IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

People-friendly streets will help protect our children

08 January, 2021

Detail from a council appeal for views on the creation of ‘people-friendly streets’

• THERE is a lot of support for Islington Council’s PFS “people-friendly streets” scheme (or LTNs, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods) because the evidence is clear that the dramatic rise in motor vehicles is unsustainable.

We know transport is a major source of air pollution which is seriously bad for our health particularly during a respiratory pandemic.

However, even in the face of all this evidence, reducing our dependence on cars is a challenge and one we have to take up now to protect everyone, especially children.

I remember passing my diving test. It was one of the happiest days of my life I thought it meant I could do anything. Turns out that was a myth, I could just drive a car.

I moved to a city with a fantastic cycling and walking infrastructure and it completely changed my perspective. I realised we can go about our business without a car if there are safe and pleasant walking and cycling routes.

This sadly is not the case in Islington; but thankfully the PFS is attempting to rectify that. Islington Council were elected with a manifesto to introduce LTNs.

The global pandemic and the huge reduction in public transport capacity has necessitated the rapid implementation of safer spaces for walking and cycling and the creation of space for social distancing.

Not only has time not been on the council’s side, they are up against misinformation about LTNs and a car industry with a multi-million-pound advertising budget that fools many people.

Covid-19 has rightly involved a huge public awareness campaign, supported by international media and central government, highlighting the health risks, impacts, and our role in protecting others.

Despite the immense challenges and tragedies the pandemic has brought Covid-19 has shown that we are capable of making enormous changes to our behaviour to protect the vulnerable.

We must do that again to protect another vulnerable group – our children – from the damaging health impacts caused by air pollution.

A few days ago a coroner ruled that illegal levels of air pollution, predominantly from traffic, had contributed to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah.

The decision reveals that Ella’s death could have been avoided and will increase pressure on government and local authorities to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

This landmark in legal history follows a tireless campaign fought by Ella’s mother Rosamund. She has shared her story to raise awareness and prevent other families having to endure the heart-breaking pain and suffering she and her family experienced.

Our thoughts are with the family at this time. I dread to think how it must feel for your child to suffer from air pollution-related illnesses due to where they live; let alone living with the loss of a child knowing it could have so easily been prevented.

The damage to children’s health starts in the womb, as harmful particles enter their body via their mother. Before they are born air pollution damages children, a disadvantage which remains with them for the rest of their lives.

For many children living in London this is compounded by other forms of social deprivation and inequality.

The major source of air pollution in Islington is traffic. LTNs reduce traffic volume and therefore reduce air pollution.

There are already positive reports from schemes around the world that have been in place for some time which indicate LTNs have benefits for everyone.

Islington’s LTNs are being introduced on a 12-month trial basis, which allows residents to experience them and give informed feedback to the council.

Islington have confirmed they are monitoring changes and engaging with the wide range of people. I urge you to go and see what it’s like in St Peter’s, Canonbury and Highbury.

Reimagine your road space, walk and cycle with your children on safer streets, listen to the birds sing, breathe in cleaner air, speak to your neighbours.

More importantly give people-friendly streets a chance. You may find you love them.

RACHAEL SWYNNERTON
Address supplied

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