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School streets

Levy School Streets: The report Manchester Council don’t want you to see

Schoolchildren denied their own school safety measures.

It’s the report Manchester City Council didn’t want you to see, which has been sat on by Manchester City Council since 4 June 2020.

The leaked report contains details of extensive consultation done at both primary and secondary schools in Levenshulme and Burnage. The local community, parents and pupils themselves had a key role in designing measures that would benefit them.

The report makes clear that many more school children would prefer to walk or cycle to school than are currently able to. School streets and traffic reduction across the neighbourhood is needed to allow them to do that.

St Andrew’s school, Broom Avenue: How pupils travel to school (left) compared to how they’d like to travel to school (right).

The initial six schools were:

  • Chapel Street Primary School
  • St Andrew’s Primary School
  • Acacias Primary School
  • Cringle Brook Primary School
  • St Mary’s Primary School
  • Alma Park Primary School

Draft designs for each school have been produced, but in common across all six is the need for wider measures beyond school streets themselves, with Low traffic Neighbourhoods and filtering allowing safe travel the entire school commute route. It also allows “park and stride” projects to take place, where children travel to school in a “walking school bus”.

The report states, “plans for initial street trials were cancelled due to Covid-19 and draft designs will be shared online for further feedback.”

Further meetings to discuss tweaks to designs took place between Sustrans, the Levenshulme Bee Network project team and six schools with provisional dates discussed to trial school streets with all six schools in July. Next steps were being planned along with wider consultation of the individual school plans on commonplace with the community. This further feedback should be already taking place, enabling some form of school streets to be implemented from September, with the renewed need for space due to social distancing guidelines. Instead we heard nothing.

Each school has a “proposals map” with clear school street closure, cycling infrastructure and traffic calming plans, along with a plan on how to trial these measures. All the pieces were in place to make our streets safer for these six schools, and still nothing has been done. In fact, one of these areas, containing Alma park and St Mary’s, has had their plans pushed back even further. Is this fair? We’ve seen rising traffic outside of schools and rising Covid cases within them. Something has to be done, and the plans are there to do it. What is the blockage?

Manchester City Council have indicated that they are currently working out how to implement School Streets, following the installation of the first phase of the filtered neighbourhood in Levenshulme, stating that they are “working with the schools in the area to look at whether one day school street timed closures can be trialled”.

To our knowledge, very little of that work is taking place, and, in private conversations, councillors keep wanting to separate the issue of School Streets from the Levenshulme and North Burnage Active Neighbourhood (as the Low Traffic Neighbourhood project is now called).

As was made clear by many parents in our recent public meeting, the issue of traffic and school streets are inseparable. Indeed, groups such as Clean Air Levenshulme have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years.

It’s good to restrict access to motor vehicles outside schools, but without giving parents and kids safe and comfortable walking and cycling routes to school, you’re unlikely to see the shift to walking and cycling to school that the kids themselves say they want, and which is vital for their health and wellbeing. There now appears to be a plan for the filtered neighbourhood but we need to know the council’s plan for school streets. Why is there not even a commonplace consultation happening?

As recent data has shown, the car use in the area vastly increased when schools returned, suggesting that much of the rush our traffic is caused by local school journeys. Many of those, usually very short trips, can be made by walking and cycling. But that can only happen with the combination of filtered streets, crossings of through roads, and school streets. That is what this report, sponsored but withheld by Manchester City Council, promises.

We encourage readers to make clear their support for a low traffic neighbourhood, including the much-needed trial for ‘filters’, which reduce through traffic in our community, through the new Commonplace engagement site. The council are unlikely to proceed with any positive changes, unless they can be sure they are supported by the community.

But this scheme will never realise its full potential unless the Council respond to parents and children, and ensure School Streets are implemented too. We therefore encourage positive engagement with the council’s current plans for a low traffic neighbourhood, while also urging them to bring forward school streets to complement those plans.

Please engage with current proposals here.

Read the Sustrans report here:

Sign our collective letter to councillors here.

Categories
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 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

Categories
School streets

Don’t Pollute the School Route: The case for “School Streets”

There is a catastrophe on the horizon as schools look set to go back next week. Not just because of covid, masks, and social distancing, but the return of the school run, a currently car-heavy routine that will see clouds of pollution descend back in front of our school gates.

School Streets were due to be in place by the return to school, as part of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood trials. However, with those trials put back until who knows when, at this moment Manchester City Council have no plans to reduce traffic around schools to make the school run safer and nicer for children in our area.

To tell us more about these concerns, Streets for People are happy to have the backing of local parent Helen Rimmer, from Clean Air Levenshulme.

Why we need School Streets in Levenshulme and Burnage:

Across the country schools are closing their roads to cars, making the journey to school safer, encouraging active travel and cutting air pollution and congestion.

School Streets are temporary closure of the roads around schools, for around 30 mins at school drop-off and pick-up times. In the Covid19 era, local authorities have been instructed by the government to be “strongly promoting active travel” including “implementing ‘safe streets’ policies outside schools” (Department for Education, August 2020). 

In Levenshulme and Burnage we need School Streets for every school where it’s possible, and a big push to promote active travel to school. The school run typically accounts for one in five of all cars on the road in the morning rush hour according to the National Travel Survey. Our community suffers illegal levels of air pollution along the A6 and monitoring by local parents has found high air pollution throughout our community including near schools and nurseries. Walking and cycling also exposes children to less air pollution than driving. Asthma expert Prof Stephen Holgate says evidence shows pollution is nine to 12 times higher inside a car than outside, as cars suck in exhaust fumes from vehicles ahead.

Air pollution is particularly harmful to children, stunting the development of young lungs, and is linked to first time asthma and worsening asthma symptoms. Central Manchester has the highest rate of emergency hospital admissions for asthma in the whole country. Anecdotal evidence from parents in Levenshulme and Burnage indicates high incidences of wheezing, respiratory conditions, and use of inhalers amongst babies and toddlers.

School Streets would also make access to school safer for children, freeing school gates from the chaos of traffic congestion, pavement driving and parking, and idling, and would give space to parents and carers for social distancing during the Covid19 pandemic. Access is maintained for any children or carers with mobility issues and for residents. Parents who still need to drive (such as for work) are encouraged to ‘park and stride ’, finding a parking space a 10 min walk away from the school. Initiatives such as walking buses, can also help busy parents.

Concerns that School Street closures would displace traffic elsewhere are not backed up by research. A recent review of evidence by Edinburgh Napier University found that for almost all examples of School Streets, the total number of cars on streets in the vicinity of schools decreased significantly. It also found that School Streets improve air quality, congestion and physical activity amongst children as more walk, scoot or cycle to school. Around 80% of children currently fail to meet the minimum daily recommendation for exercise. Parents would also benefit from regular exercise, especially now during the government’s drive to get people fit during the pandemic.

One Greater Manchester primary school which is determined to enable children to have a safer, more active and less polluted school run is Russell Scott Primary in Denton. Headteacher Steve Marsland held a School Street closure last year and says “We wanted to win back the street and tell the community the world doesn’t stop when a road is closed. It showed roads can be closed and children can ride scooters on them.” By educating parents there has been an 80% increase in the number of children walking to school in just eighteen months.

For many parents in Levenshulme and Burnage, School Streets can’t come soon enough. We hope our council will show leadership and enable children to arrive at school happy, healthy, refreshed and ready to learn.

***

Thanks to Helen again for this vital post. If you want to support for a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (including school streets) in Levenshulme and Burnage and live in the local area, you can help by signing our collective letter to councillors and local leaders.

Help us get these measures trialled!