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Report shows Merton has highest proportion of school streets in London

A report from the Healthy Streets Scorecard has shown that Merton has the highest proportion of school streets in London.

School streets are roads where only bicycles and pedestrians are permitted during the hours of school pick-up and drop-off time.

The scheme has seen a huge increase in implementation during the pandemic as the number of school streets rose from 81 in July to 383 in November.

Mums for Lungs founder Jemima Hartshorn said: “It’s been absolutely amazing; we would not have imagined this a year ago.

“But I think COVID has really brought out the need for school streets in the sense that they are really helpful in regards to social distancing.”

Mums for Lungs is a grassroots campaigning group formed by parents concerned about the air pollution around their children’s schools in London.

They provide resources to parents and teachers who are looking to persuade a school or local council to implement a school street.

They provided data to the Healthy Streets Scoreboard’s report which is a coalition of London campaigning groups for transport, health and road safety.

Currently 40% of schools in Merton have implemented school streets along with Islington, the next closest south west London borough is Sutton at 24%

Hartshorn said: “Some councils are more progressive when it comes to addressing air pollution than others. In a respiratory pandemic the need to tackle air pollution is very very clear.

“I think the best thing we can do is support parents who are interested in school streets for them to campaign locally because that’s how it needs to be done.”

Hartshorn said political will is key to spreading the scheme across London and boroughs like Merton and Sutton have made greater strides than most.

Merton Councillor and cabinet member for regeneration, housing and transport Martin Whelton said: “Implementing school streets across the borough is a vital part of our work to make the environment outside our schools safer and improve air quality.”

A TfL study showed that 25% of morning rush hour traffic comes from parents dropping children off.

Concerns were also raised that most of the school streets’ plans are not permanent and will need confirming in the long-term which risks the numbers falling.

You can read the report here, as well as SWL’s previous school streets story here.

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