School Streets is a pioneering initiative to transform the roads outside schools so that only pedestrians and cyclists can use them at school drop off and pick up times. The idea is simple – at set times every day, the streets around schools are closed to vehicles. 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 can apply for an exemption.
A recent TfL study revealed that around 25% of the morning rush hour traffic is parents dropping children off. In Lambeth alone, 40 schools are in illegally polluted areas. 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. It also makes it safer to walk, cycle and scoot to school, creating a more pleasant environment and giving kids a chance to get some exercise. It also helps to raise awareness among everyone who passes the road closures and schools about the link between vehicle emissions and health problems.
HOW TO LOBBY FOR A SCHOOL STREET
You can help to raise awareness of School Streets by chatting to other parents and discussing the issue at Parent Teacher Association meetings. If you think there is support for the idea, why not contact your headteacher and suggest they ask the local council to trial it?
You can download our letter to school heads here.
Mums for Lungs believes that School Streets is a great initiative and can make a real difference to improving air quality. We have contacted 297 schools in illegally polluted areas across London to inform and raise awareness with teachers and parents about the School Streets project.
SCHOOL STREETS IN ACTION
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 started (March 2019), and at Jessops Primary near Loughborough Junction (April 2019). 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 7.
IF YOU CAN’T GET A SCHOOL STREET…
School Streets is currently not suitable for all schools. Councils are likely to choose schools that are located on quiet side streets, and not those on busy main roads. If your school is not suitable for a School Street, you can still ask your headteacher to lobby for a green screen around the school, to change the main entrance of the school onto a quieter side street, or to tackle idling drivers outside the school gates.