On Friday the 5th June I put in an application for the “3 school” “school street” along Charlwood road in Putney. Having been a parent at Our Lady of Victories, I can remember the chaos of 850 primary children and their parents from 3 primary schools heading in both directions down this road with a pavement only about a metre wide on either side. I’d previously missed a chance to make this part of the original Wandsworth trial but clearly Covid social distancing requirements gave this long overdue measure a fresh urgency.
A “school street” allows the temporary closure of a road at school dropoff and pickup times. In this case, other than for residents & a few other exemptions, the road will be for pedestrians & cycles only between 8.30 and 9.15 and 1pm and 3.15 on weekdays in term time.
This allows the roadspace to be allocated to our children and parents along with passers by when most needed and encourage walking, cycling and scooting to school. It should also reduce the chance of injury from vehicles & motorbikes as well as exposure to exhaust fumes from combustion engines, especially diesels, that are extremely toxic to the human body, especially in children.
The signs designating the new school street went up on Monday 6th July 2020. The initial scheme covers one of the 2 sections, from Hotham/ Lacy road junction along Charlwood road and round the corner along Clarendon drive past the RSPCA hospital as far as the corner of Gamlen road. Sadly the next section down to St Mary’s at Felsham road has not been possible yet but I am hopeful this will be remedied when schools restart in September.
I would like to thank the interesting coalition that has made this possible in rapid time. Firstly the Heads, Deputy Heads and Governors of Our Lady of Victories, Hotham & St Mary’s primary schools who gave their backing.
Thanks also to Cllr John Locker who supported and submitted the application and helped keep it moving forward. A big thank you also goes to both council officers from Wandsworth Council who handled the proposal with urgency and positivity.
And last but by no means least the fantastic local volunteers from Extinction Rebellion Putney who not only gave their support and time, but also allowed the school street to start “a little before” the arrival of the official signage. Their politeness and tact in dealing with drivers that had been looking forward to roaring down the road was an object lesson for future volunteers from the parents rota.
It is important to note that, for this school street at least, everyone above, along with the vast majority of parents and residents and a cross party group of councillors gave encouragement – an unlikely coalition working towards a common goal.
Of course it’s not done yet. The success of this depends parent volunteers to join the rota for the temporary barriers needed when road is closed for traffic.
Finally one big lesson learnt along the way. I started with a clear understanding that neither the council nor the school would be providing staff to manage the barriers. At the same time I realise now that getting parent volunteers on a rota from 3 schools would have been very much harder or impossible from a standing start. The local “XR” volunteers have filled that gap and provided vital time to show both Governors and parents how to run a “school street” & why it’s important. I’m relieved to say they have promised to help till the end of term even now the street is “official”