Published: 21st JULY 2022

Monitoring the impact of School Streets: safety and traffic displacement

Do School Streets cause traffic displacement? How do School Streets affect road safety on surrounding roads? The Road Safety Trust commissioned Sustrans to research School Streets and traffic displacement. Here's what we found.

A young girl in school uniform, a winter coat and a helmet rides her scooter.

Why do we need School Streets?

Road safety remains a severe problem in the UK, particularly during the school run.

One way of addressing school road safety is through School Streets.

School Streets are timed access restrictions to the street outside a school to motor vehicles, usually during drop-off and pick-up times.

Restricting the number of vehicles on the school run creates a safer and friendlier atmosphere.

Sustrans has supported over 70 local authorities to implement School Street, resulting in schemes being implemented in over 500 schools.

Children enjoying School Streets in Birmingham. Photo credit Mudasar.din

Understanding the effects of traffic displacement

There is limited understanding of the wider implications for road safety of School Streets, particularly on the surrounding road network.

The displacement of traffic to adjacent streets is an area of particular interest.

The concern is that the displaced traffic could make the surrounding streets more dangerous.

To analyse the impact of School Streets, Sustrans monitored two Birmingham City Council car-free School Street schemes.

At the two selected schools, Hillstone Primary School and Somerville Primary School, we monitored:

  • traffic speed
  • traffic volume
  • illegal or hazardous parking and driving behaviour
  • traffic interactions.

We also surveyed parents and local residents, and interviewed local authority team members and school staff.

Sampled areas included the immediate area affected by the road closure and other areas of concern on the edge of the school street.

A local road not directly impacted by the school run was also monitored for traffic speed and volume for comparison purposes.

We monitored the traffic on Hillstone Primary School and Somerville Primary School School Streets, as well as surrounding areas and control streets for comparison

Positive conclusions

The research showed that School Streets lead to overall drops in traffic volume, and despite traffic being displaced to some degree to surrounding streets, this does not create road safety risks that cannot be adequately mitigated.

A further benefit was an improvement in perceptions of safety on the school road and the surrounding streets after School Streets were implemented at both schools.

Over time, the overall impact of both School Streets changed in both direction and extent, suggesting that there is a 'bedding in' period for such schemes.

Strong support from local residents

The surveys carried out on residents showed an overall rise in the percentage of people who believed the school road and surrounding roads were safe following the introduction of the School Street.

47%

of respondents said that Somerville Road was safe (a rise from 19%)

40%

of residents thought the surrounding roads were safe at Somerville Primary School (a rise from 29%)

Blockquote quotation marks
I get to meet some lovely parents and I get to meet all the lovely children and it’s a nice part of the day. Blockquote quotation marks
Steward, Hillstone Primary School

Sharing best practice

At the end of this project, Sustrans produced a Technical report covering the monitoring project and the results which can be found on the Road Safety Trust website

We also produced A Practitioners Guide, setting out best practices for school street schemes.

The Practitioner's Guide advice for running a school street project.

The knowledge has been collated from experienced officers across the UK.

The advice is also relevant to all authorities at any stage of their school street project.

The document is split into common topics discussed by Sustrans officers, local authority partners and schools we work with.

Each topic should be considered and planned carefully for each School Street project.

Topics covered in the guide include:

  • responsibilities
  • monitoring
  • behaviour change
  • communications
  • branding
  • stewarding
  • barriers and signage
  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)
  • long term.

School Streets: Road Safety and Traffic Displacement Webinars:

Sustrans hosted a series of webinars to share the reports and key findings. You can watch the recordings for two of the events.

School Streets traffic displacement webinar aimed a UK-wide local authorities

School Street traffic displacement webinar aimed at Scotland's local authorities.

For more information on how Sustrans can help you implement School Streets, contact our Education team.

Education team

Education team

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