‘School Streets’ – Parents views

Image above: Cllr Hanif Khan, left, Cabinet Member for Transport at LB Hounslow 

Introducing School Streets to Chiswick

LB Hounslow is introducing ‘School Streets’ in Chiswick, to try and break people of the habit of taking their children to school and picking them up by car. At selected schools, drivers will not have access to streets adjacent to their child’s school at peak drop off and pick up times, but people who live in those streets will still be able to drive there as usual.

How do parents and teachers feel about this? We talked to parents at St Mary’s RC Primary School and Grove Park Primary School in Chiswick to see what difference they hope it will make, and to parents in a couple of neighbourhoods where ‘School Streets’ have already been introduced, to see what impact it has had.

Image above: Bessemer Grange Primary School

Bessemer Grange Primary School – Camberwell

Henrietta Rooney is a parent at Bessemer Grange Primary School in Camberwell. Her school was the first in LB Southwark to have a ‘School Street’ introduced, at the beginning of the 2018 – 19 academic year, when she had three children at the school. Henrietta told us:

“Bessemer Grange Primary School has sites on either side of a road, and narrow pavements, so it was an obvious place to introduce a School Street.

“Probably fewer than 10% parents dropped their kids off by car. There was a subset of people who displayed quite obnoxious behaviour around parking. All that’s stopped. The air pollution levels outside the school no longer breaches the EU safety limit and it’s good for the concentration of the children in school that they’ve had a bit of exercise before they sit down to work in their classroom.

“It’s also changed the social dynamic at the school gate. Whereas people used to be anxious about the road and quite concerned about safety, now they’re relaxed and people stop and chat more”.

There’s now a 300 meter section between the two school sites which you cannot drive through between 8.00 and 9.30am and 2.00 and 4.30pm, unless you live in the street. The school has an arrangement with their local Sainsbury’s that parents can park there if they need to drive. The school is a 10 minute walk (at the pace of a small child) from there.

“We carried out a survey of parents before the change was carried out” she said. “There was one very revealing comment from a parent who said: ‘I won’t be able to park on the double yellow line any more'”.

Image above: Bessemer Grange Primary School

“The school gate felt dangerous and intimidating”

Amy Foster, a teacher at Bessemer Grange Primary School, had this to say:

“As a teacher, the biggest change has been that the start of the day is no longer dominated by altercations and stress related to dangerous parking. We found that many parents who drove to school welcomed the changes simply because even the very short journey from where they’d parked their car to the school gate felt dangerous and intimidating.

“The senior leadership team had many emails from parents citing things like drivers mounting the pavement into family groups, verbal abuse from people asked to turn the engine off and stop idling and people saying they felt ‘there was a fatality waiting to happen’.

“It was consuming huge amounts of staff resource attempting to police the situation; time and energy that ought to have been spent engaging with our families on their well-being each morning.

“One of my responsibilities is to lead the school council and the children on it who have been elected as ‘active travel ambassadors’ say they appreciate the calm and safe space at the end of the day, to chat or hang out with their friends, whereas they were previously rushed away as quickly as possible to get away from what was quite a stressful experience.

“This is echoed by the parents who talk about how it has helped support networks develop due to the fact they can talk to other parents without worrying about the conflict between their children and the traffic”.

First School Street in London introduced in Camden

The first London Borough to try out School Streets was Camden, in 2017, though the first in the UK were in Scotland, in 2015. Camden council made this video with parents and teachers at St Joseph’s Primary School.

 

A Youtube video from Camden Council. 

Funding for School Streets in LB Hounslow

LB Hounslow has been allocated £352,500 by Transport for London for the introduction of ‘School Streets’ across the borough. TfL has also allocated £140,000 to make south Chiswick a ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’. They plan to make the part of Staveley Rd beside Chiswick School a ‘School Street’ and introduce them for Grove Park Primary School and Cavendish Primary School.

Councillor Hanif Khan, the Hounslow Cabinet Member for Transport told The Chiswick Calendar:

“St Mary’s and William Hogarth are already included. Strand on the Green will also benefit from reduced traffic in the vicinity as a consequence of the restricted access zone implemented. We have contacted all schools to ask whether they wish to work with us to reduce traffic and parking issues outside their sites and we are standing by waiting to do so.”

Images above: The School Street at Hounslow Heath Juniors

Image above: St Mary’s RC Primary School, Chiswic, Google Street View

St Mary’s Catholic Primary School – Chiswick

Andrea Carnevali is a parent at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School. Andrea was the driving force in getting funding for the creation of ‘Chiswick Oasis’, the wall of greenery alongside the playground designed to lower air pollution. Speaking to The Chiswick Calendar, Andrea praised the new restrictions that are being introduced, although he prefers not to call them that.

“It’s not so much for the pollution because it’s not a huge difference as the school backs onto the A4, but actually it was a question of safety, because the street is a dead-end. You had all these cars coming all the way down trying to reverse and children, kids all sorts of ages, nursery students, little children were around and it was mess, a real mess. So, we looked into various options, one of them was to close the road completely, which is what they’ve done, the last section of it.

