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“We needed to act”: Parents set up unofficial guerrilla School Street after several near misses for children cycling on narrow road used as shortcut by motorists

But the local transport councillor criticised the campaigners for “taking the law and road safety into their own hands, effectively blockading a road”

Parents of children attending a primary school in Worcester, where children riding their bikes have been put in danger by motorists using a narrow, nearby lane as a shortcut, have established their own guerilla School Street by blocking both ends of the road at school pick-up times, in response to the “horrendous” road safety conditions in the area.

However, the local county council’s cabinet member for transport has criticised the parents’ unofficial actions, which he claims has seen them take “the law and road safety into their own hands, effectively blockading a road without a permit and without permission”.

Road safety issues have long been a source of frustration and concern for teachers and parents at St George’s Roman Catholic, a small primary school in Worcester. Tucked away, as one parent tells road.cc, on the corner “where a narrower road meets an even narrower lane”, the school has been the sight of numerous near misses involving motorists and children cycling and walking to school.

“There is no room for a pavement, pedestrians and bikes have to squeeze along the side wall to make way for a car, it’s even worse when a van passes,” Isabelle, a resident who has walked her children to school for many years along Thorneloe Walk, the scene of most of the road safety issues, and a volunteer with the school’s Bike Bus, tells road.cc.

“Vehicles reaching the corner of the Walk have to perform a three (or more) point manoeuvre there, which is also the main entrance to school for children on foot/bike/scooters. You can imagine the mayhem at school times!

“The brick wall opposite the school gate has been knocked down twice, and temporary boarding now makes the corner even narrower.”

> Student cycling to school knocked off bike after being hit by parent driving a car, suffers minor injuries

Isabelle says that there have been several attempts by the school to address the safety issues over the past decade, including weekly ‘bike to school’ initiatives, warnings to parents not to use Thorneloe Walk if travelling by car, and attempts to monitor parking and driving in the area by the council.

An attempt in 2020 to set up a School Street, an initiative adopted throughout Great Britain in recent years which restricts the use of motor vehicles outside schools at drop-off and pick-up times, applying to both school and through traffic, was met with a lacklustre response from Worcestershire County Council, which Isabelle says left parents “completely discouraged”.

> Councils across England ignoring government advice to roll out School Streets

After the brick wall on the lane was knocked down again last November, a petition to install bollards or create a School Street received over 200 signatures within a week – only for the petitioners to be told by the council that their expectations were “unrealistic”.

The issue again came to a head last week, when the closure of a main road next to the school, due to a burst water pipe, prompted many drivers to begin using Thorneloe Walk as a short cut.

“Within hours, the traffic through Thorneloe Walk, which is normally bad, became horrendous,” Isabelle, who posted a video on Twitter of the chaotic traffic situation as the Bike Bus attempted to make it to school, says.

“Lorries tried to squeeze through, then had to reverse, cars came head to head from both ends of the walk. All of this in the midst of children.

“It became evidence for us – the county council has not helped the community for over 10 years, the likelihood of an accident was at that point higher than ever. We needed to act and make our voices heard!”

On Monday, several parents, clad in hi-vis jackets, set up their own School Street on the lane, to allow their children to walk and cycle to and from school safely.

“It is quite simple to set up: you need a barrier, cones, people, hi-vis, a clipboard for that official look, some leaflets to explain your action and school streets principles, and a smiley face,” Isabelle says.

“We are lucky to have had support from our local city councillors and from Bike Worcester, which is a pressure group promoting active travel within the city.”

She continues: “The amount of positive feedback has been overwhelming. Parents and residents are thanking us every day for taking a stand. I was particularly touched by parents standing in solidarity with us and sharing their horror story of seeing their child nearly run over by the school.”

The parent’s action, the necessity of which was underlined yesterday morning when a lorry driver crashed into a wall on Thorneloe Road, adjacent to the makeshift School Street, has garnered support from several local politicians, including Green Party city councillor Karen Lewing.

“School Streets are popping up around the country, but the county council does not yet have a policy. They say they are working on one but they’re not working as fast as we would like,” she said this week.

The initiative was also praised on Twitter by broadcaster and cycling campaigner Jeremy Vine, who said that “we need to move away from the idea that people who own large metal boxes get priority over the rest of us just because they have an accelerator pedal. It’s nuts.”

> Mum compares school run to “going into battle” as Sustrans calls for School Streets to be introduced in Northern Ireland

However, not everyone is fully behind the unofficial School Street.

