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Angle grinders and flower planters

A low traffic neighbourhood in London. Richard Baker/In Pictures/Getty

There’s something strange happening on the streets of English cities, says George Monbiot in The Guardian. Small groups of furious men, “whipped up by the media and opportunist politicians”, are trying to turn quiet, practical attempts to protect local people into a “full-blown culture war”. In their rage, these men have resorted to “arson, angle grinders and physical attacks on local people”. What is the “frightful cause” of this hysteria? Low traffic neighbourhoods.

“There could scarcely be a more reasonable policy.” So-called LTNs use large flower planters to block residential streets being used as rat-runs by drivers with whizzy, traffic-dodging satnavs. It’s a real problem: in London, car journeys on minor roads rocketed by 63% between 2009 and 2019. Cutting those back results in cleaner air, less noise, safer spaces for children to play and stronger communities. But certain men – “CCTV footage suggests that all of them are men” – find this “intolerable”, spraying the planters with graffiti, going at them with blowtorches and ripping them out of the ground. When local people defend the planters, calling themselves “human bollards”, they are often physically attacked. In some cases, livid drivers got out to punch the street defenders – one person was shunted with a car. Of course, people are entitled to object to LTNs. But the culture war madness that has crossed over from America makes some believe they don’t need to respect the facts – namely that LTNs work everywhere they are tried. Instead, they think it’s fine to “assert, threaten and attack”. We shouldn’t stand for it.