School Streets – Denbigh Community Primary School

On the 22nd February 2021, four schools within North Tyneside began running a School Streets trial under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO), which will last up to 18 months. Denbigh Community Primary School in Howdon is one of the schools involved in the trial. The others are Hadrian Park Primary, Langley First School and Wellfield Middle School.

The school street restrictions on Denbigh Avenue start just south of Monmouth Gardens (north), on the corner of Grosvenor Gardens (south). There is a further restriction on Radnor Gardens, at the junction with Caroline Gardens (east).

Wallsend Labour Club on Windsor Drive, and Aldi at the bottom of Denbigh Avenue have both offered the use of their car parks to parents for the school run as a “Park and Stride”. A great community partnership with the school, to help keeping children active, and the school clear of additional traffic.

Schools Return!

Although the School Street officially started running on 22nd February, it has only started to gain traction with the re-opening of the school to all pupils on the 8th March.

As the cones went down, drivers making their way through the zone at the time were confused as to what was going on, and some parents were caught off guard by the cones being put down. It’s likely that although signage had been put into place ready for 22nd February, the visibility of the cones was the first real sign things were changing.

Instantly there was more space to move about in front of the school; the reaction from parents is mixed. That being said, there is a more relaxed atmosphere in front of the school than that most are used to feeling when trying to cross Denbigh Avenue or Radnor Gardens before the measures came into place.

As the week has gone on, more children on scooters have appeared; the odd extra bike too, which is perhaps a sign that parents are feeling more confident about the safety in front of the school that they would have done previously.

Even after the first day, parents that had arrived before the cones were put out were parking outside the zone. The first real sign that there is an acceptance of what has been put in place. Although it’s not the immediate, drastic effect we would like to see, it is a welcome sign in the right direction; that parents do want to see a safe space for their children in front of the school.

Teething Problems

It’d be naive to believe that everything in the first full week has gone well; it hasn’t, but most of the issues that have been highlighted are within the control of council, parents and residents alike.

The main, expected issue, is the displacement of traffic from the front of the school pushed out onto Monmouth Gardens and Grosvenor Gardens, with a further pushing out of traffic on Radnor Gardens.

Grosvenor Gardens, during school run pick-up

There is visibly more traffic attempting to navigate those three junction areas, which is causing understandable concern from residents at the edges of the School Street.

Some residents have fed their concerns to us, which has been fed back to the council and the school. We’re also looking to work alongside Northumbria Police to help provide extra education for parents, and other drivers unfamiliar with the scheme, navigating around the edge of the School Street. This will hopefully provide residents with the reassurance that they are an equal partner in making the School Street a success.

Several drivers have been caught out by their Sat-Nav not updating to show the restrictions that are in place. Whilst there isn’t much we can do about that until updates take place, those drivers have been understanding about why the measures are in place.

Denbigh Community Primary School is taking part in the Living Streets Walk to School year-round challenge. Pupils will be able to track their active travel exploits and will receive in-school rewards. Parents are being encouraged to walk to school, if they can do so within 10 minutes, or use the “Park and Stride” car parks kindly offered by Wallsend Labour Club and Aldi.

The school has recently made a request for volunteers to help manage the entry points to the School Street. These volunteers could be residents, parents, or anyone that has a little bit of time they can provide to help keep the front of the school safe for children.

Looking Forward

No-one expected there to be a sudden change in transport behaviour from Day 1, but the small behavioural changes as the week has gone on suggest people are more willing than not, to give up the road space so that children can get in and out of the school safely.

A set of studies led by Edinburgh’s Napier University found that School Street closures increased active travel and there was evidence that traffic displacement didn’t cause any significant road safety issues. It does point out that where issues were identified, mitigation measures were put in place. As highlighted during this first week for everyone, the School Street does have issues, but people communicating with each other about improvements to the area are an encouraging sign they want this to succeed.

A separate study completed in London recently have shown that air quality has increased outside schools and that almost a fifth of parents reported driving to school less, as a result of the School Streets scheme. That’s what we would like to see replicated here, as that’s still fewer car journeys around the school run, which means a more welcoming place for everyone.

What Can You Do To Help?

If your local school is involved in the School Streets trial, you can contact the school and ask what you can do to assist.
If your local school isn’t involved in the School Streets trial, you can still approach your school and the Go Smarter team to look into active travel measures that could be adopted.

Are you a resident in, or around the School Street? Are you a parent of a child at any of the four schools involved in the School Streets trial? If you have any ideas or comments as to how we can make this School Street work for everyone, please email us at livingstreetsnt@gmail.com.

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