Tower Hamlets campaigners call for urgent action to allow social distancing on school run

Campaigners want more school streets so that social distancing can still be observed at pick up and

Campaigners want more school streets so that social distancing can still be observed at pick up and drop off times. Picture: LBTH - Credit: LBTH

Campaigners have urged the council to take urgent action to allow social distancing during the school run.

People from Better Streets for Tower Hamlets want school streets set up to give pupils, parents and guardians room to walk or cycle ahead of secondaries and primaries possibly throwing open their gates on June 1.

A school street is a road outside a school that is temporarily closed to motorised traffic at drop-off and pick-up times.

Tower Hamlets has committed to delivering 50 school streets by 2022 with 10 consultations planned for 2020, but this needs to be speeded up, campaigners say.

Bethnal Green parents Rob Andari and Rebecca Unverzagt said: “We are lucky to have a school street at our children’s primary school.

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“Drop-offs and pick-ups by bike are much more relaxed and the lack of idling engines has made a big difference to air quality. School streets should be standard.”

Cecilia, six, said: “I’d love a school street so we have enough space to rollerskate, cycle and run to school without worrying about cars.”

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Secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, has said the government expects local authorities to make “significant changes” to road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians in preparation for lockdown being eased.

A Tower Hamlets spokeswoman said the council has been working for several months with schools to understand issues around road safety and air quality.

It aims to restart consultations after Covid-19 delayed engagement work with 21 schools.

“In the meantime we’ll be looking at what social distancing measures will assist as schools re-open,” she said.

The council is working with Transport for London to identify additional safe space for walking and cycling as part of the Streetspace programme.

A section of Old Ford Road has been closed to motorised traffic to enable safer social distancing.

“We are assessing a number of other locations in the borough where we could potentially reallocate space to pedestrians, bring forward cycle routes and reduce traffic to aid safe social distancing,” she added.

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