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Source: Mayor of London

  • Nitrogen dioxide levels will be recorded at 18 schools to measure the impact of School Streets, where roads surrounding schools are closed to motor traffic at drop-off and pick-up times  
  • More than 400 new borough School Streets schemes have been funded as part of London’s world-leading Streetspace for London response to coronavirus to reduce the risk of a damaging car-led recovery 
  • TfL data shows the school run makes up a quarter of weekday morning traffic, with the average journey less than one kilometre  
  • Free Santander Cycle hire is available today to mark Car Free Day  


City Hall has today launched an air quality monitoring project to give the most accurate indication yet of the benefits of School Streets.  


TfL has funded 430 new School Streets – where roads surrounding schools are closed to motor traffic at drop-off and pick-up times – across London through its Streetspace plan to help avoid a damaging car-led recovery from coronavirus. Around half of London’s emissions come from road transport. London’s toxic air already leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness. Air pollution has been linked to increased risk of contracting Covid-19 and experiencing the most serious effects, with a recent study by the Office of National Statistics finding long-term exposure to air pollution may increase the risk of death from the virus.


To measure the air quality benefits of the new School Streets, 30 cutting-edge sensors which record nitrogen dioxide levels are being installed at 18 primary schools across Brent, Enfield and Lambeth. Half of these schools have recently introduced a School Street so it will be possible to effectively measure their air quality improvements and compare them to schools with roads open to motor traffic. Meanwhile surveys will try to measure behaviour changes as a result of new School Streets such as reduced car use and increased walking, cycling and scooting.  


TfL data from 2018 showed the school run made up a quarter of weekday morning traffic, with the average school journey being less than one kilometre which is around a 10-minute walk. By providing funding for boroughs to introduce more School Streets, it will improve road safety and encourage more families to switch to walking, cycling or scooting – helping improve air quality and reduce congestion which is especially important as more Londoners return to their workplaces. Being physically active also improves pupils’ health and wellbeing, and increases attendance and attainment.   


The monitors used in the air quality monitoring project are part of the Breathe London network which combines state-of-the-art technology with advanced analysis to provide Londoners with a real-time, hyperlocal visual tool showing their exposure to air pollution across the city.  


The study – which is the first of its scale and has been co-funded by the FIA Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Greater London Authority – will add to the evidence base to support the introduction of School Streets across the UK and globally, and help build the case for making more of the temporary Schools Streets permanent.  


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I’m delighted that we are launching our School Streets air quality monitoring project on Car Free Day. It is vital that we don’t throw away the improvements made to air quality during lockdown and the past few months with a damaging car-based recovery from this pandemic.

“The 430 new School Streets which have been funded as part of our world-leading Streetspace plan will play an important role in enabling parents and children to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school which has so many benefits, not least in improving air quality. Too many lives are already lost each year as a result of our city’s toxic air and the results of our monitoring study will show just how much of a difference reducing car journeys through School Streets makes.”  


Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP, three-term Mayor of New York City said: “Reducing air pollution is good for public health and the environment – and it’s especially important to protect the health and wellbeing of our children. I want to thank Mayor Khan for tackling this issue through his School Streets initiative. Our new partnership will help the mayor and his team measure the impact of the initiative to improve air quality, and will inform their efforts to expand the program and reduce pollution across London.”


Sheila Watson, FIA Foundation Deputy Director, said: “Every child should be safe on their journey to school, but those living in urban areas face a double threat – from the toxic emissions pumped out by vehicles they pass, and from road traffic injury. We must find the solutions which protect them from dirty air and dangerous roads and enable them to move freely and safely. Key to that is understanding what works, and that is why we at the FIA Foundation are proud to be supporting this assessment of the Mayor of London’s School Streets programme, not just to find the right solutions for the children of this city but also to learn lessons for children in cities across the world.”


Paul Robinson, Consultant Headteacher at Van Gogh Primary in Lambeth, said: “Our school community has reaped the benefits of the School Street and we are delighted!  We have seen an increase in the number of children walking, scooting and cycling to school and the additional space on the street has enabled children to ‘get into their bubbles’ before coming on the school site, which makes life much easier for the staff and families. 


“Families and staff have also reported that they like the additional sense of (socially distanced) school community in a time where it can feel like we have become more fragmented as a result of the pandemic. We are looking forward to hearing the results of the air quality measuring.”

Cllr Claire Holland, Lambeth’s Deputy Leader (Sustainable Transport, Environment & Clean Air), said: “Lambeth Council are incredibly committed to cleaning up our toxic air, cutting emissions, protecting our children’s health and improving safety.


“The majority of people in Lambeth do not have access to a car and our aim is reshaping how our streets work so that we can build an equitable transport system. Just because your family isn’t able to afford to run a car shouldn’t mean you are exposed to increased risk on public transport whilst the risk of coronavirus transmission is high or whilst walking, cycling or scooting on our streets as they are too dangerous.


“We need to redress this balance, clean up our air and make our roads safer for everyone. The School Streets initiative, and ongoing air quality monitoring, are important elements of our work towards making this ambition a reality in Lambeth.”

This year TfL has marked Car Free Day with a two week online campaign. Londoners have been encouraged to ‘reimagine’ their trips, pledge to go car-free and share their stories of walking and cycling using the hashtag #MyCarFreeTrip for the chance to win a range of prizes including a Brompton e-bike. The final winner of the campaign will be announced at 5pm today.  


Santander Cycles are offering free hires across London from 00.01 on Sunday 20 September until midnight on Tuesday 22 September, as well as 25 per cent off all annual memberships purchased today and tomorrow.  


TfL is working closely with local boroughs to rapidly create space for walking and cycling across the city through the Streetspace for London plan to help people make car-free journeys. Since May more than 60km of new or upgraded cycle routes have been delivered or are under constructionalong with more than 20,000 square metres of extra pavement space. 
More than 1,500 extra cycle parking spaces have also been installed across London, focused around busy areas like high streets and transport hubs to make local journeys to shops easier for people cycling. 

MIL OSI United Kingdom