Should we ban vehicles outside school gates?

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, new figures reveal, as 29 schools in Devon start the annual Big Pedal challenge to walk, scoot or cycle their journeys.

Obviously, some won’t be able to as their schools are on main roads and not located near to populations. I wouldn’t fancy my daughter cycling along the A39 for example, and if she walked she’d never get there! 

A YouGov poll carried out for Sustrans, the 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 29 schools in Devon and 426 schools across the South have signed up for the Big Pedal. However, we need to radically change the way we travel all year, not just during the two weeks of the competition. Idling car engines and snarled up roads poison the air and our children’s bodies.

“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 school as an effective solution but need support from local authorities to enact change.

“We’re grateful that through the Active Travel to Schools project funded through the Access Fund, Devon County Council, supports a range of measures to help more children walk, scoot and cycle to school, including the Big Pedal. 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.”

The survey also revealed:

• Over half (59%) cited a lack of other routes for motor traffic as one of the main barriers to closing the road outside the school;
• Almost half of the respondents (48%) cited that driving is a more convenient option for families and is one of the biggest obstacles to more people walking, scooting or cycling the school run;
• More than one in three (36%) said they need support from parents to enact change on the school run and 27% said they need backing from local authorities;
• One in three teachers (30%) are worried about air pollution, with 43% stating idling car engines outside the school gates cause concern, while a further 63% cited it’s a concern because the school is based on or near a busy main road;
• The number of teachers concerned about air pollution near their school rose to 55% in London.

Air pollution is linked to up to 36,000 premature deaths in the UK each year and more than 2,000 schools and nurseries are near to roads with damaging levels of motor emissions.

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.

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