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Children take to the barricades to save School Street

Protests began after Lutfur Rahman, the pro-car mayor of Tower Hamlets, ordered the removal of traffic restrictions around Chisenhale Primary School in Bow on Thursday morning

Children and parents have taken to the barricades this week in a bid to prevent their ‘School Street’ being ripped out by the pro-motoring mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman.

In a scene worthy of a West End production of Les Misérables, children from Chisenhale Primary School in Bow mounted barriers and blocked the road after workers began to remove the play area and traffic restrictions, including seats, planters and artwork that the schoolchildren had helped to build and create.

The protest led to the police being called to the street yesterday morning, while the council contractors – unable to finish their work – left at lunchtime, prompting celebrations from the children, who again returned to renew their protest this morning.

Parents at the school, fearful that the contractors will eventually return to successfully remove the restrictions, have also planned to establish their own traffic patrols when pupils return after the half-term break next week.

The as-yet failed removal of the School Street in Bow marks mayor Lutfur Rahman’s latest attempt to reverse traffic-calming measures that prioritise cyclists and pedestrians, such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), in Tower Hamlets.

School Streets restrict the use of motor vehicles outside schools at drop-off and pick-up times and apply to both school and through traffic, while typically continuing to permit access for people living in the area.

At Chisenhale, a “green corridor” consisting of planters and wooden barriers also protects the school gates on Vivian Road, while an outdoor play area and two-way cycleway were constructed on Chisenhale Road to prevent it being used by through traffic.

However, Rahman – who was re-elected as mayor of the London borough in May, seven years after he was removed from the post after being found guilty of electoral fraud and “corrupt and illegal practices” – based his campaign around pledging to reverse LTNs in Tower Hamlets, claiming they had increased congestion and contributed to more CO2 emissions.

> Anti-LTN candidate elected mayor despite five-year ban for "corrupt and illegal practices"

Transport for London has already moved to withhold funding from Tower Hamlets Council due to the divisive mayor’s plans to axe schemes designed to make residential and school streets safer for people walking and on bikes, while London mayor Sadiq Khan has expressed concerns that Rahman’s actions are harming his Transport Strategy for the city and his plan to “fight toxic air street by street”.

Rahman’s latest target, Chisenhale Primary School, is also situated in Bow, a ward which failed to elect any councillors belonging to the mayor’s Aspire party, prompting parents to believe that the school was deliberately targeted.

Rahman is able to axe the School Street as it was initially introduced during the Covid pandemic through an experimental traffic order that lapses automatically unless formally renewed by the council. Parents at the school have told the Evening Standard that they fear all 26 School Streets set up in Tower Hamlets during the last two years are at risk.

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

“We have got protesters down there trying to stop them. The council this moment have started ripping out planters and children’s art work,” Sarah Gibbons, a parent involved in the campaign to save the School Street, told the Standard yesterday.

“All the kids have got used to that road being very safe, very clean and very quiet. From Monday that just goes. It’s really disturbing. There is no benefit from getting rid of the scheme.”

Nathalie Bienfait, a Green party councillor in Tower Hamlets, added: “I am astounded, livid and exasperated that the mayor has chosen to entirely remove a school street scheme outside Chisenhale primary school.

“The mayor was elected on a manifesto which promised to rip up road closures. However, the children who will be harmed as a result of his actions couldn’t vote for him – so what mandate does he have from them?

“One thing is clear: Tower Hamlets is not a safe place for children and families under this mayor.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Mr Rahman said: “The Chisenhale primary school street was established through an experimental traffic order (ETO), which introduced road closures for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon.

“The ETO has now lapsed, and the mayor has decided – in keeping with his manifesto promise to re-open the roads – that the road closures will not be made permanent.

“However, the mayor and the council take the safety of children extremely seriously, and have therefore asked officers of the council to examine alternatives to the ETO, including (though not limited to) the possibility of introducing zebra crossings in the immediate vicinity of the school, as well as increasing the number of traffic wardens, yellow lines, ‘do not stop’ signages, and traffic management personnel – such as school crossing patrols – outside of the school.

“Updates will be given to residents as soon as these options have been properly assessed by officers.”

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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23 comments

Avatar
Rome73 | 1 year ago
0 likes

That is very unfortunate. It's also unfortunate that every similar scheme is also often a 'battle' to instate and then to maintain. London still has 33 'independent' boroughs when it comes to traffic schemes. Apart from the TLRN.
It would be good to have contiguity across the city. 

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
7 likes

Could these heroic children be the start of what worked so well in Holland?  The kindermort movement was incredibly effective at stopping the expansion of the car culture and the change in emphasis to people, not cars.

I hope the parents will do some research on it and adapt their tactics accordingly.

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Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
10 likes

Veritably, the faces of true evil. Lock up your motor cars! I give you the ravening terror of the Traffic Taliban.

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chrisonabike replied to Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
6 likes

*sarcasm on* Ah - you must be confusing "cute" with the sober adult business of running the world.  We all want the best for children but (a) we need to be able to drive them to school in cars - because of the danger from traffic (b) children don't grow the economy, drive ambulances or vote so adults need to be able to drive around doing that.

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Hirsute | 1 year ago
8 likes

Will someone please think of the drivers.

