Children have taken over the street outside their Brighton primary school today to push for action to improve air quality and road safety.
Pupils from St Luke’s Primary School petitioned people living in Queens Park Rise for permission to close the street for an hour this morning and again this afternoon.
And it’s hoped this is the first of more street closures outside school, with the charity Sustrans helping another 38 schools across the country in a national trial as part of its Big Pedal competition.
St Luke’s head Jonathan Cooper said: “Schools Streets Day, where we can truly imagine streets without cars, is the perfect way to launch our school campaign and will certainly promote the message of how walking, biking and scootering to school can combat air pollution, is perfect for your mental health and well being and has a great impact on your physical health.
“The day is also just a perfect way to enjoy having fun with all of our school and local community.”
To mark the launch of this year’s Big Pedal campaign, which encourages families to walk, scoot or cycle to school, Sustrans released the results of a YouGov poll, which found that nearly two thirds (63%) of teachers would support a ban on motor vehicles outside the school gates during school drop off and pick up times.
The national walking and cycling charity surveyed 840 teaching professionals across the UK about their attitudes towards air pollution and the actions they think should be taken to improve air quality outside the school gates.
More than half (59%) of those surveyed want the Government to take urgent action to improve air quality near schools. When asked what would help bring down the levels of air pollution outside schools, just over a third of respondents (34%) thought encouraging more people to walk, scoot and cycle would help reduce toxic fumes, followed by educating the school community about the cause and effects of air pollution (28%) and school road closures (26%).
James Cleeton, Sustrans Director for the South of England said: “We’re delighted that St Lukes Primary School in Brighton have joined schools across the UK to demonstrate the potential of closing school streets to vehicles. We need to radically change the way we travel – idling car engines and snarled up roads poison the air our children breathe.
“For too long now, dangerous levels of air pollution near schools have been ignored. Finally this is starting to change. Our survey makes it clear that teachers want urgent action to clean up toxic fumes. They see closing the roads outside their schools to vehicles whilst opening them for people as an effective solution but need support from local authorities to enact change.
“We’re grateful Brighton and Hove City Council has supported these street closures and we will continue to work in partnership to encourage the council to implement permanent school street closures during the school run, as part of the measures to reduce air pollution and create a safer environment for families to walk and cycle. The UK Government must support local authorities and implement clean air legislation to tackle motorised traffic, including large scale investment in walking and cycling to enable more people to choose active and cleaner ways to travel for local journeys.”
Dr Katie Cuming, Public Health Consultant with Brighton and Hove City Council who will be visiting St Lukes on Monday said: “Walking, cycling or scooting to school is a great way to start the day in an active way – good for health as well as learning once you get there. The streets being closed to traffic lets children and adults relax and chat knowing that the route to school is much safer.”
The Big Pedal is organised by the walking and cycling charity Sustrans. The lead sponsor for this year’s challenge is Micro Scooters and the supporting sponsor is Tonik Energy.