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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

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Rendel Harris replied to mark1a | 9 months ago
0 likes

I did not argue that electric vehicles will not reduce carbon output, I was simply disputing Adam's statement that "The fossil fuel arguement, especial with respect to cars is largely moot since there is an increasing shift towards elctrification" which implies that electrification removes the need to be concerned about fossil fuel use and carbon output, which with our current means of electricity generation is not the case.

I think your calculations are optimistic, by the way: according to Volkswagen's UK site: "An electric vehicle registered as a new car in 2025 will generate 32% fewer CO2 emissions over its lifetime than a modern diesel car. The figure is even higher, at 40% , when you compare electric cars with petrol cars. This is backed up by calculations carried out by the Federal Environment Agency and published in 2019."

A 40% saving is certainly not to be sniffed at but hardly the 80% – 94% your calculations envisage.

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mark1a replied to Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

I think your calculations are optimistic, by the way: according to Volkswagen's UK site: "An electric vehicle registered as a new car in 2025 will generate 32% fewer CO2 emissions over its lifetime than a modern diesel car. The figure is even higher, at 40% , when you compare electric cars with petrol cars. This is backed up by calculations carried out by the Federal Environment Agency and published in 2019."

A 40% saving is certainly not to be sniffed at but hardly the 80% – 94% your calculations envisage.

Yeah as I said, back of napkin calcs. I think VW's lifetime calcs include manufacturer & disposal which I excluded. 

Source values for my usage calcs:

UK average electricity CO2 193g/kWh (govt figures from Bulb website)

100% renewable electricity CO2 58g/kWh (my own supplier Octopus website)

The 4mi/kWh I've just taken from the dash of my wife's car

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Rich_cb replied to mark1a | 9 months ago
2 likes

Overall I agree with your point but don't be fooled by the 100% renewable schtick.

It's just marketing nonsense.

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chrisonabike replied to Rich_cb | 9 months ago
0 likes

They're just longer-term optimists?  If humans and other intensively geoengineering species die out or evolve into something with much lower impact it's possible - as long as we don't get into runaway greenhouse effect - that we see a return to accumulating reserves.  Maybe even a bloom in plant biomass deposits with warmer climate and more CO2.  Then in as little as 3 million years (fairly wide uncertainty here) the earth could be renewing those reserves!  If we're happy with peat then it's but a few thousand years 'till we could be back in business (for a short period).

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mark1a replied to Rich_cb | 9 months ago
3 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

Overall I agree with your point but don't be fooled by the 100% renewable schtick. It's just marketing nonsense.

You're most likely right, I wonder when Octopus declare 100% renewable at 58g/kWh how much of that is shipping wood chips ("renewable??") across the Atlantic and then setting fire to it in a power station. I can only go with numbers presented but until I get the solar panels and battery store sorted at home, it's what we've got. Interestingly the EV we have has a 77kWh battery and V2L capability so an option I'm looking at when the domestic supply technology catches up is charging via the sun and/or off-peak grid then having the meter controller dump it back into the house on demand when it's parked on the drive. 

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Rich_cb replied to mark1a | 9 months ago
1 like

I'm equally sceptical about Drax and their biomass, suspect it's actually quite a long way from renewable.

My main issue with the '100% renewable' claims is that for every person who pays for 100% renewable electricity there must be another customer who is allocated 100% fossil fuels.

So at the same time that a renewable customer is decreasing their personal carbon footprint they are automatically increasing the carbon footprints of others.

The net effect is obviously zero which makes the whole exercise pretty pointless.

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Adam Sutton replied to Rendel Harris | 9 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

I did not argue that electric vehicles will not reduce carbon output, I was simply disputing Adam's statement that "The fossil fuel arguement, especial with respect to cars is largely moot since there is an increasing shift towards elctrification" which implies that electrification removes the need to be concerned about fossil fuel use and carbon output, which with our current means of electricity generation is not the case.

There's that short term outlook, and expectation for overnight miracales again.

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Adam Sutton replied to mark1a | 9 months ago
0 likes
mark1a wrote:
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)

 

The factor that also needs to be considered is where the CO2 is. As much as so many here seem to want to live in a dream world where overnight cars dissappear, that just isn't going to happen. Having zero tailpipe emmissions is of great benefit to communities and public health. Shift CO2 to where power is generated and as generation methods changes you bring that down as a whole. 

 

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brooksby replied to Adam Sutton | 9 months ago
3 likes
Adam Sutton wrote:

It is a "given" beacause in reality, in the real world, for many public transport is not an option, nor is cycling. You can pretend all you like that that isn't the case but it simply is. The issue is when roads for cars alone is the sole focus. I think you are confusing being "informed" with "bias" and an unrelenting myopic view.

I think you might be confusing "inconvenient" with "impossible".

