Thursday 20thJune is UK Clean Air Day – a chance to raise awareness about the damaging effects of air pollution for children and to call for governments and local authorities to take urgent action. Parents and others across the UK are finding creative ways to draw attention to the issue and encouraging others to join in. A ‘mega’ public play street is planned outside Great Ormond Street hospital on Thursday, visibly demonstrating the benefits of traffic-free streets for children’s health and wellbeing. Mums for Lungs are also organising a Clean Air Street Party on Sunday 23rd.
Traffic is the biggest single cause of air pollution in our cities and also the biggest barrier to children’s freedom to play out and get around independently. Moving society away from car-dependency won’t be easy – and will take a major shift in government policy – but many parents are pushing back right now by campaigning for regular road closures outside schools and by regularly opening their own streets for play.
We have written before about how play streets can dramatically improve air quality and this immediate effect has also been seen during the London Marathon and Extinction Rebellion road closures. Longer-term, temporary play streets are a way to get people – and politicians – thinking about the benefits of less car-dominated neighbourhoods and making more permanent changes. We can’t sit around waiting for politicians to do the right thing. Clean Air Day is the perfect excuse to start lobbying your local council to implement a play street policy, or to talk to your neighbours about getting started.
If you want to organise play street sessions on your own street or outside a school, everything you need should be on this website. You can also find a supportive community of like-minded parents and residents in our national Facebook group – a great place to ask any questions you have. Do also get in touch if you get stuck!
If your school is fortunate enough to have support from Sustrans, we have trained up their Schools Officers on school play streets and they should be able to help you get started with a one-off session.
To find out more about how to campaign for clean air and for permanent ‘school streets’ in your local area, check out Mums for Lungs – a fantastic parent-led campaign for children’s right to clean air. You can also join the Clean Air Parents’ Network and connect with other parents to start a local group. Hackney Council have also produced this brilliant school streets toolkit for councils.
For #CleanAirDay 2019, let’s make a noise together about children’s right to breathe clean air where they live, work and play.