things were very difficult, buildings and schools were inaccessible – but after that, things started to get better. Reasonable adjustments were introduced. Now I feel that things have gone backwards. We drive along main roads, past all these schools where the traffic is completely blocked and polluting.”

GINA BAR-ON: “I’M a single mum to a disabled child, Orr (pictured), who is 13. He’s got a rare genetic mutation, mild cerebral palsy, autism – very complex needs, so I have to drive him around. We live next to the Emirates stadium. LTNs have turned my life into a misery – local trips that used to take minutes can now take 40 minutes. The current Blue Badge exemptions are pitiful – they’ve hardly changed anything. This is completely ignoring people who can’t walk or cycle.”

KAREN MOODY: “My son Sam (pictured) turned 15 yesterday. He has autism – he’s high-functioning but extremely vulnerable. The Disability Discrimination Act and the Equalities Act is supposed to prevent disabled people from being discriminated against, but the neurotypical and able-bodied people run the show. Disabled people care about the planet, but it can’t be the planet over the people.”

ELODIE DENJEAN: “My son, Matthieu (pictured), is 13 years old and he’s got autism. He goes to a special school in Camden and has appointments at the Royal Free, but we live in Highbury East. I need to go across Highbury West Low Traffic Neighbourhood, but I’m not eligible for an exemption because we don’t live there. Matthieu gets really agitated in traffic. This is detrimental to his well-being. We should have a special circumstance dispensation across all the LTNs.”

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