Pilot encourages pupils to walk to school

A pilot to reduce traffic outside primary schools in Edinburgh has seen walking to school increase amongst participating pupils.

Evaluation of School Streets, which will be considered by members of the Transport and Environment Committee on Tuesday, 30 August also showed lower vehicle speeds on relevant roads, a reduction in the number of cars around schools and improved perceptions of the project.

Introduced in two phases from September 2015, the scheme restricts cars on streets around schools, aiming to encourage safe and sustainable travel by children and parents.

Nine primary schools were chosen to take part in the 18-month pilot - Abbeyhill, Colinton, Cramond, Duddingston, Sciennes, St John's, Clermiston, St Peter's and Towerbank. If approved by committee members next week, the process to make these changes permanent will begin.

Transport Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said: “The whole aim of School Streets is to create a safer, more relaxed atmosphere around schools, encouraging children to walk and cycle and parents to leave their cars at home.

“Therefore I’m delighted to see fewer cars around participating schools, slower speeds in nearby streets and more children walking in every day, contributing to a more welcoming environment for all.

“We now want to build on the lessons learned from the pilot so far to bring School Streets’ benefits to even more children, families and residents across the city.”

In order to evaluate the scheme, a number of ‘before’ and ‘after’ surveys were carried out, covering vehicle speeds and volumes, public perception and methods of travel to school. These involved pupils, parents, residents and teachers as well as wider stakeholders, including Police Scotland and local community councils.

Amongst the findings, an average speed reduction of 1.2mph was surveyed across both School Streets and surrounding areas, while air quality was shown to have improved in all streets.

In addition, the number of children walking to school has increased by 3% alongside a 6% drop in children being driven in. Perceptions of safety also improved, with around two-thirds of all respondents agreeing that School Streets felt safer during operating times.

Original concerns around vehicle displacement, enforcement issues and a lack of compliance by drivers were seen to lessen following the pilot. In order to address any further issues, an updated set of criteria has been established for selecting School Streets in the future.

Criteria include the requirement for peripheral streets to be able to accommodate displaced traffic and for schools to sign a written commitment to promote the scheme to parents.

Read the full report, School Streets pilot project evaluation.

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