Community calls for safe school streets

Families take action after increase in dangerous road incidents

Chestnuts Primary School pupils protest outside their school
Credit: Blaise Grimes-Viort

By Luchia Robinson

The community from Chestnuts Primary School in Black Boy Lane is calling for the implementation of an emergency school street, following frequent road incidents around the school.

Last month, five-year-old pupil Luka Grimes was hit by a car, which drove through a red light as he was crossing at the pedestrian crossing.

Luka’s grandfather, Christian Wolmar, said: “Luka is fine, he was shocked but he wasn’t injured.

“That crossing is just totally unsuitable. Essentially the pavement is just too narrow on the school side, and it’s very difficult to make it safe without slowing the cars down.

“Some kid is going to get killed because it’s inherently dangerous.

“This is an accident waiting to happen, somebody is going to get badly hurt there because the cars whizz through at 30 miles an hour, there’s no effort to slow down.”

Katie Horwood, Headteacher at Chestnuts Primary School says she would like to see traffic filtered on all the roads surrounding the school, with only buses allowed to pass along Black Boy Lane.

She said: “We’ve got issues with cars speeding, we’ve got cars overtaking buses at the bus stop and suddenly seeing the pedestrian crossing, and slamming their foot on the brakes. That happens 10–15 times in the morning as children are coming in, and 10–15 times in the afternoon as children are going home.

“Where the bus stop is placed at the moment means that cars can’t see the pedestrian crossing until they’re passed the bus − it’s just really not safe.”

Following Luka’s car incident, children and parents held a protest outside the school to highlight the road dangers and to call for road infrastructure changes.

Local parent and co-chair of Haringey Living Streets, Catherine Kenyon says it is vital that school streets are installed to ensure children’s safety.

“Our children are the most vulnerable members in the community, we have a duty to protect them and make sure that they can cross the road safely. Particularly in Luka’s case, he did everything he was meant to do, he waited until the light was green [for him to cross] and a car still went through the [red] light.

Catherine added: “All of the emphasis is put on children [knowing] how to be safe in our streets, but actually, we need infrastructure changes to keep kids safe on our streets, it’s not their fault; this wasn’t Luka’s fault, and there are ways that we can make schools safer by making sure there aren’t cars speeding outside the school gates.”

Data from a TfL report shows that 125 people were killed and 3,780 people were seriously injured on London’s roads in 2019.

According to the Department for Transport, there were 849 reported road accidents in Haringey in 2019 (3 fatal, with 100 serious, and 746 slight injuries).

Haringey launched its first school street at Lordship Lane Primary School in February 2019.

In June 2020, TfL approved £110,000 to install eleven more school streets in the borough as part of the council’s Streetspace plans (walking and cycling travel proposals in response to Covid-19 that enable socially distanced movement across the borough), which include widening pavements, installing temporary cycleways and creating low traffic neighbourhoods.

Catherine said: “Eleven school streets have been funded and we haven’t seen any of them implemented yet, so we really hope that the council can move forward with that much faster than they have done so far.”

Chestnuts Primary School is included in an additional funding bid, hoped to be matched with council funds, that will cover the cost of the school streets, CCTV measures and relevant signage.

St Ann’s ward councillor, Cllr Mike Hakata said: “We are going ahead with five additional schools, of which Chestnuts will be one, where we will be putting in school streets through the council’s own budgets.

“There’s no point waiting for the possibility of funding that may never come whilst these issues keep escalating and keep multiplying, so we need to have small piecemeal interventions now.”

Discussions between council officers and the Chestnuts community are ongoing, and a plan to create a low traffic neighbourhood by installing a planter that will block off Etherley Road at the side of the school, is being considered.

Cllr Hakata said: It’s almost impossible to move [a planter] unless you’ve got a mini crane, so it’s not something that people can easily budge out of the way − but it is moveable, so in other words, if that intervention doesn’t work, we can move it somewhere else.”

Other planned options to improve road safety on Black Boy Lane include moving the bus stop that’s positioned outside the school and widening the pavement to slow down traffic.

Cllr Hakata expects these safety measures will begin in St Ann’s and across the borough within the next few months, he said: “If we make these interventions here, they will be the most radical interventions other than the school street at Lordship School.”

“The most radical interventions done in Haringey will have started because of a movement led by parents.

“It’s an example of people power and what people pressure can achieve.”