Luton Street Closures Hailed a Success

There are calls for more traffic free zones around schools after the first temporary street closure in Luton came to a positive end. Between 10 and 21 June Hillborough Road was transformed into a traffic free space in mornings and afternoons with school Eco Warriors keen for the street closure to continue and want to cycle more.
The closure was the result of a team effort between Hillborough Infant and Junior schools, Luton Council’s Road Safety Team, Public Health and walking and cycling charity, Sustrans. It coincided with Clean Air Day on 20 June, a national initiative, to raise awareness of the links between transport and air pollution.

Vehicle traffic is the key source of poor outdoor air quality in Luton producing harmful chemicals and gasses into the air. These include CO2, a leading cause of global warming, nitrous oxides and particulates, particularly harmful to health.
Poor air quality can exacerbate breathing problems in asthma sufferers and reduce lung function. It’s also linked to a range of long term health conditions, such as lung cancer, and contributes to around 36,000 deaths every year5. However, the message from Clean Air Day is that positively small changes in our everyday lives, leaving the car at home, can help improve the air we breathe, make us more active and healthier.
Currently, one in four cars on the road during the morning rush are on the school run, despite the average primary school journey being just 1.6 miles. Traffic free zones around schools help encourage parents and pupils to consider healthier travel choices, such as walking, cycling and scooting instead of the car.

Support for traffic free areas at schools is growing with a majority of teachers and families now supporting a ban on vehicles at the school gates during the school run3. Sustrans believes the temporary closure demonstrated the viability of the scheme and are calling for them to be rolled out across the country.

Commenting on the closure Sustrans Schools Officer in Luton, Richard Noon said; “This short-term closure was just part of a package of initiatives we’re undertaking with schools across the country to get more children active. Traffic free zones help to tackle poor air quality. With road transport being at the root of the problem a shift towards cycling, walking and scooting must be part of the solution. This street closure showed that a different way is possible and we can all make a difference. Traffic free zones at the school gates should be rolled out across the country as a priority for local and national government.”

Councillor Rachel Hopkins, Luton Council portfolio holder for Public Health said “I’m very pleased with the impact this street closure has had. It has reminded us that active and green travel is possible and helps to tackle serious public health issues of our time, air pollution and obesity. In Luton, 40% of our year 6 children are overweight or obese, with possible serious health consequences leading into adulthood, including premature mortality. Being more physically active can increase concentration, improve behaviour, academic attainment and is much better for our environment. The temporary closure encouraged parents, teachers and pupils to ditch the car and make healthier, travel choices. It’s just one of the ways we’re working with schools, partners and the community to make Luton a healthier place. I hope this will encourage more short-term road closures around our schools in the future.”



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