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School Streets Award: Hackney Council

British Parking Awards 2023

Mark Moran
01 October 2023
Michael Wiktorko, Kevin Keady, Devendra Thakor and Michael Oskys

 

The London Borough of Hackney has implemented an ambitious active travel programme in an effort to tackle transport emissions. A key programme has been School Streets, which close roads outside schools at opening and closing times.

A quarter of CO2 emissions in Hackney are generated by road transport, despite a low car ownership of 30%. Motor vehicles are also a significant contributor to local air pollution. By 2019, motor traffic in the borough drove 40 million miles more than it did in 2013. In line with London-wide trends, most of this rise was borne by unclassified neighbourhood roads, which take the same volume of traffic as main roads. Alongside these trends, lockdown rules meant people were spending more time locally.

Given 70% of households in Hackney do not own a car, Hackney Council decided to take action to support people to walk, cycle and take public transport and thus prevent a car-led recovery from the pandemic. Reducing motor transport use is seen as essential if Hackney is to meet both local and nationwide net zero targets.

In September 2020, Hackney launched a programme to reclaim street space for people, aimed at:

  • Encouraging walking and cycling in the pandemic and beyond
  • Tackling air pollution
  • Preventing ‘rat-runs’ on neighbourhood roads
  • Preventing a car-led recovery from the pandemic, where car-use rose beyond historic levels
  • Catalysing the long-term downward shift in car ownership in Hackney, helping to reduce emissions.

Since then, Hackney has introduced 48 School Streets, which close roads outside schools at opening and closing times. Residents living in the school street, cyclists, waste vehicles and emergency services can pass through closures, which are camera-enforced. Legislatively, School Streets schemes are achieved by restricting access to motor vehicles at certain times. All of the School Streets are enforced by CCTV cameras in a mixture of permanent cameras and mobile CCTV vans.

All the schemes have been implemented as trials alongside comprehensive engagement with local residents, including: an online engagement platform with over 20,000 responses; representative polling; and, extensive stakeholder engagement with local community groups. The council responded to early comments on its engagement platform by making changes to School Streets to ensure they work better. This includes a commitment to exempt Blue Badge holders from some restrictions if they required access, for example, disabled children.

Hackney now has more School Streets and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) than any other council nationwide and 84% of the borough’s primary schools participate in a School Streets programme. This has seen traffic reductions and air quality improvements across the borough, increases in walking and cycling rates and improvements in road safety.

In a representative poll of 800 local residents, a quarter reported increasing the amount of walking, running and cycling they do as a result of the LTNs and School Streets. Almost a third of car users report driving less. Data from schools across Hackney shows the number of children walking or cycling to school is up eight percentage points.

According to the Healthy Streets Scorecard, over 70% of eligible roads in Hackney are now covered by LTNs, more than anywhere else in the country.  The project has been implemented with funding from Transport for London and the Department for Transport, and expertise from our transport service, which had projects ready to roll-out after funding was awarded.

Hackney has created a toolkit to support other councils in implementing School Streets in a fair and legal manner. The toolkit has been used as far away as New Zealand and Canada.

Outcomes

Traffic and air quality monitoring and representative polling is used to assess the efficacy of new LTNs and School Streets. Averages across the four biggest schemes show traffic reductions of 38% inside LTNs and 2% on boundary roads. Looking at the total number of vehicles across all four areas, these reductions are greater, with 56% reductions in traffic inside LTNs, and a 5% reduction on boundary roads. Assuming each vehicle trip is three miles, the total reduction in CO2 in a one year period across our four biggest schemes is approximately 15,000 tonnes.

Hackney is currently modelling and monitoring the air quality impact of our LTNs. This shows reductions in pollution levels. Across all LTNs and surrounding areas, there are reductions in nitrogen dioxide at 329 of 388 locations.

In the polling we carried out, two-thirds of residents were supportive of our ambitions to rebuild a greener Hackney and 72% of residents want all or some School Streets to be made permanent.

Support for LTNs was evenly split, with 48% wanting to retain LTNs and 47% wanting them to be removed. In a consultation on the borough’s revised Air Quality Action Plan in 2021, 57% of respondents agreed with the proposed action to deliver ‘Localised Solutions’, including implementing LTNs.

In 2020, Hackney experienced the biggest rise in cycling rates in the country, with a third of residents cycling once a week, up from 23%. 16% of Hackney residents ride three times a week.

The council also committed to equitable LTNs, where people from all backgrounds experience the benefits of cleaner air and greener, healthier neighbourhoods. Between 40 and 50% of households in our LTNs live in social housing and a recent academic study showed that people in Hackney’s LTNs are more likely to be in the more deprived half of the population than the affluent half.

Bus speeds are also improving around LTNs. Analysis of bus speeds near two of our LTNs shows that they are improving, from an average of 9.6mph to 11.2mph in one, and from 6.9mph to 7.2mph in another.

Hackey believes LTNs provide an opportunity to foster economic growth. At Broadway Market, a high street inside one LTN, footfall was 2% up on weekdays and 2.5% up on weekends prior to Plan-B restrictions. We are also supporting a ‘shop local’ campaign in another LTN to consolidate its economic benefits.

Enforcement via CCTV

All of the School Streets are enforced by CCTV cameras in a mixture of permanent cameras and mobile CCTV vans.

The team pays a significant amount of attention to being fair to drivers and ensuring that the penalty charge notices issued are of the highest quality. The ultimate test applied to the quality of the Penalty Charge Notice is appeal at independent adjudication. In that respect, the achieved result was the best in London for two years running.

Furthermore, the implementation of School Streets is making a significant reduction in the use of motor traffic in Hackney.

CCTV vandalism

Hackney Council has been a victim of multiple vandal attacks on the CCTV infrastructure including lamp columns, CCTV cameras, power infrastructure. The culprits utilise various means to vandalise the cameras, such as nudge the camera skywards using long poles and sticks, putting boxes or bags over them, but also more extreme measures such as pouring concrete, stealing the camera, using paint (by paintball gun or roller), ripping and cutting electric cables etc.

Crime reports are logged with the Metropolitan Police but investigations are difficult due to the random, brief and sporadic nature of the crimes.

The vandals’ attacks have cost the Council in excess of £400k in repairs and over £4m in lost revenue from PCNs. Despite the persistence of vandal attacks the council continues to work with Met Police and Community Safety to address the issue. The Mobile CCTV van proves to be invaluable to tackle this and the team has a second van on the way to support the enforcement.

Key figures

•    84% of the borough’s primary schools participate in a School Streets programme.
•    Polling of residents in Hackney suggests that more than seven in 10 residents wanted to see at least some of Hackney’s School Streets made permanent.
•    The council’s School Streets pilot reveals a 51% increase in cycling to school, a 30% increase in walking and a 74% reduction in tailpipe emissions.
•    Over 15,000 pupils in Hackney are walking and/or cycling to school.

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