Trials to improve safety and air quality outside schools set to begin

Children and their local communities are set to benefit from the launch of a pilot School Streets scheme that will trial closures of roads to traffic at drop-off and pick-up times during term-time.

School Streets aim to improve road safety to help boost cycling and walking and improve air quality. They are being delivered by Oxfordshire County Council in partnership with walking and cycling charity Sustrans, backed by financial support from the government. This follows extensive engagement and designs with residents and the schools prior to the scheme launch.

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “We know that without safe and low-traffic environments, many children simply won’t have the confidence to cycle. School Streets are a great policy in enabling a travel revolution to improve air quality and physical activity levels of school children and their families.”

Sarah Leeming, Sustrans head of delivery, said: "We’re really pleased to be supporting Oxfordshire County Council to trial the School Streets initiative.

“School Streets schemes in other parts of the country have proved beneficial for road safety and air quality. And they create a cleaner, more pleasant environment outside the school.

“In turn, School Streets increase the likelihood that children will walk or cycle to school instead of being dropped off in a car, so they get to school feeling alert and ready for a day of learning.”

School Streets restrict motor vehicles (other than buses) outside schools and apply to both school and through traffic, while typically continuing to permit access for people living there.

In a six-week pilot scheme starting on 22 March, Windmill Primary and St Christopher’s Church of England primary schools in Oxford will be the first to begin the trials. These will be followed by East Oxfordshire Primary in Oxford in May.

If the trials are deemed a success by the schools, they will be extended for a further 18 months.

On roads where School Streets are trialled, orange and white cones or barriers will be placed along the road to stop cars from going through, with signs telling drivers not to park in the area to keep the children safe. Marshalls will be on hand to enable residents to access or leave their property. The restrictions will apply to school staff and all through traffic alike.

Sustrans is supporting schools across the country to deliver School Streets as part of its commitment to making it easier for people to walk and cycle.

The charity hopes that schools, local authorities and residents will see the benefits of the schemes and consider options for making them more permanent, as a number of schools across Britain already have.

For anyone interested in having a School Street, please register your interest with the council. A series of frequently asked questions on School Streets are also available on the county council’s website.

Photo: Sustrans/Paul Mitchell