Improving the quality of life in our communities with School Streets
School Streets schemes can bring about behavioural change by applying moving traffic technology and softer measures.
On this page:
- What are School Streets?
- Where was the first School Street Scheme?
- The growth of School Streets schemes
- How do School Streets schemes work?
- The community benefits of School Streets schemes
- School Streets: Community-driven projects
- Implementing and enforcing School Streets schemes
- Integrated Technology for School Streets
School Streets schemes: What are they?
School Street schemes define an area of road outside a school subject to a temporary restriction on motorised traffic at school drop-off and pick-up times. The purpose of School Streets schemes is to provide a safer, healthier and cleaner environment for schools and their communities by creating car-free school streets. School Streets schemes address
- Road safety
- Traffic congestion
- Air quality.
Limiting traffic flow around schools with a School Street scheme offers a proactive solution for reducing road dangers, air pollution, and poor health. These schemes encourage behavioural change to a healthier lifestyle by promoting active travel to school for families.
The first School Street Scheme
The first School Street was implemented in South Tyrolian Bolzano, Italy, in 1989, supported by The Urban Mobility Observatory and funded by the European Commission. The streets children used to go to school were closed to car traffic at the start of the school day. The Bolzano role model highlighted the benefits of improved road safety and improving the spread of trips across buses, bikes and on foot. The Bolzano scheme also showed that one of the keys to success was to overcome the initial opposition from parents and teachers.
Following the success of Bolzano, similar schemes were pioneered in the early 2000s in Belgium, Austria, and the Netherlands.
The growth of School Streets schemes
The number of School Streets schemes across the UK is rising steadily. In London in 2019, there were just 76 School Streets, and this number has grown to almost 550 in 2023. There are School Streets in almost every London borough, and a quarter of London primary schools now have defined School Streets.
Similarly, School Streets schemes are being delivered around the globe. Along with European countries, New Zealand and Australia have also implemented similar community projects.
How do School Streets schemes work?
A School Street is a traffic restriction that operates for set periods during the morning and afternoon pick-up and drop-off times during school terms. There are no restrictions over weekends and during school holidays. Traffic restrictions are usually limited to 45-60 minutes. Some schemes restrict traffic for longer in the afternoon if the school has staggered finishing times.
In the UK, School Street schemes are enforceable under the Traffic Management Act 2004. Vehicles without an exemption entering a School Street zone during restricted times may incur a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
Vehicles are not allowed to enter the School Street between the restricted times unless they have an exemption. Exemptions can be granted for justifiable reasons such as for
- School Staff
- Local business staff within the school street area
- Disabled Blue Badge holders
- Healthcare workers
- Emergency service vehicles.
The community benefits of School Streets schemes
Research by various local authorities has proven that these low-traffic areas enable parents and children to safely access the school while benefiting from a cleaner environment.
Transport for London (TfL) identified significant environmental improvements, such as:
- Vehicles per hour were reduced by 70% to 90% during the restriction times.
- The speed of authorised vehicles travelling through School Streets was reduced during the hours of operation.
- The number of people cycling during the restriction period increased.
- School Streets reduced the number of trips made by private cars, which reduces nitrogen dioxide emissions.
School Streets are community-driven projects
One of the key drivers of successful schemes is authorities empowering the school community. By collaboratively working with school leadership, residents, pupils and their families, and local organisations, the wider school community can take ownership of the process and overcome any potential barriers. This approach empowers all ages to influence behavioural change in their community.
Implementing and enforcing School Streets schemes
School Streets schemes are delivered by local authority professionals such as transport officers or local authority environment officers. They work with various stakeholders and consult on the best ways to implement the scheme. Stakeholders can include:
- Road safety campaigners
- Transport researchers
- Traffic enforcement teams
- City planners
Following a successful consultation process, School Streets enforcement can be implemented using camera technology which monitors traffic during restricted periods. Unattended CCTV can monitor moving traffic however, one of the challenges for local authorities is the installation of these cameras. Fixed cameras are expensive to install, so some councils have chosen to use re-deployable mobile cameras. Compared to fixed CCTV systems, re-deployable ANPR cameras offer greater versatility, quicker installation, and cost-efficiency, especially as a School Streets scheme doesn’t require a permanent solution.
Integrated Technology for School Streets
When combined with a moving traffic and parking enforcement software system enforcing a School Street is affordable and effective. By using your re-deployable cameras with real-time integration with your traffic and parking enforcement system, you can monitor your School Street and enforce contraventions accurately, effectively and fairly.
The combination of rapid-deployment cameras and customisable enforcement software gives you the versatility to implement a School Street in any city, town, or village.
To learn what technology enables the implementation of a School Street scheme, read our article on Delivering School Streets Schemes.
Learn how Zatpark ANPR integrations help deliver School Streets
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- Imperial College London, Environmental Research Group, Analysing the impacts of the environment on the modern world
- ELTIS, Vienna’s pilot project on banning cars at the start of the school day
- DfT, Road Traffic Statistics, London
- Merri-bek City Council, Australia, Open Streets: Creating safer and healthier school runs
- Gov.uk, School Streets programme success press release
- Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods Research and Implementation Support in Europe (SUNRISE)
- BYCS Clean Cities, School Streets to shape child-friendly cities
- TfL, Getting to know School Streets
- DfT. Appendix 8: School Streets Guidance
- Gov.uk, The Second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy
- SUSTRANS, Investigating the impact of light touch traffic calming measures outside schools
Neil is a writer focused on simplifying complex technology, operations and regulatory subjects for our public and private sector audience and highlighting how Unity5’s SaaS solutions simplify complex business processes.