Pupils at Shakespeare Junior School in Eastleigh reclaimed the street outside their school during an afternoon of traditional games, chalk drawing and plenty of cycling and scooting in an attempt to cut back on air pollution – the first school in Hampshire. The road closure was the first of its kind in Hampshire, though the initiative has been trialled the approach in other parts of the country..
This event in Eastleigh was part of Sustrans’ School Streets programme, which aims to ease the congestion, poor air quality and road safety concerns that many schools experience during drop-off and pick-up times by facilitating traffic restrictions outside the school gates.
Sustrans point to data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which shows four in ten children are breathing poor quality air at school, leaving pupils at an increased risk of worsening long-term conditions such as asthma. Walking and cycling can play a key role in improving air quality outside the school gates while helping to boost children’s activity levels.
St Catherine’s Road was closed to cars from 2.45pm to 5.30pm, with the aim of improving air quality at the school gates and creating an environment in which cycling, and walking are safe, convenient and enjoyable.
Parents and pupils were encouraged to walk to school or park and stride instead, leaving their cars further away from the school gates.
Cllr Rob Humby, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment at Hampshire County Council congratulated pupils and staff at the school for taking the initiative and said:
” Everybody can have a positive influence on air quality. Simple actions such as walking to school, car-sharing or switching off idling car engines will contribute significantly to healthier air quality for all of us.”
HCC’s Executive Member for Public Health, Cllr Judith Grajewski added:
“Changes like this can make a big difference to the quality of our air and to our children’s health. Poor air quality can exacerbate existing health conditions, in both the young and old. It is important that everyone tries to do what they can to improve air quality and the environment.”