Councillor Mike Rouse, cabinet member with responsibility for Highways and Transport at Worcestershire County Council, criticised the parents and residents for taking matters into their own hands.

“I cannot condone campaigners taking the law and road safety into their own hands, effectively blockading a road without a permit and without permission,” he tweeted. “We need to work together to effect change, not force our ideas onto communities without being certain that they’ve consented.”

He continued in a statement: “School Streets and similar initiatives need the support of the school and the local community together in order to become formalised and be successful in the long term.

“School Streets are just one way of encouraging active travel by walking and cycling to and from our schools, we have also achieved this in areas around the county by installing crossing points, and dropping nearby kerbs to allow easier access to do this.

“Where actions like [those at St George’s] have happened elsewhere we see a rise in community tensions, so we call on all those involved to work with us constructively and not to take the law and road safety into their own hands.”

> Children take to the barricades to save School Street

Nevertheless, Isabelle says the success of the makeshift School Street has led to talk that the county council will soon begin to actively promote the initiative, with guidance reportedly being prepared by the Highways department.

“We do hope that the safety of children and their families on the way to school will finally become a priority in Worcestershire,” she says.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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116 comments

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
4 likes

Your discussion with that councillor will be very short, as you will quickly discover that you finally share the same views.
It's pretty ironic that you qualify my views as shortsighted, especially if you really think that EVs are a solution to anything let alone the problems we're concerned with in this thread.

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Hirsute replied to marmotte27 | 1 year ago
12 likes

EVs are a solution to keep the car industry going. Their current policy being selling cars to people don't need them with financing that they can't afford.

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Adam Sutton replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
1 like

As is often you are taking an extreme example, but anyway the current finance deal on a Fiat 500E is £329/month.

Current cost of a season ticket for me would be £4532 which works out at £377/month. 

The question should be why is public transport so expensive and unreliable as to make it impossible for many to not own a car.

Regardless, EVs have been around long enough now that their cost is coming down new and is comprable to ICE powered vehicles, and there is now a second hand market. So no, not everyone is financing an expensive electric car.

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Rendel Harris replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
4 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

As is often you are taking an extreme example, but anyway the current finance deal on a Fiat 500E is £329/month.

Current cost of a season ticket for me would be £4532 which works out at £377/month. 

I agree that public transport prices are far too high but your comparison is hardly fairly balanced: I believe you commute into central London, do you not, so using a car would cost you £300 a month in congestion charges, assuming a 40 mile round-trip each day at least £150 a month in fuel, add in vehicle excise duty, insurance, maintenance costs, depreciation you'd be looking at nearer £1000 a month to use the car for commuting.

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Adam Sutton replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

I agree that public transport prices are far too high but your comparison is hardly fairly balanced: I believe you commute into central London, do you not, so using a car would cost you £300 a month in congestion charges, assuming a 40 mile round-trip each day at least £150 a month in fuel, add in vehicle excise duty, insurance, maintenance costs, depreciation you'd be looking at nearer £1000 a month to use the car for commuting.

Yes I commute "into" London from "outside" London. My response was to the "hardly fairly balanced" idea that everyone who drives is financing an expensive car and giving a real world comparison of public transport. You have similar costs trying to use public transport outside of London where there isn't a congestion charge.

Now consider my sister who works relatively locally, where public transport isn't viable. She owns secondhand Hyundai i20. Or consider my partner who drives our car  (which is financed for less than I would pay on a season ticket) to work. He actually did try using the train and bus once and it was utterly unworkable.

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mattw replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
3 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

As is often you are taking an extreme example, but anyway the current finance deal on a Fiat 500E is £329/month.

Current cost of a season ticket for me would be £4532 which works out at £377/month. 

The question should be why is public transport so expensive and unreliable as to make it impossible for many to not own a car.

Regardless, EVs have been around long enough now that their cost is coming down new and is comprable to ICE powered vehicles, and there is now a second hand market. So no, not everyone is financing an expensive electric car.

Plus whatever the next Govt adds to the annual costs of EVs to replace the £2500 or so they need to replace revenue from ICE cars.

Characteristically, the current Govt have put that off until after the next Election.

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Hirsute replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
2 likes

The finance on new cars is 17Bn, 92% of new cars are financed, average package is 24 or 25k.

Hardly "extreme". Seems rather you are using something from either end of the scales.

"The question should be why is public transport so expensive and unreliable as to make it impossible for many to not own a car."

And this car has to be new because ?

