Clean Air Day and Walk to School Week - where's leadership and action from Newcastle City Council?

October 8, 2020 3:14 PM
School crossingsTackling the school run and creating safer routes to school which enable children to walk and cycle safely can make a valuable contribution to both road safety and cleaner air in the proximity of schools. The city council has obligingly tweeted in support of this agenda today, but the reality is somewhat different on Clean Air Day in Walk To School Week. .
In recent years the council has removed all bar two of the city's crossing patrols as part of its programme of budget cuts. Recently one of the remaining two - the crossing patrol at the Corner House across the busy Coast Road dual carriageway has been suspended and the popular crossing patrolman stood down from duty, leaving hundreds of children to cross this dangerous road unattended. The narrow central island makes it impossible to observe social distancing , and the council has invoked health and safety rules for employees.
Sadly this doesn't do much to protect the safety of children using the crossing, despite the council's acknowledgement that the risk of removing the crossing patrol was too great. Lib Dems in Heaton and High Heaton want to see this crossing upgraded to remove the island to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
The city council's Labour administration is yet to publish a promised update on the city's Clean Air Zone proposals. It is unclear whether or not the CAZ scheme will be ready to start as planned in January 2021. The council administration is remaining tight-lipped about its intentions at a time when other major cities like Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham, and Bristol have announced they are postponing their own clean air zone plans. It is understood that its plans are currently being challenged in the High Court.
On Clean Air Day and during Walk to School Week, and all year round, Newcastle's Liberal Democrat Opposition councillors believe greater clarity and greater action is needed from the council's Labour leadership to ensure clean air and safer routes to school.