Number of healthy ‘School Streets’ has surged in London under “Streetspace” plan, with 383 installed and 68 more planned, according to Scorecard and Mums for Lungs’ report
Campaigners call on councils to make trials permanent and roll traffic-free schemes out to every primary and secondary school in the capital where possible as they publish new data on borough uptake
School Streets’ rapid proliferation in London is revealed by new data published today (Wednesday, 11 November) by the Healthy Streets Scorecard (HSS) and Mums for Lungs. The coalition’s interim report shows these traffic-free streets increased by 302 in just 6 months, from 81 School Streets in April to 383 in October. Councils have firm plans for a further 68 School Streets which will bring the total to 451 over the coming weeks and months.
Despite recent rapid progress, however, this means that of the 3,085 schools in London, only 12.4% have School Streets in operation (which will increase to 14.6% once 68 further planned School Streets go in). The Healthy Streets Scorecard coalition of transport campaign groups is calling on councils to make trials of School Streets permanent and for them to be rolled out to every primary and secondary school in the capital where possible. They say School Streets protect children’s health by encouraging walking, cycling and scooting, reduce road danger and air and noise pollution, and help with social distancing around schools.
Where School Streets aren’t possible, for example, at schools located on main roads, the coalition says alternatives should be implemented such as bus lanes, cycle tracks, pavement widening or car parking bay removal.
Research by HSS and Mums for Lungs shows:
- Merton is the borough with the highest proportion of schools on school streets (40.3%), followed by Islington (40%) and Hackney (35.5%).
- Hackney, with 39 School Streets implemented in total, has the most of any London borough and indeed any local authority in the UK.
- Only 24 secondary schools in London have School Streets, representing 3.6% of the capital’s secondaries. Only five more are currently planned.
- Merton had the biggest increase in schools with School Streets (a rise of 36.4%) since the 2020 Healthy Streets Scorecard results (from 3.9% in April to 40.3% of schools in October). Other boroughs to make significant increases were Brent (29% increase) and Hackney (27.5% increase). Islington, Hounslow and Sutton all increased by 24%. In most boroughs, there were moderate to small percentage increases due to a small set of School Street trials.
- Three boroughs have not yet implemented any School Streets. These are Barnet, Bexley and City of London. Barking and Dagenham implemented five School Streets after 31 October (when the report was compiled) and City of London has one planned.
- When taking into account planned School Streets, as well as those already installed, the boroughs with the highest proportion of schools on School Streets would be Islington (54.7%), Hackney (45.5%) and Merton (41.7%). Hackney has implemented or announced plans to have 50 schools with School Streets, Islington 41, and Brent 34.
Jemima Hartshorn, founder, Mums for Lungs, said:
“It’s brilliant to see so many School Streets springing up across London at such speed. This is what we’ve been campaigning for as part of a package of measures to protect children’s health. We want them to be rapidly rolled out to every school in London, including secondaries, on a permanent basis, wherever possible. No child should have to inhale harmful toxic air or be exposed to road danger at the school gates.”
Kylie ap Garth, Campaign Manager, Healthy Streets Scorecard coalition, said:
“It would be fantastic to have more primary and secondary schools receive the benefits a School Street brings. As students often make their way to secondary school independently, it’s important to reduce road danger for those arriving by foot or by bike.
My experience of taking my children along their primary School Street was that it changed from a polluted, motor traffic-dominated noisy and stressful event to a time I appreciate with them. I can let my pre-schooler swiftly scoot along and know she’s safe from road danger. The roads don’t smell of petrol or diesel and I can hear my kids talking, without asking them to wait until the next car has passed.”
The Healthy Streets Scorecard coalition, which Mums for Lungs is part of, has written to all 33 London borough councils, urging them to make all School Streets implemented on a trial basis as a Covid-19 emergency response permanent and for School Streets to be “the default” at all primary and secondary schools, where they are possible. They argue that expanding School Streets to all secondary schools, which typically have large pupil numbers on their roll, will mean there is more space at the gate for social distancing. School Streets outside secondary schools will also make students’ arrival and departure from school on foot and by bike safer.
Making temporary School Streets permanent is necessary, as part of a package of schemes, the campaigners say, to maintain:
- Reductions in motor traffic, congestion and road danger around schools;
- Reductions in motor traffic emissions contributing to climate change;
- Reductions in noise pollution;
- Reductions in inequality and poor health outcomes for those living in the most deprived areas who are less likely to have access to a car;
- Improved air quality;
- Increased physical activity levels and associated health benefits;
- Development of young people’s independence by allowing more children to walk or cycle at least part of their journey to school without their parents;
- Ability to physically distance during this and any future pandemic.
The coalition says that since the report was compiled, even more School Streets have sprung up this month, highlighting the rapid pace some boroughs are moving at.
The Scorecard is calling for boroughs to implement five key measures, of which traffic-free streets around all schools and safe walking and cycling routes to schools are one. The others are:
– Borough-wide low traffic neighbourhoods
– A default 20mph speed limit on all borough and Transport for London controlled roads
– Borough-wide controlled parking zones
– Protected cycle lanes on main roads