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Adam Sutton replied to brooksby | 9 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
Adam Sutton wrote:

It is a "given" beacause in reality, in the real world, for many public transport is not an option, nor is cycling. You can pretend all you like that that isn't the case but it simply is. The issue is when roads for cars alone is the sole focus. I think you are confusing being "informed" with "bias" and an unrelenting myopic view.

I think you might be confusing "inconvenient" with "impossible".

I think you are a resident of the same cloud cuckoo land as a number of people on here.

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 9 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
Adam Sutton wrote:

It is a "given" beacause in reality, in the real world, for many public transport is not an option, nor is cycling. You can pretend all you like that that isn't the case but it simply is. The issue is when roads for cars alone is the sole focus. I think you are confusing being "informed" with "bias" and an unrelenting myopic view.

I think you might be confusing "inconvenient" with "impossible".

It's just a dispute about "could" and "will", no?  And how are we effectively going to drive (really - force) change.  The kind / scale of change it seems we need will mean "change we don't want" for someone (likely lots of us) so won't happen voluntarily.

Or just crack open a cold one and don't worry...

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SimoninSpalding replied to Adam Sutton | 9 months ago
5 likes

Sounds like it needs to become a School Street then...

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Pub bike | 9 months ago
11 likes

"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."

What does he expect when the council takes no action?  Councils and police forces across the country that fail to enforce legislation can expect a lot more of this.

We can see evidence of this inaction when police put up signs such as "Thieves operate in this area" which actually means "Police cannot be bothered to operate in this area".

 

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BigDoodyBoy | 9 months ago
0 likes

Irrespective of the intent of the action, it is illegal to block a highway. Just because you don't agree with something doesn't make it ok to break the law.
Also, if you know something is dangerous and you keep doing it, particularly as you have children with you, isn't that reckless endangerment?
If official channels don't work, get over it and change your behaviour to ensure the safety of yourself and your children. But you have equal rights, I hear you bleat. You can't exercise your rights if you are dead.

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Hirsute replied to BigDoodyBoy | 9 months ago
11 likes

So no one is allowed to walk to school.

If you know something is dangerous - you mean driving along a narrow road by choice when you know vulnerable road users are there ?

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perce replied to BigDoodyBoy | 9 months ago
12 likes

And do you really think that road is suitable for traffic? Really?

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Roulereo replied to perce | 9 months ago
0 likes

Keep em coming

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jaysa replied to BigDoodyBoy | 9 months ago
14 likes
BigDoodyBoy wrote:

If official channels don't work, get over it and change your behaviour ...

Thanks, I hope you'll offer the same advice to LTN protesters ...

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the little onion replied to jaysa | 9 months ago
7 likes

Or historically, to suffragettes and the civil rights movement....

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Boopop replied to BigDoodyBoy | 9 months ago
8 likes

Whether something is illegal or not is not the final arbiter of whether it is ethical or moral.

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Sriracha | 9 months ago
18 likes
Quote:

There is no room for a pavement....

Sums it up really, the default mindset that space for motorists comes as a first priority, then vulnerable road users if there is any space left over.

The revisions to the Highway Code surely imply that this imperative should be reversed. First put in a pavement fit for purpose, then if there's room add a proper cycle lane, finally look to squeezing in passage for motor vehicles if there's room left over, if appropriate - rat runs and cut-throughs aren't.

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chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 9 months ago
4 likes

Our streets minds are too narrow.

Worth a look on streetview - I can't work out how this ever became an access route for what is clearly more than a handful of properties.  But not just that - it's a through road! Open both ends.  (Possibly just because drivers might get their cars stuck otherwise).  Not one way either according to Streetview.

But... then I looked at Worcester.  A small town, flattish, would be ideal size for walking and cycling around.  Which would suit e.g. tourism.  Oh - it's horse country, hmm.  Let's look at the main road... nevermind.

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The Larger Cyclist replied to chrisonabike | 9 months ago
7 likes

As a Worcester resident (and who grew up just around the corner from this school and used to cycle past to get to my school) I can confirm that the council are MASSIVELY anti cyclist.  Recently there was a proposal to remove three, THREE, on road car park spaces for bike parking and the local paper comments went mental.

Not sure about "flatish" - we're in the river valley so a lot of the city is either up or over the valley so to speak.  Check out Tolladine Road as a major route towards some main housing areas.

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the little onion | 9 months ago
14 likes

The councillor says 

"“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."

 

Well, I know there are massive lorries thundering passed the school gates, mounting the pavement, but we lowered some kerbs, so I don't know what you are complaining about

 

Has the councillor ever thought that maybe, just maybe, that attitude is the problem here?

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NickSprink | 9 months ago
15 likes

You'd think the name is a bit of a giveaway: Thorneloe WALK

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HoldingOn | 9 months ago
15 likes

Disgraceful that it had to come to that, but way to go those good folks!

Hopefully this leads to meaningful change for them.

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