School Streets are a fast-growing and globally embraced solution that helps reduce vehicle traffic and pollution around schools, while providing spaces for students to play and walk/scoot/cycle to school. They also support a shift towards active travel in the face of the climate emergency, and have proven to be a low-cost, effective and popular strategy for communities.
In London, where the program first took off during the pandemic, the number of school streets more than doubled to a new high of more than 500—one for every 18,000 residents. Unlike the voluntary New York program, which requires schools to voluntarily join, the London initiative is a citywide policy, with each neighborhood required to build a school street unless it chooses not to do so. As a result, the number of such streets is growing much faster than even New York City’s.
Community Engagement in School Street Design: A Key to Success
Many school streets are car-free only during the hectic drop-off and pick-up times, but a growing number are designed to remain open and active throughout the school day for outdoor learning, community events, and other activities. Some are also used as pedestrian-friendly alternatives to main roads, helping parents and children get exercise while bypassing busy and polluted roads.
In the UK, schools often use cameras to enforce the restricted hours of their School Streets. In most cases, blue badge holders and those with caretakers of vulnerable children are allowed to continue driving through the area, but if drivers enter during the restricted hours they receive a fine.