Evaluation of two School Streets in Birmingham has found that the schemes have reduced traffic levels on surrounding roads, something which is ‘likely to have had an overall positive impact on road safety’.
The evaluation was carried out by Sustrans, as part of Road Safety Trust funded research into whether School Streets cause traffic displacement and have any knock-on effects on road safety on streets surrounding schools.
Sustrans partnered with Birmingham City Council to monitor the schemes at Hillstone Primary School and Somerville Primary School, chosen because of their differing street layouts.
This included a review of traffic speed and volume, illegal or hazardous parking and driving behaviour and traffic interactions. Surveys were carried out with local residents, as well as interviews with council officers and school staff to assess perceptions of safety.
Sustrans found that at both schools, overall traffic volumes, across the school road and surrounding roads, fell during the School Street time windows.
At Hillstone, it fell by 8%, compared to 3% at Somerville.
Sustrans says this is ‘likely to have had an overall positive impact on road safety’.
The survey findings also demonstrated a rise in the proportion of people who believed the school road and surrounding roads were safe, compared to before the School Street was implemented.
Rachel Toms, director of urbanism for Sustrans, said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see how the School Streets monitored in Birmingham have reduced traffic and made it feel safer for residents at the start and end of the school day.
“The support found in this survey matches what we hear from parents and residents around the School Streets schemes we set up all over the country.
“With the number of School Streets growing every month, as part of wider efforts to make the school run healthier, cheaper and less polluting, communities across the UK can look forward to feeling safer around their schools.”
Meanwhile at both schools, Sustrans observed an increase in the number of parked cars near the entrance to the School Street, something which indicates a potential road safety risk.
However, Sustrans says the schemes have not created any issue that cannot be adequately mitigated by measures such as Park & Stride routes.
The project team has also created a practitioner’s guide, which compiles key learnings from the project alongside examples of best practice taken from other School Street schemes across the UK.
“We want people to feel safer and healthier”
School Streets are roads open to people walking and cycling but restrict access for motor vehicles at the start and end of the school day.
Birmingham currently has 17 ‘Car Free School Streets’ across the city.
Cllr Liz Clements, cabinet member for transport at Birmingham City Council, said: “The continued expansion of car-free school streets across Birmingham is wonderful to see and is particularly beneficial to children and it is great to see this initial research is showing a positive, sustained impact.
“We want people to feel safer and healthier during school drop-off and pick-up times and encourage more children and their parents to walk and cycle to school when possible. It also has a real impact on our environment, with fewer emissions meaning cleaner air.”
The project was funded by the Road Safety Trust.
Sally Lines, chief executive of the Trust, said: “Road safety around schools is essential to keep vulnerable road users safe.
“Schools Streets is a great initiative, and this research examined the impact that this can have on surrounding roads.
“The research conducted by Sustrans provides vital advice and support for practitioners to implement in their own local authorities to improve the safety of the roads around schools.”