The head of a Ladywell Primary school participating in a Lewisham council initiative that closes roads at drop-off and pick-up times has applauded the scheme, saying it will safeguard the streets near the school.
Head of Prendergast Primary School, Vivien Nicholls, said the school street scheme – currently used by 26 schools in the borough will alleviate fears surrounding the school environment. Nicholls said: “We were really pleased that this initiative is going ahead as we have become increasingly concerned over road safety and air pollution around our school.”
She told Eastlondonlines: “[Due to the scheme] staff no longer need to spend time ‘policing’ dangerous and illegal parking [or] driving on the school street. Parents are pleased that the street is a safer place and pupils enjoy cycling, walking and having more independence.”
The issue of air pollution is a major threat to children and young peoples’ health, with 27 per cent of British schools and colleges being in areas where fine particular matter (air pollutant) levels exceed the limit, advised by the World Health Organisation.
Clean air campaigners claim 6.7 per cent of deaths in the borough of Lewisham are attributable to air pollution, adding that the area does not meet legal limits for nitrogen oxides in the air at some of its monitoring sites.
School streets aims to address this issue, by initiating road closures near the borough’s schools which eases travel for local pedestrians and cyclists, minimising road congestion.
Lewisham Councillor and Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, Brenda Dacres, believes that the scheme will reduce road danger during busier school times. Dacres said: “School Streets aim to transform roads outside schools, so that pedestrians and cyclists feel safer at school start and finish times.”
The selected roads become pedestrian and cycle zones during school opening and closing times, in an attempt to reduce congestion and ultimately air pollution.
With school journeys contributing towards local traffic, road closures may encourage people to travel to school without a vehicle, leading to less congestion. Dacres said: “The school run makes up about 25 per cent of weekday traffic in London with average journeys of less than one km, so by discouraging car trips, school streets will help to reduce traffic on all roads.
“Restricting traffic down roads will make people feel safer to walk, scoot and cycle, instead of making short journeys by car. This will improve local air quality.”
The wider space gained from vehicle-free roads will also reduce the spread of Covid-19. Dacres said: “School streets also support social distancing, creating more space on the pavement at pick up and drop off times.”
The council also says that the scheme has already reduced pollution. Dacres said: “Research has found that School Streets have cut toxic nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 23 per cent. NO2 [nitrogen dioxide] is associated with lung inflammation and can trigger asthma symptoms from short-term exposure, while long-term exposure to higher concentrations of NO2 can impair lung development in children…”
School streets was launched in September 2020, initiating road closures near 10 of the borough’s schools, but a further 16 schools have operated under the programme since April 19 2021.