(and how many people actually own their car ?)

Avatar
Adam Sutton replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes

"The finance on new cars is 17Bn, 92% of new cars are financed, average package is 24 or 25k."

And your point is? I gave you the more realistic monthy cost that people have to factor in if they choose to buy a car on finance. 

My example is the cost to me if I have to go back to work 5 days a week, hardly an extreme, it is the reality of anyone commuting by train living a relatively short distance. 30 miles in my case.

Feel free to point our where I said a car has to be new? I actually pointed out that there is a second hand car market. 

Avatar
Hirsute replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
1 like

I gave you the headline numbers to support my previous comment on the car industry selling cars to people.
You chose £300 with a bottom of the market car ( and which is a new car).
The realist figure is the 24 or 25 k debt package.

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Adam Sutton replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes

So you are being deliberatly disengenous now?

You acted as though every car owner has taken on a large finance package beyond their means. I have mentioned the second hand car market growing for EVs and that many if not most are actually not burding themselves with unnafordable finance, and gave an example of the cost of public transport being equally high.

A fiat 500E is not bottom of the market, that would be your Dacia/MG etc. A 500 is one of the most popular city cars and purchased widely. It is you choosing to ignore this in an attempt to shore up your weak arguement against EVs.

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Adam Sutton replied to marmotte27 | 1 year ago
1 like

You decided to digress to the fossil fuel argument as opposition to motor vehicles. Like it or not EVs render that a moot point. The issue is the continuation of creating infrastructure that has a sole purpose for motor vehicles, and any infrastructure for cycling having no joined up thinking. That's what I am dealing with and foccusing on. I am also not blind to the fact that in this area (and many others) we have a lacklustre public transport system, unreliable trains and bus service that isn't fit for purpose, hence cars are here to stay.

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marmotte27 replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
1 like

"You decided to digress"

No I didn't. Read what I've written. And we could even widen the debate to use of ressources in general, all of which is part of the systemic problem I tried to render you attentive to.

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Rendel Harris replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
7 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

The fossil fuel arguement, especial with respect to cars is largely moot since there is an increasing shift towards elctrification. Audi plan to be seeling EVs only in 2026, Alfa in 2027 as an example. Two brands steeped in motorsport and tradition.

In a country where approximately 50% of our electricity is still generated by fossil fuels, electric vehicles don't exactly render the "fossil fuel argument" moot. 

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
3 likes

In a country where only about 1.5% of the vehicles on the road are EV's its utterly self defeating to be hairshirtist and absolutist about the role EV's have to place in a decarbonising economy.   Like it or not, bitch about tyre particulates or not, along with active travel, revewable energy etc - EV's have a place.

Playing who can piss higher up the eco wall helps no-one and is a distraction from the utter imperative of decarbonising in a way that makes the majority of the voting population go along with it.

Avatar
Adam Sutton replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
2 likes

Problem is there needs to be joined up thinking and that is something missing, especially in politics today. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
2 likes

Good job I was doing none of that whatsoever then. All I did was point out that electric vehicles in the current situation of energy supply in the UK will be responsible for significant amounts of carbon emissions and so saying that they make arguments about fossil fuel consumption "moot" is inaccurate.

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Adam Sutton replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:

Good job I was doing none of that whatsoever then. All I did was point out that electric vehicles in the current situation of energy supply in the UK will be responsible for significant amounts of carbon emissions and so saying that they make arguments about fossil fuel consumption "moot" is inaccurate.

Sounding a bit agressive there? Or is it because you presented a weak arguement that fails to look at the bigger and long term picture and didn't like that being called out?

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marmotte27 replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
4 likes

"Sounding a bit agressive there?"
Bit rich coming from you.

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Adam Sutton replied to marmotte27 | 1 year ago
1 like
marmotte27 wrote:

"Sounding a bit agressive there?" Bit rich coming from you.

Keep up that was just a sarcastic response to rendell. Hardly agression on my part. 

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Adam Sutton replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:

In a country where approximately 50% of our electricity is still generated by fossil fuels, electric vehicles don't exactly render the "fossil fuel argument" moot. 

So we have shifted 50% away from fossil fuels and continue to do so. Electrcity is agnostic to how it is generated, and an EV doesn't care where it comes from. The argument is moot if you are not as short sighted as the likes of just stop oil, consider the long term and support nuclear as means of ensuring we have a baseline to meet energy needs.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
4 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

So we have shifted 50% away from fossil fuels and continue to do so. Electrcity is agnostic to how it is generated, and an EV doesn't care where it comes from. The argument is moot if you are not as short sighted as the likes of just stop oil, consider the long term and support nuclear as means of ensuring we have a baseline to meet energy needs.

