The Department for Transport Instruction (new statutory guidance: Traffic Management Act 2004: network management in response to COVID-19) is clear and empowering – the time is now to facilitate and support walking and cycling, and enable social distancing: ‘Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect.’
Tower Hamlets’ excellent and ambitious Liveable Streets schemes already acknowledge and plan to address the importance of reducing motor traffic and enabling walking and cycling. To complement this, as schools across the borough prepare for their possible re-opening on 1st June 2020 it is imperative that Tower Hamlets Council take urgent action to set up School Streets as well.
A School Street is a road outside a school which is temporarily closed to motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times.
School Streets use space more efficiently, facilitating social distancing, which is critical at this time. They are proven to aid and enable healthy, active travel. They provide a safer environment for children, parents, carers and staff who cycle and walk to school, and positively impact health and air quality. Action to improve physical and respiratory health is now more important than ever, and given that social distancing means that only a fraction of public transport capacity remains safely available, enabling walking and cycling is essential – particularly given that only a third of Tower Hamlets households own a car.
Tower Hamlets has committed to delivering 50 School Streets by 2022 with 10 consultations planned for 2020. This welcome programme now needs to be radically speeded up, with emergency School Streets being implemented.
We call on Tower Hamlets to take swift and decisive action in time for 1st June 2020.