Half of all schools in UK towns and cities could easily roll out School Streets to improve local air pollution and road safety, according to a report commissioned by campaign group Mums for Lungs and environmental charity Possible.
School Streets restrict traffic on roads outside of schools at opening and closing times in a bid to reduce air pollution, improve road safety and encourage children to walk or cycle to school.
The traffic restrictions can be enforced by using road signs, temporary bollards and occasionally automatic number plate recognition cameras.
According to the report, one in five schools located on the main road could have a School Street by closing an adjacent side street.
The report also revealed that the proportion of School Streets in London, Birmingham, Leeds and Bristol has the potential to increase to two-thirds.
Based on the average car emissions, the roll-out of School Streets in these four cities has the potential to reduce air pollution by up to 64,000kg a year and carbon emissions by up to 12,000 tonnes per year.
Air pollution has a big impact on children because of their vulnerability and unequal exposure, including their exposure from the school run, where air pollution levels have been found to increase by up to five times.
By reducing the number of cars around a school, the authors have highlighted that this can help protect children from the dangers of air pollution, as well as wider road danger.
Jemima Hartshorn, founder of Mums for Lungs, said: ‘Breathing clean air on the school run, and indeed all day, must be paramount.
‘To protect our children as well as future generations, we need to see an immediate mass roll-out of School Streets along with other measures that can clean up our air across the country. We are standing together to beat Covid19 – let’s stand together to beat this public health crisis of air pollution too.’
Hirra Khan Adeogun, head of Car Free Cities at Possible, added: ‘School Streets are the perfect first step in any plan to tackle out-of-control pollution from motor traffic on Britain’s roads.
‘They’re quick, they’re cheap, they’re popular, they target protection where it’s most needed and our new analysis shows that they could be rolled out tomorrow across half of all schools in England’s towns and cities. The Secretary of State must now make good on his promise and give all local authorities the same powers as London boroughs to protect children from toxic air.’
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