A school street is a road where access by motor vehicles is restricted at drop-off and pick-up times to create a safe space for children to walk, cycle or scoot. This enables parents and other community members to walk, and also helps to improve air quality around schools (by reducing traffic fumes). These benefits can help cities achieve targets set by the UNICEF for walking rates, as well as helping to support local green recovery from restrictions on car travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The concept is fast spreading globally, with more than 1100 School Streets in a dozen countries. Most are in Europe, with many of them in London and Paris. Some go beyond the simple road closure by using permanent barriers with swinging gates that can be locked during designated hours, while allowing emergency vehicles and services like garbage collection to pass through.
Safety First: Elements of Effective School Street Design
School streets are an incredibly effective and rapidly implementable strategy to reduce vehicle use, emissions, pollution, improve safety and increase active transport around schools. They are also a low-cost, proven and effective approach that can help cities take action to address the climate crisis.
But implementing a school street program takes resources, and overcoming the challenges can be difficult. For example, the city of New York has a small team of employees tasked with carrying out more modest safety redesigns on streets near schools, but has no dedicated funding or support for a wider programme to remove cars from around school communities. Other cities, such as Paris and Tirana have more comprehensive programmes, but they can also face challenges in getting their local communities on board.