Liverpool City Region declares war on harmful school gates emissions
- New scheme to greatly reduce motor traffic during school drop off and pick up times being launched at two schools in Birkdale
- Pupils instrumental in bringing in schemes which are strongly supported by local residents
A new scheme launched by Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram which aims to improve air quality and reduce congestion around schools got underway at two schools in Birkdale this week
Launched at Greenbank High and Birkdale High, the School Streets schemes restrict car access to streets outside school gates at drop off and pick up times, reducing the harmful emissions young people are exposed to and making it safer and easier for them to get to school on foot or by bike.
Pupils from both schools have been instrumental in helping to bring the schemes to their schools, working with teachers and parents as well as representatives from Sefton Council, the Combined Authority and national walking and cycling charity Sustrans to make the projects a reality.
Kitija, a year 9 pupil from Greenbank High School, said:
“By shutting the roads we’ll reduce traffic and create less air pollution which is good for the environment and creates a safe way for students to get to school.”
More than 1,000 deaths a year in the Liverpool City Region can be linked to air pollution, a recent study has revealed. The region’s Air Quality Action Plan committed to supporting projects that would help turn the tide and improve air quality across the region, while Mayor Rotheram has called on the government to take stronger action to tackle pollution on a national level.
The Combined Authority was the first in the country to declare a climate emergency with an ambitious target to become net zero carbon by 2040 at the latest – at least ten years ahead of government targets.
Major investments in new publicly owned hydrogen buses and work to reregulate the region’s bus network are expected to have an immediate impact, while nearly £70m has been earmarked for active travel infrastructure. The School Streets project, funded by the Mayor, is the latest initiative launched, intended to stop children breathing in toxic fumes as they travel to school.
The schemes will support the Mayor’s ambition to spark a transport revolution in the Liverpool City Region by bringing together buses, trains, walking and cycling under a single, integrated network. By building a London-style system that makes travelling around the region easier, cheaper, cleaner and more reliable, the Mayor hopes to encourage more people to swap the car for public transport.
To mark the launch of the new schemes, Mayor Rotheram and Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Emily Spurrell joined pupils from Birkdale High and Greenbank High Schools.
Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region said:
“Climate change poses an existential threat to all of us, and lives lost to breathing in bad air are a symptom of that. Nobody wants our children to develop breathing difficulties or lung conditions because of something so avoidable.
“School streets are a valuable tool in ensuring we keep our kids safe. Alongside the investments we’re making in zero emissions buses and to build a London-style transport system that will not only make public transport more cheaper and more reliable, but much cleaner and greener too, we’re doing our bit to make the air we breathe much less harmful, reduce congestion and make our streets safer.
“But while we are doing everything we can to tackle the climate emergency and pollution head on, we can’t fix this alone. We need the government to do more in terms of its policy decisions and the funding and powers it gives to local areas to tackle this. It is only by working together that we will protect the next generation from the scourge of toxic air.”
Ahead of the two schemes being put in place, local residents, parents and others were consulted directly on the plans, with most of those responding saying they strongly supported the project to reduce harmful emissions at the school gates.
The two schemes launched this week in Birkdale have been funded by the Combined Authority and are being delivered by Sefton Council in partnership with Sustrans, who work with communities across the city region to help make it easier for more people to travel short journeys on foot, cycle or using a mobility aid.
Cllr John Fairclough, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Locality Services said:
“Sefton Council has declared a Climate Emergency, and as a borough we all have a responsibility to tackle some of the greatest challenges such as poor air quality, sedentary physical behaviour, petrol poverty and the cost of living crisis.
“Tackling the journey to school by making roads and streets safer and more inviting to walk and cycle will allow more pupils to explore their journey to school in other ways.
“Creating a safe space directly outside the front of the school is the first step in the challenge to encourage a wider uptake in the levels of walking and cycling journeys.”
As well as helping to improve air quality, School Streets initiatives reduce the chance of traffic collisions, supporting the Liverpool City Region’s Road Safety ‘Vision Zero’ strategy. The strategy, launched by Mayor Rotheram and the PCC last year, focused on creating a safer environment for people to travel on foot and by bike and for more young people to work or cycle to school.
Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell said:
“Making women and girls feel safer and be safer across our region and making our roads less dangerous are two of the key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and this fantastic scheme is helping to do both.
“Schools Streets is a practical, effective way we can reduce the danger to pupils as they go to and from school, creating a safer environment while also encouraging our young people to travel in a greener, cleaner way. It’s been great to hear how the girls from Greenbank High have been pivotal in bringing this scheme to fruition and I hope it’s something we can expand across Sefton and the whole of Merseyside.”
Rosslyn Colderley, Director of Sustrans in the North of England said:
“We’re very excited to work together with the local authorities to create a safer, healthier environment for children to get more active and independent on their school commute.
“This project was led from the start by pupils at Birkdale and Greenbank High Schools, as well as the local community.
” They told us how they travel now, what issues they face on the streets and what they would like to change.
“By closing the streets to cars at during peak travel times we can help students to be more confident to try walking, cycling or use a mobility aid on the streets. That includes helping more students to travel independently by public transport.”