First school run car ban on the cards in Bedford

A leading councillor is “optimistic” that the first school run traffic ban will be introduced “in the near future” at a site in Bedford borough.

Responding to a question from a Green party councillor, the portfolio holder for environment, highways and transport told a meeting that a School Street is set to be be approved soon if everyone agrees to it.

School Streets mean that roads around a school are closed to traffic at the beginning and end of the day to allow children and their parents to walk or cycle in safety. The name of the school was not mentioned in the meeting.

Cllr Charles Royden (Lib Dem, Brickhill), also told Monday’s meeting of the climate change committee that in other areas, the council is spending money on signs to encourage school run parents to switch their engines off while they wait for their children.

Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle) raised the subject of air pollution, referring to a landmark ruling where a coroner linked the death of asthmatic nine-year-old child to dirty air.

“We have to take this seriously,” she said, asking what the council was doing to encourage people to get out of their cars.

Cllr Royden said the council is “looking at a School Street opening very shortly.”

“We are working with the school and local community to make sure that has the backing of the school and the local residents.”

The council doesn't have the power to enforce the ruling

He added that he is “very optimistic that we will be able to introduce that in near future.”

That could happen at about Easter, Cllr Royden said after the meeting, stressing the importance of consulting with residents and the schools.

He did not wish to name the schools involved while a consultation exercise is ongoing. But he said that the council will consider the scheme for other areas if residents and the schools approve.

Cllr Royden, who completed a training course last year on being a traffic enforcement officer and was even threatened with being run over by an irate parent, added that drivers will also be asked to switch their engines off while they wait outside schools.

The borough is set to put up signs around schools to discourage idling but the council does not have the power to enforce it.

“It is important because there’s no reason for people to sit there with their cars running for a long period of time,” he said. “We are already doing that with providers of coaches and school transport.”

The committee also heard that the council is investing “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds”to encourage cycling.

“We are very shortly going to be spending getting on for half a million pounds to introduce a dedicated cycle lane,” he added.

Mayor Dave Hodgson (Lib Dem) said the council was watching the introduction of “low traffic neighbourhoods” where cars are banned from streets.

He said: “We are not convinced that low traffic neighbourhoods represent a net benefit to residents.”