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Meeting Islington Clean Air Parents and joining the campaign for School Streets

 As a Senior Solicitor in the Child Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, I represent children who suffer life changing brain injuries in road traffic accidents. Sadly most of our clients are injured whilst crossing the road and most require high levels of support, care and assistance for the rest of their lives because of the injuries sustained.

This means that, as a team, we are committed to supporting initiatives that improve road safety for children.

With this in mind, I recently had the privilege of meeting the fantastic parents and carers of Islington Clean Air Parents to discuss the important School Street Scheme that is dedicated to making our roads safer for children.

A recording of the meeting can be seen below – it really is a must watch!

You will see that Jemima Vivien, Founder of Mums for Lungs, joined to provide even more innovative tips and ideas.

What is the School Street Scheme?

School streets reduce children’s exposure to air pollution and increase their safety by closing the road outside the school to through traffic as they arrive and leave school.  Only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to use the road.  This means that children can use the road safely without the risk of being knocked over by a car.

How School Streets work

School Streets can be implemented because Local authorities in the UK have powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (s1 and s6-9) to regulate traffic and restrict access:

  1. to avoid danger to persons or other traffic using the road;
  2. to facilitate the passage on the road of any class of traffic (including pedestrians); and
  3. to prevent the use of a road by vehicular traffic where such use is inappropriate given the street context.

As part of the School Street Scheme, a traffic management order is applied to a street around a school, temporarily restricting access to motorised vehicles.

Signs are put up to inform drivers of the road closure.  Barriers and cameras can be used to enforce it.

Residents, local businesses and blue badge holders are able to apply for exemptions.

School Streets are going from strength to strength.  Scotland was the first in the UK to introduce school street schemes in 2015.  Camden was the first in London in 2017.  Numbers keep growing.  A map of all of the existing (in blue) and incoming (in yellow) School Streets can be found here.

Closer to home, 13 new school streets were implemented by Islington Council in September.  By December 2020, Islington Council will have implemented 39 Schools Streets across the borough.  This will mean that around half of Islington schools now have a School Street.

Although School Streets are spreading from borough to borough, there is still work to be done!

Why we need School Streets 

School Streets have identified that the school run related traffic adds 254,000 vehicles a day in London alone.

As a result, roads around schools at drop off and pick up times are dominated by cars.  This can make the walk to school feel unsafe for high numbers of children.

Shockingly, School Streets have identified statistics from the Department of Transport revealing that 14% of children killed on Great Britain’s roads in 2018 were between the morning school run (7 – 9am) and 23% after school between 3-5pm.

Schemes such as School Streets are now more important than ever.

As a result of the pandemic, there has been a marked increase in parents choosing to drive to and from school or walk rather than use public transport which means more traffic and a higher number of child pedestrians.

This is understandable as the capacity of our public transport has reduced and it is hard to safely socially distance on London’s narrow streets.  In a desire to stay safe, parents and children may find themselves spilling out into the road instead of standing on a narrow pavement.  This places them at risk of being involved in a life changing road traffic accident.

By removing the presence of cars during drop off and pick up times, children, their parents and carers can travel to and from school safely.

Evaluation reports from earlier schemes have shown that School Streets work.

The scheme has resulted in a marked decrease in accidents both on the school street where the scheme has been implemented but also on surrounding streets.  This is absolutely fantastic, as the benefits of the scheme are spread far and wide.

School Streets also go hand in hand in numerous other benefits including to health.  More information can be found here.

Campaigning for a School Street

School Streets recognise that the school, parents and residents make the best advocates.  Among other measures, they recommend:

  1. Building momentum: Use any and every opportunity to shout about school safety and school streets; and
  1. Making the case: Harvest the pester power of children to support the demand for intervention such as School Streets.  This can include a Walking School Bus, families cycling to the school run together and getting in touch with your Council’s School Travel Officer, Safety Travel Officer or Road Safety Officer.

A brilliant collection of resources and links to start the School Street conversation can be found here.

It was an absolute pleasure to join the passionate campaigners of Islington Clean Air Parents and to learn about the amazing work that they are doing to improve road safety for the children of Islington and beyond.

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