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School Streets are go!

School Streets - The movement for children's freedom grows - Playing Out

Manchester City Council are trialling a School Street on Thursday 1st July at Alma Park Primary School, following years of hard campaigning by local residents.

A School Street prevents non-residential traffic from passing by or close to a school. School streets are common in other parts of the country. They are proven to make children’s journey to school safer, and to allow more parents to leave their car at home, taking walking and cycling options instead, which improves children’s health and reduces air pollution.

The red dots on the map below show where temporary closure of roads to motor vehicles will take place, leaving the area around Alma Park traffic-free for the time of the trial, which will run from 2-4pm. If parents have to drive for whatever reason, they are encouraged to park at Tesco’s on Alma Road, just a very short walk from the school gates. Tesco are aware of this arrangement.

Local residents, buses, and essential emergency vehicles will still be able to access the school street area at these times, but will be slowly guided by volunteer marshals. Because Alma Park School lacks the capacity to provide marshals itself, it is asking volunteers from parents and the community to help in this role, for which training will be provided. If you are interested in volunteering, please email centralnt@manchester.gov.uk as soon as possible.

Streets for People enthusiastically welcomes this trial, noting that it has taken a considerable effort of organising to keep the pressure on Manchester City Council to get this far. All of those involved in campaigning should be very proud of what they have achieved so far.

In the lead-up to the trial and beyond we also need to think about what a permanent School Street scheme would look like. Most obviously it would need to also involve St Mary’s school, just south of the current trial area.

Manchester City Council have chosen a large area for the trial, which is why so many Marshalls are needed. In the long term this is unsustainable, needing 20 volunteers or staff to cover three or more hours of marshalling Monday to Friday.

Things would be a lot simpler with a bus gate (bus-only through access) on Errwood Road, and a filter on Alma Road, or some similar arrangement, which would reduce through traffic permanently, putting less stress on the School Street area. This was part of the original Active Neighbourhood plans, but the Active Neighbourhood has been delayed to ‘Phase 2’ of the project, after further consultation. Phase 2 was due to begin in the Spring, but Manchester City Council have yet to announce the reason for its delay. It is high time they informed the community of its plans for this area.

But bus gates and filters do not completely solve the issue of the polluted and dangerous school runs that are damaging the health and wellbeing of the community. School streets are needed too, especially to solve the problem of turning vehicles dropping off and picking up kids (with St Andrews on Broom Avenue being a good example). So, despite the limitations of the trial, it’s good to finally see some activity on the ground.

Streets for People members will be volunteering our time to make the trial as successful as possible. It will be a steep learning curve for all of us, but it is the right thing to do. As always, we want to make this work for the whole community and have the widest possible conversation about lessons learned and how to make much greater progress. We also want to see similar progress on all of the schools in Burnage and Levenshulme. The funding is available to make that happen. Trialling one school at a time over several months and years is too slow to deal with the air pollution and climate emergencies.

Onwards and upwards!

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