Council initiatives drive safer streets and cleaner air outside schools

We should applaud the increasing number of councils that are taking positive steps to protect children from air pollution and traffic whilst promoting walking, scooting and cycling during their journeys to and from school.

Designating streets around schools as ‘no entry’ zones is an approach that seems to be catching on. After carrying out local consultations, councils are installing signs to notify drivers that these streets can only be accessed by cyclists and pedestrians at the displayed times. Exemptions do of course apply to residents, businesses and blue badge holders requiring access in these zones. Non-exempt vehicles that enter the closed streets during the peak times are identified by Videalert’s automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.

The London Borough of Redbridge is piloting one of these schemes with funding from the Mayor of London and Transport for London. According to Cllr Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council: “We have a duty to protect our children’s health, both as a council, and also as members of the community ourselves. Targeting congested areas outside of schools will cut down on pollution caused by traffic, and also make roads much safer for children. We know that air quality is a top concern for parents and that’s why we’re working on initiatives such as this to build a cleaner and safer environment for our residents and mitigate the impact pollution has on local young people.”

Video evidence is transmitted to Videalert’s hosted digital video platform where evidence packs can be viewed and validated prior to sending to the council’s back office system for the issuance of penalty charge notices (PCN). To reduce the number of appeals, PCN recipients will be able to view still photographs and video footage of the alleged offence over the internet.

This scheme is already delivering good results. Susan Johnson, Headteacher of SS Peter & Paul’s Catholic Primary School, which is one of the schools taking part in the Redbridge School Streets pilot programme, said: “The whole community at SS Peter and Paul’s is delighted with this project which will improve air quality and reduce congestion around the school. It is already a much safer place for the children; thank you Redbridge Council.”

The London Borough of Havering has also taken similar measures. It ran the first pilot scheme of its kind using Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) legislation making anti-social driving a criminal offence in streets around schools during drop off and pick up times.

The council believed that the most effective way to improve road safety during term time was the threat of potential criminal proceedings. This was supported by parents and local residents as shown by a consultation, carried out prior to invoking PSPO legislation, which showed 77% or higher approval ratings for each of the first four schools initially chosen to pilot the scheme. The pilot scheme resulted in a 90% reduction in traffic in around schools during drop off and pick up times.

Cllr Osman Dervish, cabinet member for community safety at the London Borough of Havering, commented: “Poor, irresponsible behaviour from a minority of parents created an unsafe environment for the majority of parents and their children. Hearts and minds campaigns, 1200 parking tickets, excellent school travel planning and letters from the children themselves pleading for a change in behaviour have all failed to create a safe environment in and around our schools.”

Reducing Pollution
As well as making streets safer for children on their way to and from school, such initiatives are also aimed at reducing the levels of pollution in these locations. New guidance for this has recently been issued by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) and the National Education Union (NEU). The BLF has produced a clean air champions toolkit which contains resources and tips to get campaigns running. This toolkit provides advice on integrating air pollution education into the national curriculum and how to provide health support to pupils suffering from air pollution. It also details how to identify and monitor air quality.

Videalert provides solutions that can help with this too after launching a new generation of air quality monitors which enable councils to cross correlate the impact of their healthy streets schemes with the improvements in air quality. These monitors can use the same infrastructure deployed for CCTV enforcement cameras for real-time data capture on the level of airborne particulates, including PM 2.5, 10 and 100 as well the dangerous gases, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide. This sensor data can be ‘visualised’ to show the levels of gas and particulate matter at different times throughout the day and night to illustrate trends in pollution levels.

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