A step forward

IMG_6891The ‘park and stride’ scheme is cutting congestion along Churchfields

Councillor Rosa Gomez (Churchfields, Labour) explains an innovative ‘park and stride’ scheme to cut school-gate traffic and pollution at Churchfields Junior School

Children’s safety is something I care about passionately, be it in the home, at play or in the classroom. Some threats are all too obvious, while others are invisible. And both are encountered at the school gates.

The visible threat of cars and other vehicles disproportionately affects child pedestrians under the age of 16 with – nationally – one death and 37 seriously injured every week. Meanwhile, the invisible threat of pollutants from motor vehicles, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates, can result in asthma, poor lung development and – over time – even death. It is estimated that 29,000 people die as a result of air pollution every year in the UK. And the threat outside school gates, with busy traffic and idling engines at drop-off and pick-up times, is particularly severe.

That is why I met with Rebecca Emeny, the headteacher at Churchfields Junior School, where I’m a governor, and council officers last November to discuss options for reducing school-gate traffic there. Unfortunately, due to the local street layout, it was not thought feasible to close the road outside the school during busy drop-off and pick-up times, so other options had to be sought. The council has since increased parking enforcement near the school, and an innovative ‘park and stride’ scheme, which I believe is the first in Redbridge, came into operation at the start of the summer term.

“Instead of parking on Churchfields, we have been asking parents that drive their children to school to ‘park and stride’ from the Derby Road car park (behind Tesco, on the High Road). This is just a five-minute walk from the school. This summer term, the council’s parking team has agreed free parking for our parents during the morning drop from 8.15am to 9.15am, and at afternoon collection from 3pm to 4pm,” explained Rebecca Emeny.

Taking advantage of the ‘park and stride’ scheme has several benefits. It creates a car-free zone outside the school gates, making it a safer environment for children and families arriving and leaving. It also provides the opportunity to practice essential road safety skills with your child on the short walk; and it allows parent drivers to avoid – and reduce – congestion along Churchfields.

Redbridge School Streets are being rolled out across the borough. These ban traffic at schools’ start and finish times. Where there are practical problems with the implementation of these – as there were at Churchfields – I would like to see the council innovate with measures such as ‘park and stride’ to reduce pollution for everyone outside the school gates, and to increase children’s daily exercise during the final stride to school.

To contact Councillor Rosa Gomez, email rosa.gomez@redbridge.gov.uk or call 07799 057 030