Residents and parents in Oxfordshire have given positive feedback from the School Streets trials that have taken place across Oxfordshire since March 2021. The pilot scheme trialled closures of roads to traffic at drop-off and pick-up times during term-time to open the road to safe walking and cycling.
School Streets aim to improve road safety to help boost cycling and walking and improve air quality. Oxfordshire County Council has been working with Sustrans, a walking and cycling charity, to implement nine School Street trials across the county. The pilot scheme trialled closures of roads using experimental traffic regulation orders (ETRO) at drop-off and pick-up times during term-time.
Five hundred and eighteen residents and parents and a further 112 pupils completed surveys about their experience of their local School Street. Of these, 59% of those parents and residents said they supported the School Streets, 27% did not and the remaining 21% weren’t sure or supported with modification. Sixty per cent of pupils who completed a survey said they felt the road outside their school felt safer or much safer during the School Streets trial, 30% were unsure and 9% thought it was less safe or much less safe than before.
Councillor Mark Lygo, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Equality, said: “We know that without safer streets, many children and their parents will not have the confidence to cycle or walk. I’d like to thank Sustrans alongside the many volunteers and school staff that have contributed to the School Streets trials across Oxfordshire. Valuable things have been learned from the trials, which we hope to develop for the longer term to help encourage cycle journeys by children and their families whilst helping to reduce traffic.”
Sarah Leeming, Head of Delivery at Sustrans, said: “It’s been amazing to see whole school communities get behind the School Street trials – the support from headteachers and volunteers has been fantastic. Pupils, parents and residents reported that the area outside the school gates felt safer. I hope that the successful outcome of the trials will provide confidence for local leaders to make the case for more School Streets across the county.”
Since March 2021, nine primary schools have adapted the road outside their gates for safe walking and cycling to school while limiting the motorised traffic – reducing traffic volumes to just essential access for a six-week trial.
St Christopher’s, Larkrise, St Nicolas and St Ebbes schools have decided to continue with their School Street based on the success of the initial trial. Each will collaborate with the county council to work within the ETRO to carry on reducing motor traffic at school drop off and pick up times. The remaining schools will continue to be offered support to look at alternative measures for traffic calming, reducing problem parking and improving both air quality and the surroundings outside their school to make it safer and more appealing to walk and cycle.
The council hopes to continue with School Street trials to address parking and safety issues around schools. The trials also depend on the availability of volunteers to marshal the scheme.