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Public meetings School streets

Sunday’s Public Meeting: A Written Account

Last Sunday, Streets for People Levenshulme and Burnage was proud to hold its first public meeting. It is now over two months since plans to trial a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) were paused and there has been no formal public engagement from the council in that time, leaving parents in the dark about urgently needed School Streets, and £2.5m in funding potentially at risk. In the absence of leadership from local councillors we decided to start the conversation with an online public meeting, a recording of which is available to view.

Despite sending out invites to all six councillors from both Levenshulme and Burnage wards, no councillors attended. Angeliki Stogia (Executive Member for Environment, Planning and Transport) was also unable to attend. At the request of Cllr Ben Clay, S4PLB has made an online poll available to ensure there is council representation at future meetings, but so far only two Levenshulme councillors have indicated their availability.

In the meeting, S4PLB members provided information about the delayed trials and explained to residents their concerns about the lack of communication from councillors. A panel of speakers presented information about school streets, walking buses, and overcoming barriers for women in cycling. The family-friendly meeting had over 60 attendees, which included concerned parents and other concerned members of the community. All were given the opportunity to put questions to the speakers.

Our first speaker Joe represented S4PLB, and explained how our volunteer group came together after the planned LTN trial was paused because we recognise the urgent need to make our neighbourhood more welcoming and safe for people to travel on foot, by bike, or by wheelchair. A high volume of cars, inadequate crossings, pavement congestion and rat running all cause difficulty for those who wish to travel by active transport. Crucially, this includes the significant number of households who have no access to a car. We believe that most people in our community want to see improvements in this area, and over 500 people have now signed our open letter to the councillors to support this view. 

Next to speak was Helen from Levy Clean Air, whose pollution monitoring work showed that almost the entirety of Levenshulme is plagued by very high levels of air pollution, frequently exceeding the legal limit. Helen highlighted that pollution could be reduced by shifting some of the many short journeys currently undertaken by motor vehicles to active travel methods, particularly for the school run in Levenshulme since the schools have small catchment areas. The group have led a variety of campaigns, more recently on school streets, which would provide local children with improved air quality and safety from heavy traffic around the school. Commenting on the current situation outside school entrances, Helen said “It’s generally quite an unsafe environment and this is exacerbated now by Covid-19 and the need for social distancing.”

Some images from the campaigning work of Levy Clean Air

Our third speaker Giselle, a local resident and parent, introduced us to her work on walking busses where children walk to school in a big group with adult ‘bus drivers’. Even in absence of a council-run formal bus, informal walking busses can share the responsibility of doing the school run between a group of parents, saving them time where they may otherwise be forced to drive. Also discussed was the potential for a “park and stride” whereby parents travelling from further afield can park in a safe place and continue their journey to school on foot. Giselle highlighted that 42% of school journeys are done in a car or van in the UK so working on these ideas could significantly reduce air pollution and congestion, while providing children with more exercise and a chance to socialise.

A map of local schools, from which the proposed walking bus and park and stride locations were based

The final speaker was Vieve from Joyriders, an organisation based in Waltham Forest that aims to empower women through cycling. They run informal rides of varying lengths for women from a broad range of backgrounds. Joyriders have found that many women are interested in cycling but don’t think it is for them – although Vieve herself is a cycling instructor, she said that many women see a lack of road safety as a major barrier, with the Waltham Forest LTN proving beneficial to their outreach work.

Following the speakers there was an open discussion, which featured a wide range of viewpoints from across the community. Attendees of the meeting represented both supporters and objectors to the trials, along with many residents who wanted to find out more about the scheme but have been unable to since Manchester City Council (MCC) took back control of £2.5 million of funding from the original Levenshulme Bee Network group.

Harriet, a mother of a visually impaired child, asked to speak for children in the area who don’t have a voice in the meeting “I think we’ve come to a place, especially in Levenshulme, where cars rule. I see very reasonable people making lazy choices like dropping off children at crossings and mounting pavements to park the car.”

Susan, also a Levenshulme parent, was concerned about a lack of voice for people on the boundary roads like herself “We see children nearly run over everyday. We suffer fumes, so we have a relevant voice and a right to raise it.”

Dianna, a resident from the West Point area covered by the plans, felt that many people supported the trials in some form but was concerned where the funding had gone, “My question is, who has got the money? As I understand it the money was given to a local voluntary group of local people.”

Under the original Bee Network plan, six primary schools were set to start School Streets trials in September. MCC took back control of the project in July and now over four weeks into the new school year, parents and children are still waiting for news of when the trials will start. While School Streets trials have been implemented in cities across the country and also at St Paul’s C of E Primary in Withington, parents from Levenshulme and Burnage schools face a congested school run as shown by several social media posts.

“As a campaign group, Streets for People have spent the summer warning councillors about the problem of social distancing and air pollution that is going to be coming up in September. We didn’t find any plan-B to the postponed trials”, said Tom Haines-Doran. As the R-Rate continues to rise in wards covered by the proposed trials, social distancing outside schools is a serious public health issue and the need to provide for active travel for families without cars is important for key workers.

S4PLB are calling on residents to add their names to the 500+ who have already signed an open letter calling for the councillors to do everything in their power to ensure greatly improved walking and cycling facilities as a matter of urgency across Levenshulme & Burnage. The campaign group will continue to represent local residents and hold elected officials to account.

Categories
Public meetings

Video of the Public Meeting

On Sunday 20th September 2020, 62 people from Levenshulme and Burnage attended a public meeting about the safety of roads in our area, especially for children’s journeys to school, and how to reduce the amount of local journeys by car.

Streets for People are proud to have hosted this meeting, which saw contributions from all sides of the debate. There was also an overwhelming sense of disappointment and confusion at the lack of Manchester City Council and local councillor representation at the meeting, despite the best efforts of Streets for People to encourage councillors to attend. Please see the ‘take action’ section of our website to help us persuade councillors that they need to speak in public about their views on these matters, whatever they may be.

Categories
Public meetings School streets

Public meeting: Safe roads for kids – What’s happened to the Low Traffic Neighbourhood plans?

The Levenshulme Low Traffic Neighbourhood trials were paused in early July, to allow for more community engagement. Since then, Manchester City Council have conducted no engagement at all, and the vast majority of residents are in the dark as to what’s happening.

What’s more, the chaos outside our schools that we have spent the summer warning councillors about has come to pass, causing big safety issues for parents and kids. There were plans to reduce traffic outside schools with School Streets, but those have been shelved, along with the rest of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood, with no Plan B in place.

As a result, we are organising a public meeting on the issue of what’s happening with the Low Traffic Neighbourhood proposals, and especially the council’s inaction on the dangerous situation outside schools caused by motor traffic. It will be held on Sunday 20th September at 3pm on Zoom.

We challenge the Levenshulme and Burnage councillors and council leadership to attend this meeting and explain to residents what is happening. We will also hear from local parents and campaigners about the work they have been doing to make our streets safer for all, to tackle air pollution and make lives easier for those that don’t always have access to a car.

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEpcumhrTIuHdGTblC1IxQsKItAZ_lyzWVH

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Please note that to attend this event, you must live, work, have kids that go to school in Levenshulme or Burnage, or be responsible for a business or community organisation in either of those wards. All are welcome to attend. We know that those with kids will be especially interested in coming. We would like you to feel welcome to join our meeting even if it coincides with childcare – kids are welcome! If you struggle with Zoom or have any questions, please email us at: streets4peoplelb@gmail.com