School Streets needed now to protect children returning to school
Clean Air Bradford has called on Bradford Council to put School Streets in place around primary schools in Bradford to protect children, carers and teachers when children return to school.
Following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Sunday 10th May that schools would be reopening for some year groups Clean Air Bradford have written to Bradford Council asking them to accelerate School Streets plans.
The Government released new statutory guidance  to Councils on Saturday saying that it “expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.” It specifically lists School Streets as a measure Councils can take to encourage more walking and cycling to school and that it will help social distancing outside schools.
Anna Watson who has been campaigning on air pollution around schools said : “We need action to ensure that when schools re-open parents are able to safely take their children to school maintaining social distances. Many roads outside schools are extremely busy and it will be difficult for parents to keep the two-metre rule unless more space around schools is made available for pedestrians.
“Implementing School Streets schemes where roads are closed to traffic outside schools, during drop off and pick up times would be the best way to ensure social distancing can be observed at busy times. It will also ensure that children are kept safe from road traffic dangers and health risks from air pollution.”
Bradford Council is making other changes to aid social distancing during the Covid-19 Pandemic and the campaign group Clean Air Bradford welcome these steps.
Measures such as widening pavements, improving pedestrian crossings and slowing vehicle speeds will all help people to walk and cycle safely when shopping or going to work. The plans will also help to keep air pollution at lower levels by encouraging the uptake of walking and cycling as an alternative to private car use; which could otherwise see a spike in usage because of reduced capacity on public transport. Clean Air Bradford are however concerned that these measures do not go far enough.
Clean Air Bradford Co-ordinator James Craig said: “Bradford Council’s plans to take action to enable people to maintain social distance while walking and cycling are a good start, however if we want to ensure that we don’t see a huge increase in congestion and pollution from car use as lockdown eases we need bolder action from the Council.
“Further measures such as ‘pop-up cycle lanes’, ‘key worker corridors’, a default 20 mph limit in all built-up areas, an extension of pavement widening across the city, car free days and measures to support more people into cycling through bike loan schemes and other support are all feasible, and we hope Bradford Council will follow the lead of other Cities.”
Clean Air Bradford are also calling on Bradford Council to abandon its plan to widen roads coming into Shipley.
Dave Robison a parent with children at Shipley Church of England School said: “We have seen a huge drop in traffic over the last few weeks and everyone has noticed cleaner air and quieter environments. More families are out exercising and kids are cycling with parents because it feels safer to do so when there are fewer cars around.
“We need bold and brave measures in place to keep traffic levels low so people still feel safe walking, scooting and cycling to school and work. The health and educational advice is clear – kids should walk, scoot or cycle. It enlivens and sets them up for the day. Unnecessary short journeys by car make them lethargic, over time they damage health and educational outcomes – as well as worsening local air quality. Now add to that list the need for social distancing and we can see change is overdue.
“When even the AA is predicting that there will be a reduction in the demand for travel  it is time for Bradford Council to look again at their plans to spend millions of pounds on wider roads that might not even be used. We have a chance to make a silver lining from this otherwise awful situation – don’t let us miss it”.
Clean Air Bradford in conjunction with the Parents for Clean Air parents group launched a petition  earlier this year asking Bradford Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority to stop their plans to widen Canal Road, Valley Road and Otley Road as part of the Bradford Shipley Route Improvement Scheme.