The debate over school runs continues, with traffic heavy on our roads due to parents bringing their children to school by car and the sight of 4 by 4 vehicles with one child sitting in the back going just a mile or so down the road is sadly common. With the climate crisis being here on our doorstep affecting us all and motorists being urged to walk when they can, the question people ask frequently is should more parents be walking their children to school? Obviously there are circumstances when the distance is indeed too far or health related matters so many factor need to be taken into account, but the need for parents to walk their child to school is becoming greater and greater.
Today, local resident Tracy Dawkins tackles this subject.
In Havering we are ranked at No 32 out of 33 boroughs on the Healthy Streets Scorecards! We are one of only a few boroughs not to declare a Climate Emergency. Havering Borough show little progress in making this better:
1% of Havering has protected cycle track covers
10% of Havering’s roads have 20mph limits
12% of Havering’s roads are controlled by parking zones
7% of Havering have Low Traffic Neighborhoods
Reportedly parents choose to drive their children to school as they are worried about air pollution. Children are more than 5 times more exposed to pollution when travelling to and from school than at any other time of the day. Children breathe more toxic fumes whilst sitting in a car than they would have if they walked to school. When parents drop their children off at school it’s not just the child they are dropping off but also the toxic fumes from their vehicles. Children being exposed to air pollution grow up with smaller stunted lungs. It exacerbates other lung diseases and asthma. Air pollution is a factor in 30,000 deaths each year. This in comparison with 100,000 smoking-related deaths, 9,000 alcohol related ones and 1,800 people killed in car crashes each year!
Recently newspaper columnists, a prominent MP and BBC Question Time asked: “Is it OK to drive your children to school whilst still wearing your pyjamas?” Shouldn’t the question have been “Is it STILL OK to drive your children to school?”.
Parents are also worried about children’s safety whilst walking to school due to the large number of cars on the road – if one more parent walks their child to school that’s one less car. Simple maths really.
Closing roads around schools at drop-off and pick-up times cuts toxic nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 25 per cent. Air pollution is so toxic around schools that they are considering banning the school run amid pupils health – although how they plan to do this is anyone’s idea but good luck !
The Guardian reported that hundreds of thousands of children are being exposed to dangerous levels of toxic fumes outside schools, colleges and nurseries. The government has been defeated three times in court over its air pollution plans and sight the school run as a major factor of air pollution. Government estimate that one in four cars at peak times are parents taking their children to school but I would argue this is 3 out of 4 cars!
Living and working in Havering I have lost count of the number of cars passing me with school children sitting in the car on the school run. In my work I’ve had customers say “I’ll only be 10 minutes – just dropping the kids off” ! Even the radio stations now wish ringing-in parents ‘happy birthday’ to their in-car child whilst on the so-called school run. Why is it even called a school run. It’s not a run or even a walk. Say it as it is – its a ‘school car’. It’s a pleasure seeing mum or dad or both walking their children to school – I only notice it as its a sight for sore eyes now. I’m not saying the ‘school run’ is the only factor in air pollution but the above speaks for itself.
A recent TikTok video shows a mum shouting at Insulate Briton protesters blocking the road. She was irate, shouting and using her car as a ramming object because they were stopping her from doing the school run. It wasn’t an emergency but the school run!
I and many others look forward to the school holidays. Travelling to and from work is a breeze simply due to the reduced number of vehicles on the road.
I’m not putting all the blame on the so called ‘school run” for our pollution woes but surely we have to start somewhere.
Air pollution is invisible but the damage it causes is not. This won’t be popular but ditch the car, walk your child to school.