Guest Blog post by Alessandra Giuliani - NW3 Green School Runs
Let's rewind to September 2018. Schools reopen in NW3 and, while many parents breathe a sigh of relief after weeks of seeing their children a little too much (just joking of course!), they also start breathing in a lot more pollution, especially during school run hours. Plus, after weeks of free flowing traffic, they notice that the lovely Hampstead roads are once again brought to a standstill many times a day.
These realisations moved a group of local parents to action, and NW3 Green School Runs was born.
In a nutshell, NW3 Green School Runs is group of local parents working to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion in Hampstead, particularly during the school run.
The focus on the school run is due to the proven spikes in congestion and pollution during these times. Plus, after all, these are the hours our children are out there breathing all the dangerous pollutants we bring to their schools' doorstep.
Did you know NW3 has the highest concentration of schools in Europe? This is single most striking fact I have learnt since joining this campaign. 42 in total and, of these, 23 schools are within a 1 mile radius. And many of the Hampstead based schools are independent schools, whose pupils can come from far and wide as they do not need to live inside a catchment area like state school ones do.
Add to the mix a lack of reliable public transport options from areas like West Hampstead or Golders Green, coupled with the convenience of driving, and the results is a vast number of the approximately 12,500 Hampstead pupils are driven daily in and out of NW3 with grave consequences for the local traffic and our collective health.
If you have come this far in the article you might be thinking: but what makes NW3 Green School Runs different? After all, many attempts have been made before, by Camden Council, local residents associations and individual parents, to tackle the school run in NW3, without much success. Our answer is three fold:
- We are an outcome-focused group and want to implement practical solutions to drastically reduce traffic and air pollution in Hampstead as soon as possible (i.e. from the next academic year 2019-2020). Some of the solutions we have been working on are: setting up a system of school buses serving all Hampstead schools; encouraging the use of applications that enable parents to easily car share; enforcing existing parking restrictions and limiting heavy and service vehicles during school run hours.
- We are learning from what has been done before (including why previous interventions have not worked) and are working to coordinate with all local stakeholders.
- Technology has made a huge leap in the past 10 years (think smartphones!) and apps already on the market have the potential to be a total game changer when it comes to planning school transport efficiently. By this we mean school buses, car sharing, walking buses and independent travel.
If, like us, you are worried about the quality of the air that you and your children breathe, take action today by joining NW3 Green School Runs. We meet fortnightly in person (and we are really friendly!), plus you can find us on Facebook (NW3 Green School Runs), Twitter (@NW3GSR) or on emails: NW3GreenSchoolRuns@gmail.com
Photo of Alessandra Giuliani, Valeria Pensabene and friends from the group