Westminster City Council has taken the decision to make School Streets permanent following an 18-month trial. The council launched School Streets trials at a number of schools in Westminster in January 2022.
The scheme aims to create safer spaces around schools during school drop-off and collection times, to encourage pupils to walk, cycle and scoot on school journeys in an environment where the risk of collision with motor vehicles is reduced.
Roads around schools during peak times are often dominated by vehicles contributing to high levels of pollution and increased risks to pedestrians and cyclists, and road safety continues to be a serious issue, particularly on the walk to school. In 2021, there were 4,301 child pedestrian casualties on UK roads.
School Streets were rolled out for up to 18 months at 11 different sites. During restricted times, some motorised traffic is prohibited to enter the School Street. Exemptions are available for residents, Blue badge, White badge and emergency vehicles. As part of the interventions, extensive signage was installed at all sites and some boundary areas. Some School Streets were also equipped with CCTV enforcement cameras over the course of the trial.
The council monitored traffic, pedestrian, and air quality levels around primary schools during the trial period. Active travel modes (walking/cycling/scooting) during the times of operation across all school locations averaged at 91.6%. Morning drop-offs saw a reduction (33%) in nitrogen dioxide during the times of operation of School Streets. This is a above the London average. Afternoon collections saw a significant reduction (61%) in Nitrogen dioxide during the times of operation of School Streets as well.
11 Westminster primary schools will now benefit from permanent School Streets with immediate effect. The council is also looking to expand the scheme to a further five schools each year over a three-year programme.
Melissa Royle, Deputy Headteacher at Queens Park Primary school said: “We’re really pleased School Streets are being made permanent. Cars used to come down here so fast and breathing in the car fumes was very unpleasant. The safety of our pupils is paramount, so this has made a huge difference.”
Amna, a parent and Queens Park resident said: “I think School Streets is a great idea, I totally agree with it. It’s much safer for children and parents in rush hour when we’re coming to collect our children and we’re all in a hurry. It makes us all feel much safer.”
A pupil at Queens Park Primary school said: “I like the road being closed when I walk to school because I don’t have to breathe in the dirty pollution. I also feel more calm because I don’t have to rush across the road.”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Cabinet Member for City Management, said: “School Streets have been successful in reducing the number of vehicles around school at drop off and pick up times. This will have major benefits for air quality around our schools and make it safer for children to walk, cycle or scoot to school.
“I’m very pleased to announce that School Streets will now become permanent fixtures outside 11 of our primary schools and we will look to introduce more in other parts of Westminster. Westminster City Council is absolutely committed to improving road safety and encouraging sustainable and active forms of travel.”