Leeds City Council launched its Schools Streets scheme in 2020, in two phases (six schools in June, eight additional schools in September).
A School Street is when traffic is restricted in some of the roads around schools at certain times of the day, so that it’s safer for people to walk, scoot and cycle. School Streets also reduce congestion and improve air quality for everyone.
Initial feedback showed that pupils, staff and families welcome the extra space, fresher air, quieter neighbourhood and safer roads.
The scheme is currently being evaluated by Living Streets to establish see the wider impact on travel behaviour and decide which schemes should become permanent. The results of this are expected in early 2022.
The School Streets scheme restricts traffic outside primary schools at opening and closing times. This encourages families to walk or cycle to school, or to leave their car at a safer location and finish the journey on foot. This scheme reduces congestion around the school gates, protects children and improves air quality.
To set up a successful school street, it’s important to engage the whole school community from the start of the process. Make sure the school community wants a school street and facilitate a community-led project for full support. Council imposed school streets often result in backlash. Therefore, it’s important to gain a full understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and priorities of the school and build a genuine relationship with the teachers and parents. Attending PTA meetings is a great way to do this.
Identify schools with significant traffic issues and ask parents and teachers what they would like to do to solve the problem. Present all the options. School streets don’t work for every school, so it’s important to work together to find the best road safety solution for that school. Involve parents, teachers and pupils in the planning process so they are passionate advocates when it comes to the consultation phase.
Find out what the school cares about and highlight those benefits. Does the school want to become more sustainable? Promote the school street as method to encourage pupils to walk and cycle to school. Has a pupil been involved in a car crash outside the school? Promote the school street as a way to make the road safer and protect pupils. The school streets scheme has multiple benefits so find the angle that appeals most to that school. Tailor your campaign for every school.
Before setting up a long-term school street, trial the scheme for a day. This will help parents, teachers and pupils understand how it works and creates an excitement for the scheme. Appoint a school streets manager to answer any emails and calls about the school street to resolve any issues quickly.
Celebrate successful school streets and use these schools as an example when you approach new schools!