“It can only be a good thing. It’s not going to cause any problems for anyone really, because residents are exempted anyway and parents who still really want to come by car, which I’m hoping will be fewer and fewer people, they just have to stop a little bit before and turn around, sort of like 100 metres before where they used to stop, it’s not too bad really. There’s very very few parents in our school who drive to school anyway really, the ones that do is because they have to go somewhere else in the car.

“We’re kinda getting used to it and getting into the habit of not driving on the way down to school and then eventually, actually we’ll be able to keep this thing in place, this restriction in place. You know, we call it restriction and actually it shouldn’t be called restriction it should just be called what it is. Which is: letting the children walk to school properly, without being almost run over by cars trying to reverse down a narrow dead-end street, so the word restriction is wrong in my opinion”.

St Mary’s has been trying out ‘no car Fridays’ over the past year.

“People really took it on and started using their bikes and the most heart-warming thing was people coming up to me a couple of weeks later saying ‘Do you know what I’m actually going by bicycle, its great’. “It’s about getting people to change their habits, sometimes we just do things by default. So hopefully these new measures in place, lets call them measures not restrictions, will make people get used to something else and actually then realise that, oh you know what, it’s not too bad after all”.

Image above: Grove Park Primary School, Nightingale Close, Google Street View

Grove Park Primary School – Chiswick 

At time of writing, the council is still finalising the exact details of the scheme planned for Grove Park Primary School (which roads will be affected and the hours of operation to be put in place).

The school is broadly supportive of the aim to improve road safety around the school, reduce harmful emissions from idling cars and to encourage children to travel by more active means such as by bike, scooter or walking. In correspondence with LB Hounslow as part of the consultation, Chair of Governors for the school, Professor Neil Taylor described to Tom Sharland, the Senior Engineer for Traffic, Transport and Environmental Strategy, the way commuter traffic cutting through Grove Park is endangering children at the school.

‘Grove Park Primary School welcomes the opportunity to comment on the South Chiswick Liveable Neighbourhood Project. Our response centres on our concern for the health and safety of the children at Grove Park School.

‘The roads around Grove Park School are heavily used during peak periods and the morning school run. We recognise that the volume of traffic has increased substantially since the closure of Hammersmith Bridge, however even if and when it reopens, we feel that the volume and speed of traffic is still a major safety and health problem in the area around the school. Residential roads in Grove Park are used as a cut-through between the A4 and A316 with Hartington Road, Sutton Court Road, Grove Park Terrace and Fauconberg Road especially affected.

‘We are pleased that the Council is monitoring the volume and speed of road traffic.

‘We would like to see a 20 mph speed limit on all residential roads in the area and any other traffic-calming measures, which would encourage drivers to lower their speed or avoid using the local roads altogether. These measures should be backed up with more enforcement.

‘As a school, we encourage sustainable transport and are pleased that so many pupils walk, scoot or cycle to school. However many parents are discouraged from allowing the children to walk, scoot or cycle to school because of the speed of traffic and poor road crossings. Currently the only zebra crossings are on Sutton Court Road. Children from Year 5 (age 9+) upwards at Grove Park are given permission to walk to and from our school on their own (to encourage independence), but they face real challenges crossing local roads.

Not only do cars drive so quickly, but also there are so many parked cars along the roads that it is hard for the children to see round them when they try to cross – indeed they often have to step part way onto the road to do so. The state of local footpaths and roads is poor due to cracked and broken paving stones and potholes in the roads, creating a safety hazard for pedestrians and cyclists.

‘Any measures to improve and maintain footpaths, road crossings and cycle lanes would be welcome.

‘We recognise that a number of pupils are delivered and collected from school by car. These cars occasionally create congestion on Nightingale Close and St Thomas’ Road, often parked on restricted spaces.

‘We would like to see greater parking restrictions and enforcement on these streets in order to reduce congestion, improve road safety and to be more considerate of the school’s neighbouring residents. We have been impressed by the benefits of the ‘school street’ schemes in the London Borough of Hackney and would like the Council to consider the efficacy of a ‘school street’ scheme around the school site.

‘Owing to the volume of traffic around the school, we are concerned about car emissions and their dangerous impact on children’s health. We are particularly concerned about vehicles stopped with engines idling at the level crossing on Grove Park Terrace.  We understand that the Council has a number of air quality monitoring schemes, some of which involve pupils as part of its behaviour change work.

‘We would like to see stricter enforcement against cars with idling engines. In the interests of improving air quality, we would also like the Council to consider air quality monitoring and if appropriate, to work with the Council on some of these projects.

‘We look forward to hearing the results of the consultation and are happy to discuss our comments further with the project team.’

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Hounslow gets funding for traffic schemes

See also: Grove park residents petition against ‘liveable neighbourhood’ proposals