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School Street volunteers in Cambridge face ‘aggressive drivers and verbal abuse’





Parents and volunteers say they are fed up with “aggressive drivers” ignoring a ban on vehicles outside a Cambridge primary school and have reported a “series of dangerous driving incidents”.

The School Street scheme has been in place at St Matthew’s Primary School since 2021 and was brought in as an attempt to encourage safe active travel journeys.

From left, Mesru Koprulu, Katherine Cui, St Matthew’s headteacher Tony Davies and Elisabeth Whitebread, with son Charlie. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left, Mesru Koprulu, Katherine Cui, St Matthew’s headteacher Tony Davies and Elisabeth Whitebread, with son Charlie. Picture: Keith Heppell

The road outside the school is closed to motor vehicles during drop-off and pick-up times under the scheme, with restrictions in place between 8.30am and 9.30am and 2.45pm to 3.30pm on weekdays, during term-time.

Volunteers, who bring a portable barrier into the road to prevent motorists using Norfolk Street during the closure, have reported being abused and even driven at by some drivers.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary says it is aware of the issues and will be meeting with the volunteers and the school later in the week.

“Most drivers are grateful when they see that we’re just enforcing the traffic sign and trying to keep children safe, but we have had to deal with moments of aggression,” parent volunteer Henry Wilton explained. “We had a van mount the pavement, brushing my partner, to drive around the barrier. I had a car drive straight at me, with the driver yelling abuse.

The Norfolk Street ‘School Street’ barrier. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Norfolk Street ‘School Street’ barrier. Picture: Keith Heppell

“These incidents are a good reminder of why the School Streets scheme is so important. It’s there to protect children going in and out of school and the rare aggressive drivers that we encounter are the biggest danger to them.”

Another parent, Georgia Orwell, added: “After I took over organising the rota in September, I was shocked by the kinds of incidents I was being told about. The police have investigated a couple of drivers, but never seem to have enough evidence to prosecute – despite vehicle details being provided, CCTV footage and eyewitness statements.

“We do report aggressive delivery and taxi drivers to the relevant authorities, but the message doesn’t seem to be getting through that this is a legitimate scheme that should be respected by drivers. My hope is that if the county council can install more suitable infrastructure next to the school, it will keep everyone safer and protect families from the worst driver behaviour.”

The volunteers reported verbal abuse as “commonplace”, with drivers shouting and swearing at volunteers “on multiple occasions”, while they regularly see mobile phone use behind the wheel, with one delivery driver recorded holding and using a phone while driving down the closed road “at speed”.

From left, Mesru Koprulu, Katherine Cui, St Matthew’s headteacher Tony Davies and Elisabeth Whitebread, with son Charlie. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left, Mesru Koprulu, Katherine Cui, St Matthew’s headteacher Tony Davies and Elisabeth Whitebread, with son Charlie. Picture: Keith Heppell

Six incidents have been reported since the start of the school year in September, including drivers mounting the kerb to drive around the barrier. On other occasions, delivery drivers have lied to volunteers about delivering to the closed section of the road.

The volunteers fear the incidents are undermining the aim of the scheme, to keep children safe from traffic, as well as “to protect their growing lungs from air pollution”.

St Matthew’s headteacher Tony Davies said: “Before the School Street was introduced, Norfolk Street would be packed with cars at drop-off and pick-up times on a daily basis. We are incredibly grateful to the volunteers for making the closure a reality every day - Norfolk Street is a calmer, safer place because of it. I am always saddened and concerned when I hear about these incidents.”

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: "School Streets have proved popular across the county, helping parents and children feel safer and better able to walk and wheel to and from school.

“We monitor all School Streets and we're aware of the situation at St Matthew's Primary School - we will be raising our concerns with the police.

“We are working with highways engineers and the volunteers to introduce a solution which will further increase safety for our most vulnerable of road users, children. We currently train volunteers to best support them and we will be making further improvements to our training programme.

"The volunteers are doing amazing work encouraging school children to walk , cycle and scoot to and from school and this type of behaviour towards volunteers is not acceptable.”



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