What is School Streets?
It’s a simple idea — to temporarily close the roads around schools at drop-off and pick-up times.
Only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to use them at school pick up and drop off times. Signs are put up to inform drivers of the road closure, and barriers or cameras can be used to enforce it. Residents, local businesses and blue badge holders are able to apply for exemptions.
Why School Streets?
Many of us who pass schools during the morning rush hour know how polluted, busy and dangerous roads around schools can be.
A recent TfL study revealed that around 25% of the morning rush hour traffic in London is parents dropping children off.
In Lambeth alone, 40 schools are in areas which regularly breach air quality limits for nitrogen dioxide of 40µg/m3. Across London, that figure is over 800 schools.
Closing the roads around schools is a powerful way to show that roads can be reclaimed from traffic.
This can help to improve poor air quality around schools where children are clustered at the start and end of the day. It also makes it safer to walk, cycle and scoot to school, creating a more pleasant environment and giving children a chance to get some exercise.
Closing roads can help to reduce demand for car journeys as it makes the alternatives such as cycling and walking more attractive.
School Streets also helps to raise awareness about the link between vehicle emissions and health problems, giving a powerful signal to everyone who passes the road closures.
A recent TfL study revealed that around 25% of the morning rush hour traffic is parents dropping children off.
It might sound radical to close roads around schools, but the idea is already taking off across London. In Hackney, one road closure has been made permanent at London Fields primary, and a further four are currently being piloted. Lambeth council has launched trials at Immanuel and St Andrews school in Streatham (March 2019), and at Jessop Primary near Loughborough Junction (April 2019).
In fact in May 2019, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that he supports the introduction of School Streets schemes, and praised parents who had been campaigning for it.
A School Streets trial at a primary school in Eltham resulted in a 54% reduction in cars driving to school, a 27% increase in cycling and 9% increase in scooting.
Southwark ran a trial of the scheme at Bessemer Grange primary in late 2018, and plans to set up another 13 schemes by 2022. Tower Hamlets has committed to running 50 School Streets schemes by 2022, and Islington is currently trialing seven.
A video about a successful School Streets project in Hackney.
Credit: Hackney Cycling Campaign