Greater Manchester (GM) has secured £500,000 to deliver 50 School Streets to help transform the school run, enable healthier lifestyles and tackle air pollution, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) has announced.
The city region-wide initiative will enable tens of thousands of Greater Manchester children to breathe cleaner air on the school run – with at least one project planned in all 10 GM council areas, said TfGM.
The organisation has earmarked money from its £15.9 million grant from national government’s Active Travel Fund for the project. GM schools can now apply via their local council to put in place measures that promote cycling and walking and restrict access to motorised vehicles at school start and finish times.
In Greater Manchester, 200 million trips of under one kilometre are made by car in the region every year – adding to congestion and poor air quality. This is the equivalent of a 15-minute walk or four minutes’ cycling.
The School Streets project forms part of Greater Manchester’s ambition to deliver the UK’s largest cycling and walking network and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2038. Projections show that if all Greater Manchester car journeys of less than one kilometre were walked or cycled, it would prevent at least 42,750 tonnes of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere – a saving that’s equivalent to planting 21 million new trees in just one year.
The news comes as the Clean Air Greater Manchester partnership today launched an online campaign calling on people to ‘go car-free’ and make everyday journeys and the school run by bike or on foot on national Clean Air Day (Thursday 17 June) and beyond.
The theme for this year’s campaign is protecting our children’s health from air pollution. People are being encouraged to spread the word and share their active travel journeys on social media by using #GMCleanAirDay and tagging @CleanAirGM. More information about how to get involved and make a difference is available at cleanairgm.com.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “We all have a role to play in cleaning up our air. Children are most affected by air pollution and much of their exposure to it is during the school run. We are committed to delivering 50 School Streets across the city-region to help clean up our air and become carbon neutral by 2038. I hope as many people as possible will join us this Clean Air Day and beyond by cycling and walking for short everyday trips.”
GM leaders are committed to tackling air pollution, which is the biggest environmental public health issue facing the UK and contributes to around 1,200 deaths in Greater Manchester alone each year.
During the pandemic, unprecedented levels of walking and cycling have been recorded across the UK as active travel has played an increasingly important role for essential journeys.
Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester’s Transport Commissioner, said: “Half of Greater Manchester residents have said they want to walk and cycle more once the pandemic is over and we intend to help them do just that. We’re working hard to make getting around on foot and by bike the natural choice for shorter journeys in Greater Manchester. We’re building the UK’s largest cycling and walking network with over 100 schemes already in the development pipeline.
“Join us this Clean Air Day and beyond and try something different, leaving the car at home. I guarantee that your children, your body and your mind will thank you for it.”
In most cases, a School Streets project consists of a traffic regulation order and related signage. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each school has different problems that need solving and councils will consider a range of solutions beyond timed closures. School Streets can be upgraded in the longer term to combine the timed access restriction with street design improvements, focusing more on the needs of people and place.
Other measures can also be used to create an appealing, child-friendly environment. These include temporary traffic filters, flower planters and chalk spray paint to increase pavement space around the school, prevent pavement parking, slow traffic and create new, temporary crossing points. If proven effective, these can be translated into permanent designs.