Sunday, 15 July 2018

Toxic air

Jenny and I live very close to three schools, which means that twice a day during term time the local streets are jammed with cars as parents drop off and pick up their little darlings.

Now I read that thousands of schools across Britain are taking measures to end the parental school run because of the serious air pollution it causes. It harms children's lungs and drives up hospital admissions and GP visits. A nine year old London girl died recently of asthma after a spike in air pollution around her home.

Schools are banning school runs, encouraging walking, cycling and scooting, and asking parents to park a few minutes' walk from the school.

We've been living here for nine years and haven't yet had any personal health problems related to air pollution, but who knows what hidden damage might be going on? Unfortunately air pollution isn't usually visible so it's easily ignored.

As far as I know, not a single school in Northern Ireland is taking any measures to limit school runs and air pollution. So I intend to write to the nearby schools and ask them if they have any plans to reduce school runs.

It has to be said that the general attitude to air pollution in Northern Ireland is pretty lax. People are accustomed to driving long distances for work or to visit relatives, and they turn a blind eye to the resulting pollution. That really needs to change.

How will the schools respond to my letters, I wonder? Watch this space.

26 comments:

Mike said...

I can imagine the hue and cry of parent over making their little ones endure NOT being dropped off at the front door of school

When I was school age in North Platte, Nebraska, a city of just over 20,000, there were no school bus routes in the city, just ones for rural kids, and parents didn't drive their kids to school. They got there by walking or riding their bicycles. Until I was 12, my school was a block away. Then went I went to the next school, it was 2 miles, and I never got a ride to school, even on the coldest of days.

They still don't have school bus routes these days in North Platte. I wonder what percentage of kids are dropped off now in the era of helicopter parenting.

Rummuser said...

I live directly opposite to a school but thankfully a residential boarding school. There are six schools within hailing distance from my home and the traffic of private vehicles dropping off / picking up children as well as school buses in the morning and afternoons is quite noisy and with diesel fumes. At both times these vehicles also cause major traffic jams. I can't think of any way that I can contribute to getting this problem go away. Too many younger residents in the area with school going children!

nick said...

Mike: I was at a prep school for eight years and I always walked there and back from my home (about ten minutes walk each way). My parents didn't even have a car. Later I was at a boarding school so the issue didn't arise.

Of course some parents drop their kids off for safety reasons. They're convinced some undesirable will approach them on the way. But I see plenty of kids walking to and from school, and presumably not coming to harm.

nick said...

Ramana: Six schools close by - that sounds horrendous. The pollution levels must be stratospheric. There is serious traffic congestion here also when the parents are all converging on the three schools.

helen devries said...

If the catchment areas are so restricted there can be no problem in the children walking to school - except that walking with the younger ones cuts into mother's hairdressing and nail refurbishing time.

Joanne Noragon said...

We have outdone ourselves over here with the need for automobiles for transportation, due to the sprawl of housing. A grandson is an amusing anomaly. He began riding his bike the ten miles to school.Part of the route was through Little Italy. As he rode through one afternoon, an old Italian babushka shop owner brandished her broom and demanded he get off the sidewalk. He replied, truthfully, his mother wouldn't let him ride in the street. He was maybe ten at the time. Now he's in high school, and drives a car he bought.

nick said...

Helen: I think the catchment areas here are quite broad. Several school buses pick up kids from one school, so presumably some of them live a good distance away.

Joanne: A lot of people here cycle on the pavements, which is understandable when cycle lanes are usually part of busy main roads and cyclists are regularly injured or even killed by vehicles.

helen devries said...

I take your point when bussing the kids in is necessary, but in the area of London where a friend lives the areas are very restricted, so no need for the parents to do a school run in a car.

nick said...

Helen: Oh, I agree with you. I used to live in Islington and there are so many schools there I guess most school pupils live fairly near their school.

tammy j said...

wow. I never even thought of it. I see cars idling and picking up children in the heat of the afternoons here. and you know it has to be bad with all those engines running! in the middle schools there are mostly school busses.
when I was 7 and living in Colorado you were only allowed to eat lunch at school if you lived at least a mile away. I lived one block less than a mile from school. so I walked! to school. home to lunch. back to school. then finally back home! what is that about 4 miles a day? LOL! in all weather. we only had the one car and my father had it had work. how strange! actually probably not strange at all for that time. but now parents would never put up with it! I rather enjoyed it.
but then again in those days I didn't have to worry about being abducted and never seen again either. yes. keep us posted about it. very interesting!

nick said...

Tammy: I guess one reason so many households now routinely have two cars is that one is needed for ferrying the kids around (not just to school but to out-of-school activities) so another is needed for travel to work etc. No wonder there's so much pollution.

