With today being the first day back at school for many Newham children, it seemed like a good time to write a blog post about our proposals for ‘Healthy School Streets’. I have mentioned this proposal before in my update report, but am so passionate about this that I thought it deserved its own blog post.
I remember first hearing about school streets a couple of years ago, and watching a news piece which showed a teacher and school children going out into the road and unlocking and raising a small metal bollard to shut the street outside the school to traffic. This made the news because the idea of shutting a road during drop-off and pick-up time was new and unusual. Since then, school streets closures, or school streets, as some local authorities call them, have become more common, in London boroughs like Hackney, Islington and Redbridge, and further afield too. And now we are proposing our first in Newham, which includes Woodgrange Infants school and Godwin Junior school, both close to my heart and my home as they are in my ward and also the schools where my girls go.
We are proposing timed street closures which would mean that the bit of Sebert between Woodgrange Road and Cranmer Road was closed, plus that southern bit of Cranmer Road, plus the bit of Godwin to the north that borders Godwin school. The closures would be enforced by camera during that time, and residents who live on the closed roads would be exempt and still able to move their vehicles during the closures.
There are loads of benefits to school streets. One of them is cleaner air for our children and their growing lungs, a health risk that is growing in importance as we learn more about the impact that pollution has on development and life expectancy. Closing the road improves road safety outside schools, an improvement that anyone will welcome who has been on Sebert Road at 9am, and seen the backed up cars, surrounded by small children and frazzled parents, and heard the angry tooting of blocked in drivers, and of drivers stopping illegally on the zigzag lines ‘just for a moment’ to drop off their children. It creates a more peaceful, and less stressful start to the school day, and children who are happier and more ready to learn. But perhaps most importantly, and the bit I am most pleased about, is how there is some evidence to show that closing the street outside the school can help with behavior change, and result in more children walking and cycling to school, and fewer driving.
Of course there will remain some parents for whom driving to school is a significantly better option. If you or your child is disabled, for example. Anyone with a blue badge is exempt from the scheme, and people who really absolutely cannot avoid driving can still drive to school, avoiding the closures, and park outside the zone, and walk the final few minutes. But for the majority of parents, who live within a very small area which is very walkable, and who already walk or cycle, this will make a safer, cleaner, better drop-off and pick-up.
Needless to say, this should form just part of Newham’s overall approach to encouraging walking and cycling, and also to our overall approach to air quality. If you’re interested in improving air quality, I would strongly encourage you to take part in our air quality consultation which is online here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/ServiceChild/Air-pollution-consultation.aspx
The formal consultation on the proposed school streets in Forest Gate North has now finished, and the responses are being looked at. I am hopeful that, depending on what people have said, we will be able to start the road closures in the Autumn. If you are keen on this idea, and would like to help, then please do contact me. I am hoping to organize a bit of a launch event, and local volunteers to stand at the various closure points and help inform traffic and parents would be really helpful.
In the meantime, I have done lots of tweeting about the proposal, including some video vox pops, and you can find these on twitter here: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23healthyschoolstreets%20%40rectripp&src=typd
Find out more:
Want to find out more? There are lots of great individuals and organisations campaigning for Healthy Streets generally, and for school street closures specifically.
For more detailed information about what is happening locally, you can read about Newham’s proposed Healthy School Streets on the Newham website here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/Services/Healthy-School-Streets.aspx
There is also a great video about school streets that Hackney produced, which is online here.
Mums for Lungs are a small but brilliant voluntary organization campaigning for clean air, and providing some very useful pressure on all London boroughs to start closing school streets. Their website about school streets is here: https://www.mumsforlungs.org/about-school-streets