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Published: 6th AUGUST 2020

School Streets research finds road closures benefit health, air quality and congestion

Closing roads to cars to create space for walking, cycling or street play, benefit people’s health and safety. And it doesn't cause problems to local traffic flow either. Our Director of Insight, Andy Cope takes a look at how closing streets around schools to traffic at drop-off and pick up times can help lower congestion and improve air quality.

Two children playing outside on their scooters during a School Streets closure in Southampton

Research shows that closing roads to cars to create space for walking, cycling or street play, benefits people’s health and safety.

Closing streets around schools to traffic at drop-off and pick up times can help lower congestion and improve air quality.

It can also help boost the number of children walking, cycling and scootering to school each day.

These are carried out by Edinburgh Napier University and my colleagues in ߣߣƵ.

Also known as School Streets, the practice of closing the streets closest to schools to traffic at the start and end of the school day, has been popular across the UK for many years.

And, in a project funded by the Road Safety Trust, we reviewed evidence from the UK and abroad to see how well it works.

Schools Streets are better for everyone

The research is clear. Closing roads to cars, to create space for walking, cycling or street play, benefit people’s health and safety. And, it doesn't cause problems to local traffic flow either.

This means that the places where children gather on their journey to school can, and should, be made safer and cleaner.

And the way that school seeks to control traffic outside its gates can be key to ensure safe travel to and from school after the pandemic.

So what were our main findings?

School Streets cut car traffic on surrounding streets

In almost all examples of School Streets, the total number of cars on streets around the school and local area, reduced significantly.

No sign of nearby road safety problems

There is no evidence to show that if cars move out of the roads around a school, that they cause road safety problems elsewhere in the local area.

Putting that in the language of transport planners: no studies showed any negative impacts on road safety from motorised traffic flows being adjusted.


Safer streets equal more children walking or cycling

As streets become safer, more children start walking or cycling to school, leading to even less traffic. A virtuous circle.

Health benefits are clear

There is a huge boost to children's daily and weekly physical activity levels when they have an active school run.

Most parents and local residents support School Streets

And this support usually grows after any trial period.

What next?

Closing streets outside schools to traffic can make a crucial contribution to our recovery from Covid-19.

School Streets can help people physically distance. They can also lower the pressure on shared school transport such as school buses.

Not to mention, it can help improve pupils' overall health and wellbeing.

As we move towards a new term, thoughts will be turning to how schools can reopen safely to pupils.

ߣߣƵ is already working with some local authorities on School Street projects, including a major pilot in Birmingham.

But as our research shows, more schools should think about taking up School Streets, to help make a difference in people’s health and wellbeing.

Find out more about our work on School Streets


Read about the benefits of cycling for children and families

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