Editor’s comment: Clean air plan is bold - and well overdue

Islington Council want to clamp down on the school run. Picture: PA IMAGES

Islington Council want to clamp down on the school run. Picture: PA IMAGES - Credit: EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

It’s no overstatement to say Islington’s new air quality manifesto is bold. The town hall has been pilloried – sometimes in this column – for not doing enough to clean up the filthy air we breathe and promote walking and cycling. Well, not this week.

Clamping down on the school run won’t be popular with everyone, and it’s a brave plan with the elections looming – but it is the right thing to do, and Islington deserves praise for suggesting it.

Blue badge holders will still be allowed to come and go as they please. And everyone else, if they so choose, can drive to within a few yards of the gates.

But I hope they won’t. For most able-bodied people, at least, I believe taking kids to school by car is not only unsustainable – it sets a bad example.

There is an air quality crisis facing our city and our borough. The roads are congested and dangerous. Obesity is rising – and so are levels of inactivity. London’s children have lower lung capacities than their parents. Some of the worst polluted parts of the capital are outside primary and secondary schools.

But that isn’t the only problem. Taking your kids to school by car once they are old enough to walk is isolating. It cuts them off from their peers and from their neighbourhood.

They witness selfish, aggressive, impatient behaviour behind the wheel – which is how cars make us.

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They see their parents choosing to drive short distances and learn that their convenience is more important than everyone’s safety and well being – their own included.

How much better would it be to teach Islington’s children that driving is unsustainable and that walking, cycling and public transport are the norm?

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