Signs warning drivers to switch off their engines are being put up outside Bedford schools, with the first one positioned outside Bedford Girls’ School on Cardington Road.
Fixed penalty notices (FPNs) will be given to any driver failing to turn off their engine in the marked zones.
Harmful particulate matter from idling engines is among growing general concerns about air quality and climate change. The Royal College of Physicians have estimated that up to 40,000 deaths annually are linked to outdoor air pollution, with children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions being most vulnerable.
Green Party councillor Lucy Bywater for Castle ward (which includes a large section south of the river near to the Girls School) said, ‘I’m really pleased these signs are going up, and here first of all.
“The end of the school day around Cardington Road is pretty awful for everyone, and long-suffering residents have been talking to me since last summer about both dangerous and inconsiderate parking as well as idling diesel engines.
“I’ve seen myself that 20 minutes with an engine running unnecessarily is not uncommon on Chetham’s, for example, where lots of vehicles wait on double yellow lines at picking up time.”
Two years ago Lucy wrote to all schools close to the town centre to offer support on this issue and a number responded by sending out newsletters to parents and adding information on air pollution and active travel on their websites.
Lucy said, “There are two immediate issues locally – safety of children and the wellbeing of local residents. Both are important and I’m grateful for council officers and the deputy mayor for taking this seriously.”
Lucy acknowledged that signs alone are insufficient to change behaviour, but other measures have also been put in place.
These include more FPNs for parking on double yellows, ongoing communication with school bus companies and encouraging students to cycle to school.
Other measures encouraging active travel or ‘park and stride’ can help too. Lucy said, “Children copy parents, that’s how they learn. But if we can get them informed and engaged that’s half the battle to help to change habits and create a different attitude that will really benefit everyone.”