Children set up barriers to stop Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman cutting off school street

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children and parents took to the barricades Thursday to try to save their “school street” from being ripped away by a pro-car neighborhood mayor.

Lutfur Rahman, the mayor of Tower Hamlets, ordered workers to remove traffic restrictions around Chisenhale School in Bow on Thursday morning, including flower pots and seats that pupils helped build.

The protest led to the police being called and saw children celebrating as municipal contractors walked out at midday on Thursday after failing to complete their task.

Sarah Gibbons, a parent campaigning to save the school street, told the Standard: “We have protesters out there trying to stop them. At this point, the council started ripping out the children’s pots and artwork.

“All the children are used to this road being very safe, very clean and very quiet. Since Monday it just keeps going. It’s really disturbing. There is no benefit to abolishing the scheme.’

Chisenhale parents and children are protesting the removal of their school street

/ Delivered

Parents plan to mount their own road patrols outside the school when students return next week, after the half-term holidays.

But they fear the contractors will return and eventually remove the restrictions from Chisenhale Road and Vivian Road.

A ‘green corridor’ made up of flowerpots and wooden barriers currently protects the school gates on Vivian Road, while an open play area and two-way cycle lane have been created on Chisenhale Road – preventing their use by traffic.

There are also one-hour non-resident driving restrictions on Vivian Road and Chisenhale Road at the start and end of the school day.

Parents say Mr Rahman was able to cut off the school street because it was put in place under Covid emergency rules, which expire automatically unless formally renewed. They fear all 26 school streets in Tower Hamlets are at risk.

The school is in an area of ​​Bow that has no councilors belonging to Mr Rahman’s Aspire party – leading parents to suspect it was targeted.

It is the latest move by the borough’s controversial mayor – who returned to power in May after being banned from office over electoral fraud – in curbing schemes that were designed to make residential streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Transport for London has already withheld funding from Tower Hamlets council due to Mr Rahman’s plans to scrap Low Traffic Neighborhoods (LTNs).

“This potential removal of school streets further adds weight to our concerns about how their actions are at odds with the mayor’s transport strategy,” said a source close to the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Sign of the times: Reopening streets to traffic threatens children’s safety, parents say

/ delivered

Natalie Bienfeit, Green Councilor in Tower Hamlets, said: “I am amazed, furious and annoyed that the Mayor has chosen to remove a school scheme entirely outside of Chisenhale Primary School.

“The mayor was elected on a manifesto that promised to reverse road closures. But the children who will be harmed by his actions could not vote for him – so what mandate does he have from them?

“One thing is clear: Tower Hamlets is not a safe place for children and families under this mayor.”

In a statement to the Standard, Mr Rahman said: “Chisenhale Primary School Street was created through an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) which introduced road closures for one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon.

“The ETO has now expired and the Mayor has decided – in line with his manifesto promise to reopen the roads – the road closures will not be permanent.

“However, the mayor and council take the safety of children extremely seriously and have therefore asked council staff to explore alternatives to the ETO, including (but not limited to) introducing zebra crossings in close proximity to schools, as well as increasing of the number of guards, yellow lines, “do not stop” signs and traffic management personnel – such as school block patrols – outside the school.

“Updates will be provided to residents as soon as these options are properly evaluated by staff.”

The safe corridor created outside the school gates

/ Ross Liddall

Mr Khan, referring to his London-wide plans, said he “wants to tackle toxic air street by street” after pledging the money for more school streets in a £69m council funding deal .

There are now approximately 547 school streets across the capital, of which 373 are funded by TfL and the City Council.

School Street: Non-residents may not drive on School Street for two hours per day

/ Ross Liddall

Mr Khan said more than 260,000 children were breathing cleaner air as a result of the measures, which use enforcement cameras to fine non-residents for driving on the streets during school drop-offs and pick-ups.

But with 97 per cent of schools and colleges around London in areas breaching the World Health Organisation’s air quality targets, he wants the Government to strengthen the UK’s own laws on toxic air.

Mr Khan said: “School streets are a key tool to help reduce air pollution around schools. They have made a huge difference to the way our children travel and now there are more children than ever in London benefiting from cleaner air, less congestion and safer roads.”

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