Councillors and campaigners have welcomed the news that Bedford Borough will be introducing a pilot of their School Street initiative around Cauldwell School in March 2021.
Pedestrians, cyclists and scooter-users will be prioritised on the streets surrounding the school during the hours around the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up throughout term time.
The project will create a safer, more pleasant environment in the area around the school and help to improve air quality.
School Streets have been introduced all over the country since 2015, with the Department for Transport encouraging their use during the Covid-19 pandemic to support active travel and social distancing.
Cauldwell ward councillors, Fouzia Zamir and Abu Sultan, said they hoped it would improve the congestion around the school at drop off and pick up times.
“It should also encourage more parents to walk or cycle with their children, encouraging a healthier lifestyle, and mean less traffic pollution in the area,” they said.
“We’re pleased access for local residents and Blue Badge holders won’t be affected by this and we’ll be monitoring this closely and welcome any feedback from residents.”
Feedback from parents and residents
The Council has started the initial engagement process by liaising with the school and seeking the views of parents of children attending Peter Pan Nursery School and residents on Edward Road.
These groups will give feedback on the project before, during and after the pilot scheme and the council will monitor the effects of the scheme from March until the end of the school year in July.
They will consider implementing School Street projects in other areas if the pilot is successful.
The School Street area will be outlined by using barriers and support from school and council staff and the council have confirmed that they will not be issuing fines through the scheme, as they would like it to be a community initiative, with the ultimate aim of transforming the experience of the school run for children and parents.
“I think it’s a great idea to reduce the traffic on the street during drop off and pick up times,” said Linda Littler, child and youth advocate, whose child is at Peter Pan Nursery.
“I cycle in and there are always cars weaving in and out, getting stuck and having to reverse or do three point turns in the road.
“It will make it much safer for children to walk or cycle in which can only be a good thing. The children will also benefit from cleaner air around the nursery and school.”
Having previously lived on Edward Road, Linda knows how frustrating the school run traffic is for local residents.
“In the long term, the council should also consider providing vehicle access via Ampthill Road and restricting vehicle access to Edward Road to residents. This would significantly improve air quality and make the street safe to pedestrians 24/7.
“My only caution is that families may choose not to send their children to Peter Pan because of the inconvenience of not being able to drive.
“It is an excellent nursery and I wouldn’t want to see it affected negatively. Hopefully school streets will be viewed as a positive thing and will become something that is desirable to a parent when they are choosing a nursery or school.”
The Borough’s Green Party councillors welcomed the pilot and hoped it paved the way for more to be rolled out in the Borough.
“For too long, cars dominating streets around schools have almost become the norm and this has been a growing problem in terms of basic safety as well as in terms of toxic air pollution and carbon emissions from vehicle exhausts,” said Cllr Lucy Bywater.
“Schools Streets are one positive step towards tackling this with a lot of other benefits for children, parents and local residents.”
Councillor Charles Royden, Portfolio Holder for Environment, said School Streets were part of the Council’s commitment to active travel and sustainable transport initiaives.
“The School Street scheme will enable more children to travel actively to school,” said Cllr Royden.
“There are many benefits to this, including increased levels of energy for learning, more safe space for children and parents to use outside the school and an improvement in air quality.”
“This is all part of the Council’s commitment to implement active travel plans and sustainable transport initiatives across Bedford Borough.”