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Brauchsel | 1 year ago
4 likes

He won't care. Having lived in Tower Hamlets during his previous tenure, it's depressingly obvious that a local community's corrupt machine politics are still thoroughly entrenched. Sadly I fear it'll take a generation or more before it's properly rooted out. 

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David9694 replied to Brauchsel | 1 year ago
6 likes

My achievements as Tower Hamlets Mayor 2022:

ripped out children's play area 

Mwhahaha!!

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
12 likes

Don't let Braverman hear about this protest - the kids will be tagged in no time and on a flight to Rawanda, British passport or no - living her dream.

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ktache replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
0 likes

They can take away their citizenship.

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IanMSpencer replied to ktache | 1 year ago
2 likes

Don't let Braverman know they've let someone out of Guantanamo Bay as that'll give her ideas too. "Hmm, spare space, no trial required for entry, little hope of release, that'll teach the little fu^H^H protesters."

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wtjs replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
4 likes

Don't let Braverman know they've let someone out of Guantanamo Bay...

Braverman is all in favour of forgiving people who recognise their misdeeds and apologise- just as long as they're Home Secretaries

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Mungecrundle replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
4 likes

Following comment heavily influenced by a bottle of Jack Daniels and conversation with a good friend.

Surely we are looking at the migration issue in the wrong way. Shouldn't we be looking at anyone who has travelled thousands of miles across the globe and a final trip across the English Channel in a rubber dinghy and say "Well done, good effort, you're in. Britain needs your ambition, we need your determination, we need your ability to face adversity and take a chance.

If the authorities could create a system that protects these people from exploitation, provides training for the jobs that need doing and ensure that, in effect, migrants are taken away from the traffickers looking to exploit them, provides protection from persecution and if at some future time they are in a position to go home, then they take British values and a positive attitude of the UK with them.

Or some drunken bollocks view of the world.

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chrisonabike replied to Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
0 likes

Good point but I think you're confusing the UK with the US.  And even the US has had repeated spasms of the settled immigrants pulling up the ladder behind them.

The UK overall seems to still be grappling with "but we were number one just recently!".  Maybe the English are still having an identity crisis?

I'm historically ignorant but I feel Scotland has had a good tradition of appreciation of folk from elsewhere with skills and energy.  Maybe with the exception of the English - which may be historically excusable.

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hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
11 likes

FFS.

Maybe child protests will be the only form of protest left as currently they can't be arrested for it. Also, they'll be the ones inheriting a burning planet due to our leaders' complete inability to deal with the climate issues and instead just kick the problem down the road.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/oct/27/climate-crisis-un-pathway-1-5-c

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brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
5 likes

As IanMSpencer alludes - they CURRENTLY can't be arrested.  I'm sure our "tough on law and order" Home Secretary will want to change that soon...

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hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
5 likes
brooksby wrote:

As IanMSpencer alludes - they CURRENTLY can't be arrested.  I'm sure our "tough on law and order" Home Secretary will want to change that soon...

I'm amazed that they're allowed to use roads and pavements - they quite literally don't pay tax

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hutchdaddy replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
0 likes

Income tax etc maybe, but they do pay VAT. So it's OK with me.

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Backladder replied to hutchdaddy | 1 year ago
1 like

How do you know thay don't pay income tax, the could be earning millions from you-tube videos of their protests  3

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David9694 replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
3 likes

My achievements as Tower Hamlets Mayor 2022:

ripped out children's play area 

 

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eburtthebike replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:

As IanMSpencer alludes - they CURRENTLY can't be arrested.  I'm sure our "tough on law and order" Home Secretary will want to change that soon...

But when their parents are arrested for inciting the children to protest, the children will be taken into care.

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Boopop | 1 year ago
6 likes

While this is truly inspiring and great to see the kids taking up this cause, it's also depressing that in 2022 they have to.

That said, this sort of action is how the Dutch got their world leading child friendly streets. The difference is that happened fifty years ago.

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chrisonabike replied to Boopop | 1 year ago
2 likes

On the bad but also optimistic side, we've got some of the problems that switched the tracks for the Dutch e.g. fuel crisis, expense, widespread unhappiness with transport, pollution worries etc.  However we're missing many factors compared to that situation.

With finance cars may be more accessible now than they were.  You can still easily get fuel.  Some of the arguments against having so many motor vehicles are being answered with "emit elsewhere" electric vehicles.  We don't have a high base of cycling modal share, we're climbing up from near zero.  We don't have an existing network of cycle paths.

Road danger and death have changed.  We've made things much safer for the occupants of motor vehicles.  We've trained / put up barriers to keep pedestrians out of the way.  We've reduced (not eradicated) intoxicated driving.  These changes have been successful enough that almost only the few people directly affected think it's a big issue.

Some people are concerned about global warming now like people worried about pollution back then.  We don't often see vehices belching smoke though - so it's more abstract.  Those directly involved in the biggest polluting are also much louder about all the "green" things they're doing ("powered by renewable energy!").  The Dutch could see buildings getting knocked down for roads.  Road-building and development only seem to inspire limited local protests now - maybe we've put roads most places already?

Finally we don't seem very good at consensus-building in the UK.

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marmotte27 replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
3 likes

In the 70s neoliberalism and assorted corporate lobbying hadn't eroded the capacity to act for the common good in politics.

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