‘Illegal levels of air pollution which are irreparably damaging their young lungs, resulting in long-term health problems’
• THE high volumes of traffic in Islington mean school children walking and cycling to school face the threat of serious road danger and damage to their health every step of the way.
As satnav apps encourage drivers to get off main roads and to cut through streets to save a few minutes on their journey they pose a significant threat to pedestrians, especially children.
The morning school-run should prepare children for a day of learning but in Islington that journey is dangerous and bad for their health.
Not only do they fear the threat of traffic injury they are also suffering from the illegal levels of air pollution which are irreparably damaging their young lungs, resulting in long-term health problems such as asthma, heart disease, mental health issues, cancer, and a reduction in their educational attainment.
One pupil (aged eight) said, “I get scared. There is so much traffic near my school, it’s so noisy and the air smells horrible with all the fumes. We have to wait for ages to cross the road, it feels like the drivers don’t care about us.”
Dangerous cut-throughs in Islington:
There are many examples of motor vehicles cutting through the borough and they pose a significant threat to pedestrians crossing the road such as at the junction with Rodney and Donegal streets adjacent to Joseph Grimaldi park.
During the school-run, this area is filled with pupils walking and cycling to attend Winton Primary, The Gower and Elizabeth Garret Anderson. However it is completely dominated by motor traffic and has no zebra crossing.
Some years ago Rodney Street was designated by the council as a “clean air walkway”. It was supposed to take pedestrians away from the noise, pollution and stress of traffic on Pentonville Road between King’s Cross and Angel.
Sadly, since the advent of satnav, Rodney, Donegal, and Cynthia streets are now congested, dangerous, cut-through roads used by HGVs, taxis, cars and heavy construction vehicles.
These narrow streets are now snarled up with traffic jams, idling cars and vans, vehicles mounting the curbs, polluting the air above legal levels and drivers beeping and shouting at each other.
Does cut-through traffic create a greater risk of injury for pedestrians?
Each mile driven on a minor urban road results in 17 per cent more killed or seriously injured pedestrians than a mile driven on an urban A-road.
In relation to slight injuries, there are 66 per cent more pedestrians injured per-mile driven on minor urban roads, compared with each mile driven on urban A-roads.
If a residential, back-street, route is longer in distance than the main road the risk of injury grows further. There are likely to be several reasons for this.
Small residential streets were not designed to accommodate large volumes of motor vehicles, there is a lack of pedestrian crossings, and pedestrians do not feel the need to check for cars on small residential streets as they do not expect to see them on small quiet streets.
What is the risk of death or serious injury for children?
Research has shown that there are substantially more child pedestrian casualties per-mile driven on minor roads compared with A-roads.
Driving a mile on a minor (residential) urban road is twice as likely to kill or seriously injure a child pedestrian, and three times more likely to kill or seriously injure a child cyclist, compared with driving a mile on an urban A-road. (Sustrans: Are route-finding apps making streets more dangerous?).
Is the air safer inside a car?
The journey to and from school creates anxiety for parents who want to protect their children from dangerous driving and air pollution. For some, the solution is to travel by car.
The reality is being inside a car is far more dangerous for their health. Studies show air pollution is nine to 12 times higher inside the car than it is for those walking or cycling along the same routes. (The Guardian: Air pollution more harmful to children in cars than outside, warns top scientist).
How can we make streets safe for children?
Making this densely populated area safer, cleaner and more child-friendly can be done with a Low Traffic Neighbourhood – (LTN).
It would improve the health, life expectancy and educational attainment for all the children in this area. If a street is safe for a child it’s safe for everyone.