Agnostic electricity, that's a new one. Does it ever have doubts about its convictions in the small hours of the morning when it's alone? The claim that nuclear energy is the answer to meeting our energy needs is a whole different argument. 

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Adam Sutton replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

I didn't say nuclear was "the" answer did I. Maybe if you were less pedantic you would have noticed that.

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Rendel Harris replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
3 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

I didn't say nuclear was "the" answer did I. Maybe if you were less pedantic you would have noticed that.

You're unusually aggressive today Adam, something upset you? "consider the long term and support nuclear as means of ensuring we have a baseline to meet energy needs" sounds pretty much like you're calling it the answer to me. 

Avatar
Adam Sutton replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:

You're unusually aggressive today Adam, something upset you? "consider the long term and support nuclear as means of ensuring we have a baseline to meet energy needs" sounds pretty much like you're calling it the answer to me. 

So we are dropping to ad hominem now? And I am the one being agressive?

You understand how energy works right?

https://electricinsights.co.uk/#/dashboard?period=7-days&start=2023-06-2...

That demand changes and that underneath it all we need an amount of constant as a baseline. Peak demand is around 32GW and nuclear is supplying an almost constant 5GW into the supply. Renewables are great and can add into that demand in the day for solar when demand is higher and wind, when it can. We need that constant and as noted nuclear is capable of that, it could also be energy storage or other means, but that would then bring questions of the enviromental impact of current battery technology. Again this is something evolving, see any article on research into organic batteries that are gaining traction and are not reliant on rare earth materials and are starting to be deployed.

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

I think it's "wants" vs. "needs".  That won't get sorted out any time soon!

Our energy and resource use - despite some genuine improvements in efficiency (or because?) - is a bit like "predict and provide" and "induced demand" in the transport sector.

Historically the pattern is that as an "improved" technology becomes more efficient / cheaper / cleaner it doesn't just fulfil the previous demand more effectively and maybe then grow at the previous rate.  That demand increases to fill and indeed overwhelm the new additional capacity.  (And "what our ancestors considered luxury, we consider necessity" etc.)

At least from what some of them say many politicians / those in government / industry understand this in the case of motor vehicles.  It's not just "pollution" or "safety".  The technology of private motor vehicles is fundamentally space-inefficient and resource-intensive.  That applies to EVs also - different resources for e.g. batteries but possibly even more limited.

However even just kicking the can down the road a bit by switching technologies still requires a lot of effort.

I'm just hopeful because in a couple of other super-wealthy countries with unsustainably high resource usage people have been persuaded to cut down on some of the demand - and importantly have gained some health and joy in their lives by doing so [1] [2] !

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marmotte27 replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
0 likes

"Historically the pattern is that as an "improved" technology becomes more efficient / cheaper / cleaner it doesn't just fulfil the previous demand more effectively and maybe then grow at the previous rate. That demand increases to fill and indeed overwhelm the new additional capacity."

Sorry but in taking such a long view, your being "unrelentingly myopic", in the logic of Adam Sutton.

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Adam Sutton replied to marmotte27 | 1 year ago
0 likes

*you're

and *yawn*

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marmotte27 replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
3 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

*you're

and *yawn*

Slow clap...

Avatar
Adam Sutton replied to marmotte27 | 1 year ago
0 likes
marmotte27 wrote:
Adam Sutton wrote:

*you're

and *yawn*

Slow clap...

"you're" welcome.

Avatar
mark1a replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:
Adam Sutton wrote:

The fossil fuel arguement, especial with respect to cars is largely moot since there is an increasing shift towards elctrification. Audi plan to be seeling EVs only in 2026, Alfa in 2027 as an example. Two brands steeped in motorsport and tradition.

In a country where approximately 50% of our electricity is still generated by fossil fuels, electric vehicles don't exactly render the "fossil fuel argument" moot. 

I'm going to disagree here with a back of napkin calculation. Putting aside the factors of production, etc (another discussion) and just focusing on fossil vs electric fuel...

Figures for car CO2 output per km:

Petrol/diesel - 150g (typical, average)

EV charged with UK average generation mix - 30g (based on 4mi/kWh)

EV charged at home with 100% renewable supplier - 8g (based on 4mi/kWh)

 

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