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Making School Streets Healthier: Learning from temporary and emergency closures


The Healthy Streets Everyday (HSE) programme began in 2019 to promote active, safe, and sustainable travel in London. In line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, this programme emphasises the Healthy Streets approach, which recognises that promoting health on London’s streets requires supporting the diverse ways streets are used, including active travel, by making them safer and more accessible to all. School Streets – the temporary closure of streets in front of schools to motor vehicle traffic at the beginning and end of the school day – have recently emerged as a key intervention in this approach. The connection between streets and broader public health is perhaps nowhere starker than at the school gates. With over 20% of peak- time traffic associated with the school run, traffic and congestion are concentrated at the cramped residential streets that often serve London’s schools. This puts children at greater risk from road danger and poor air quality. These challenging conditions have been exacerbated by Covid-19; specifically, the need for physical distancing and concern about the effects of a car-based recovery. In response, there has been significant growth in School Streets since the beginning of 2020, with more than 400 currently in place across London. The HSE programme played an important part in providing support to 16 of London’s boroughs as they implemented their School Streets programmes, often for the first time. As a crucial part of Transport for London’s Covid-19 Streetspace scheme many of these recent School Streets have been implemented as temporary or emergency interventions, employing light-touch and low-cost approaches such as mobile traffic camera enforcement or temporary barriers. This report sets out several key findings from the close observation of two School Streets: 1. Significant reductions in motor vehicle traffic both during the closure time and over the whole day. 2. Minimal change in pedestrian numbers and use of space, with some evidence of increased cycling. 3. Improvements in several Healthy Streets indicators. Following from these findings and considering more comprehensive academic research, this report also outlines four recommendations for designers and policymakers to consider when making School Streets more permanent or implementing new schemes: 1.Taking a whole school and whole route approach 2.Reducing traffic effectively through enforcement and exemptions 3.Completing a scheme by changing the public realm 4.Designing for and responding to scheme issues through in-depth monitoring and evaluatio

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This paper was published in WestminsterResearch.

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