Parents backing Glasgow's low emissions zone have a challenge for the city council

Glasgow's LEZ is supported by children <i>(Image: Newsquest)</i>
Glasgow's LEZ is supported by children (Image: Newsquest)

Families and campaign groups have joined forces to show support for Glasgow's controversial low emissions zone and to call on politicians to more urgently tackle pollution.

Parents for Future Scotland has drafted a raft of demands for Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government they say will make the air cleaner and streets safer for the city's children.

Among these include a push to extend the existing school streets closure programme to all viable schools, implement a 20mph speed limit city-wide and consistently enforce the laws on speeding, illegal parking and engine idling.

Sam Bartlett, a member of Parents for Future Scotland, said: "This is a public health emergency, and politicians need to show leadership by prioritising far better pollution-cutting legislation, active travel and public transport."

Mr Bartlett is father to Hillhead High pupil Florence, who suffers from asthma.

The 14-year-old added: “Having asthma is frightening – it feels like someone is sitting on your chest and you can’t take full breaths.

"I walk to and from school, and see lots of cars, especially around some schools, and I usually have to take my inhaler – I guess it’s the fumes making me feel breathless.

"The roads are so full of cars, and you see drivers jumping red lights a few times every week, like they’re rushing to drop off their kids without thinking of others.

"Walking to school shouldn’t be dangerous."

Glasgow City Council introduced school street closures around certain primaries to restrict vehicles from being able to drive into roads covered by the restrictions at the start and end of the school day.

The move was designed to make local streets safer for children and encourage walking and cycling for the daily commute, as well as cut air pollution around schools.

Several schemes have been undertaken in the city to tackle air pollution issues, particularly around schools and early years centres in or near the city centre.

Glasgow's Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) is now under judicial review following campaigning by local business owners who claim the restrictions will negatively affect their businesses.

The pushback has caused concern among parents who support the environmental initiative and want the council to accelerate plans for a 20mph speed limit as well as introducing a crackdown on pavement parking and engine idling.

Parents For Future Scotland is calling for this to be introduced by the end of this year and cites figures that show car drivers and passengers are most at risk from air pollution, with pollution levels reaching nine to 12 times higher inside a car than outside.

Mr Bartlett further describes the rise in the numbers of SUVs and larger cars as a threat to Scotland's climate change targets.

These bigger, heavier cars can meet the LEZ exhaust emission levels but still be generating harmful levels of air pollution.

"This is why the LEZ on its own is not a solution," he added.

"There are lots of cars on our roads that haven’t been subject to real-world driving emissions tests, so they’re producing higher levels of pollution than the figures car manufacturers claim.

"We also must remember the VW emissions cheating scandal, which has still not been fully resolved nine years after it was exposed.

"And children hit by SUVs are eight more times likely to die than in accidents involving regular passenger cars.

"The only real way of making our streets, air and people safer and healthier is to have fewer cars, a blanket 20mph speed limit, and more folk actively travelling or using low-emission public transport."

Cycling numbers are rising across the city and several parents groups have set up bike buses to accompany their children to school using active travel.

But safety fears are consistently cited as a barrier to encouraging more parents and young people to cycle.

In response, Parents for Future Scotland has joined other campaign groups including Kidical Mass, Women on Wheels and Sunny Cycles to back its petition.

The petition also calls for, by 2027, the creation of safe and efficient cycling infrastructure city-wide through an acceleration of the City Network programme, which is currently underway in Glasgow.

Katherine Cory, Families Activities Coordinator at Women on Wheels, said: "We are deeply troubled by the devastating impacts of transport pollution in Glasgow, and we firmly believe that urgent actions are required.

"By organising this family ride, our aim is to inspire behavioural change, promote active travel, and clearly convey to our leaders that we demand cleaner, safer streets for all."

To highlight the health and social benefits of cycling, parents and carers have organised a family-friendly bike ride and picnic on Sunday, September 24, meeting at the obelisk on Glasgow Green from 1.30pm.

The ride leaves at 2pm, travelling to George Square and back, and is suitable for all ages and abilities.

Florence added: "Bring a picnic and join us either for the ride, or afterwards, for fun activities including face painting, chalk and bubbles, as well as bike skills, bike bling crafts and Dr Bike maintenance."

A council spokesperson said: “Glasgow is resolutely committed to improving air quality, with Scotland’s very first LEZ now in force in our city centre.

“The scheme is also expected to accelerate the uptake of more sustainable forms of transport which will contribute to tackling the climate emergency and increase the safety and attractiveness of our city centre.

“Air quality improvement is also embedded within policies such as our Climate Plan and City Centre Transport Plan, all of which encourage walking, wheeling and cycling and more sustainable forms of travel for everyday journeys.

“Our Transport Strategy aims to reduce car vehicle kilometres travelled in Glasgow by at least 30% by 2030 by encouraging people to choose sustainable transport options such as walking, wheeling or cycling or public transport wherever possible, so there is less need to travel by car.

“Support for the 30% target comes from initiatives such as our Active Travel Strategy, which includes plans to add 270km of high-quality cycleways and improved footways to our network - and our programme for more liveable neighbourhoods which will increase opportunities for people to access services, facilities, and amenities within a short walk, wheel, cycle, or public transport journey from home.

“We have previously committed to implementing a citywide 20mph mandatory speed limit to boost road safety and help decarbonise transport, and with 288km of streets including Glasgow city centre already subject to a 20mph limit, a wider lowering of vehicle speeds is expected to make our roads safer and encourage active travel in less congested neighbourhoods."