Chuck McConvey said...

When I lived in Hawaii and school was in session commuting to work took 45 minutes. When there was no school, it took less that 15 minutes. I knowof what you speak

Cheerful Monk said...

Yuck! :(

nick said...

Chuck: I could give you similar figures for the time it took to get to my last workplace. As soon as the schools shut down, the roads were half-empty.

Jean: Come again?

Joared said...

Often here in Southern California I think students have a schedule of activities when no school, so time can be of the essence. The parent, often the Mom, feels like a chauffeur driving them about to whatever has been planned on any given day. Also, generally speaking, I think children, even through high school age, alone, or sometimes in pairs, or a threesome, are less safe than my day. I noticed the difference even when my children were in school and now it’s worse judging by reports I learn about. This is a sad commentary on culture and attitudes toward other humans in today’s society. Smog is an issue here, too, and we don’t lack for autos. There aren’t many stay-at-home Moms any more even in our residential community. Families likely have two cars as each parent has to have transportation to work or Univ. located in opposite directions from one another. Perhaps you live in more compact communities.

nick said...

Joared: I get the impression schoolkids are less safe on the streets than they used to be, but I see plenty of schoolboys and schoolgirls on the local streets and as far as I know they don't come to any harm. Are parents a bit paranoid or am I a bit out of touch?

No, our communities aren't that compact either, and parents often have two cars for exactly the reason you give. Dad's work is one direction, mum's work in another, school or university in another. Impossible to get by on one car.

Bijoux said...

I never saw many parents driving their kids to school here or where I grew up. You either took the bus of you walked.

nick said...

Bijoux: That's what I remember too. My parents didn't even own a car when I was growing up.

Z said...

When my daughter-in-law lived a short walk from her daughter's school, she had to drop her off, then drop her son to nursery three miles away, then get to work by 9.15, another four miles from there. Walking wasn't an option, there wasn't time, and the road to the village school doesn't have a footpath so it wasn't safe for a five-year-old on her own. The school didn't allow children to be left there before 8.45 and nursery started at 9, so there was no time to walk there and back from home. On the days she wasn't working, the little one didn't have nursery so there was no question that they wouldn't walk to school. But those who say parents are lazy don't always appreciate the practicalities when both parents have to get to work and there is simply no time to walk. A young friend in Germany, however, was very surprised that so many teenagers are taken to school - there, they walk or take public transport on their own if it's at all possible, from a fairly early age. Here, the parents would probably be reported for neglect.

nick said...

Z: Yes, I appreciate the difficult circumstances some parents have to contend with. It would help of course if schools and workplaces didn't all tend to start the working day at much the same time. But that's been complained about ever since I can remember!

Interesting that it's unusual in Germany for teenage kids to be driven to school and back.

Z said...

I agree with you about the problem of course, only suggesting that one has to think about reasons and come up with answers. For instance, the village school, which doesn't have a before-school club and can't provide one, found that parents were dropping children off at 8am and leaving them for teachers, who arrived early to prepare for the day, to look after. That was taking advantage and the Head and governors agreed that it had to stop. But it caused another problem.

My German friend lives in Berlin, so it was straightforward to get to school by public transport. But I read an interesting article in the paper a while ago, which said that German children are expected to be resilient, to take responsibility for themselves and it was normal for them to make their own way about, in a way our children used to, but don't any longer.

nick said...

Z: The German approach sounds a lot healthier than the British one. The over-protective attitude seems all wrong to me. As I say, I see plenty of school kids walking to school and they seem to be safe enough. Of course I've said many times that all girls should be taught martial arts or some sort of self-defence so they can defend themselves against predatory males.

Secret Agent Woman said...

We lived too far from the schools for the kids to walk (about 15 miles for one of the schools). I drove them. My bigger issue was with parents who would wait in the pick-up line with their cars idling. There is no sense in that.

Joared said...

I can only say our local newspaper has a significant increase in events reported that are threatening to school kids comparent to when my children in school and the Police Blotter reported them in the same manner then, too, in this highly desirable school district. My children (who generally walked to school) encountered more in this same area years earlier compared to my childhood, but I lived in a totally different part of the nation and many years ago. Based on my daughters accounts on the east coast with her daughter there were more alarming situations there in a desirable school community I recall her telling me about than she had known here. Young males are not excluded from these accostings. I don’t know that it’s true everywhere but it certainly is some places — a reflection of aspects of society today I think.






nick said...

Agent: Glad to say that most of the drivers here turn their engines off, but the sight of a large bus or lorry idling away and churning out huge quantities of pollution is disheartening.

nick said...

Joared: It sounds as if things are worse in the States than here. But I don't often talk to kids or their parents. If I did, they might give me a different perspective.