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School Streets and Play Streets

  • by JW

“Our School Streets programme tackles the congestion, poor air quality and road safety concerns.” [Sustrans]


Five years ago, county councillors were faced with the difficulty of getting parents to cut down on the school run – indeed one councillor claiming that stopping parents driving to school was like “pulling teeth”:

A task group, set up by Devon County Council to look and to tackle air quality and congestion in Devon, have recommended that the council undertake a targeted behaviour change campaign, focusing on the reduction of short distance car journeys undertaken by parents to transport children to school and the reduction of engine idling, particularly outside schools.

But councillors said that the biggest problem was getting people to change their behaviour. Cllr Ray Bloxham said: “Changing people’s behaviour on the ground is the real difficulty. We have done a lot of works with schools but getting people to stop people driving to schools is like drawing teeth. It is very difficult and we need more solutions to get over that hurdle, as I have been banging my head against a brick wall trying to tackle with schools in Cranbrook.”

During the ensuing pandemic, ideas were explored on how to manage the school run post-lockdown – but, again, the main issue would be our daily habits and not many alternatives, as reported by the Mail at the time:

“Schools will reopen on June 1 according to reports, but transport planners are concerned the excessive traffic will create more air pollution and possible gridlock…. How the road closures are implemented and how long they last will be up to the discretion of local authorities.”

And so Exeter finds itself in the middle of dealing with road closures to reduce air pollution and gridlock – with the question still open as to how we are going to reduce congestion on Exeter’s streets.

What’s been happening in Cornwall this year has attracted some attention, with the School Street campaign praised by parents and students in Falmouth:

St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Falmouth has been highlighted by Cornwall Council for the succsess of the ‘School Street’ initiative that has taken place during drop off and collection times. School Streets are temporary traffic restrictions implemented outside schools during the busy periods when pupils are either dropped off at school or picked up after. The way the initiative is carried out can vary on the area but mostly traffic is blocked off on a street with signs for 30-60 minutes, students may also be encouraged to try cycling, walking, or scooting to school.

Here’s a video from Cornwall Council, showing how the ‘School street’ has been welcomed for helping to keep children safe

And here’s more from the Sustrans School Streets:

Our School Streets programme tackles the congestion, poor air quality and road safety concerns that many schools experience. We do this by restricting motor traffic at the school gates for a short period of time, generally at drop-off and pick-up times. Find out how we can support your school or local authority to trial and implement School Streets.

Finally, in video on How to Steward a School Street or Play Street, the idea of blocking off a street, even temporarily, can create a safe haven for children to be active outdoors.

Something for the streets of Sidmouth? How practical would this be? How popular would any such school streets or play streets be?