Huge increase in road schemes that fine parents for doing school run by car

The number of “school streets” in London has increased almost five-fold since the start of the pandemic, revolutionising the school run for thousands of parents and children, new figures revealed today. There are now a total of 383 streets in the capital where through-traffic is banned at the start and end of the school day, with a further 68 being planned. This compares with 81 school streets in April, according to research by the Healthy Streets Scorecard (HSS) and Mums for Lungs.

The changes mean that parents cannot use a vehicle to do the school run “drop off” without incurring a GBP130 penalty fine – with councils using CCTV cameras to catch rule breakers. Residents living in school streets are still able to drive their cars during restricted hours. The schemes are normally introduced in agreement with school governors and residents.

a sign on the side of a building: School rules: through traffic is banned at drop-off and pick-up timesRoss Lydall Evening Standard (C) Provided by Evening Standard

School rules: through traffic is banned at drop-off and pick-up times

Ross Lydall Evening Standard

Campaigners today called on councils to make the changes – introduced to encourage walking and cycling during the first lockdown – permanent and for schemes to be implemented in all 3,085 schools in London 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 they are impossible to introduce – for example, where a school is beside a main road – they called for pavement widening or cycle lanes. According to the research, Hackney has most school streets (39) while Merton and Islington have the highest proportion of schools on school streets, both at 40 per cent.  

However only 24 secondary schools in London have School Streets, equal to 3.6 per cent of the capital’s secondaries. Only five more are currently planned. Barnet, Bexley and the City of London were found not to have any school streets, though one is planned in the City.

Jemima Hartshorn, founder of 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.  

a man standing on a dirt road: Jemima Hartshorn: no child should have to inhale toxic air.Adrian Lourie (C) Provided by Evening Standard

Jemima Hartshorn: no child should have to inhale toxic air.

Adrian Lourie

“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: “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.” Earlier this week Mayor Sadiq Khan unveiled new plans to further reduce pollution at schools. New data from the Breathe London air quality monitoring project found that nearly half of the NOx pollution at schools comes from road transport.

Diesel cars were the single biggest local contributor to NOx pollution at London primary schools.   The number of London state schools with illegal levels of pollution has been cut from 455 in 2016 to 14 in 2019.   From the New Year, a London schools pollution helpdesk will support schools to deliver air quality audits – with recommendations likely to include closing surrounding roads to traffic at school pick-up and drop-off times, walking and scooting campaigns, adding green infrastructure like green screens and tackling engine idling.

Transport for London has funded 430 School Streets through its Streetspace plan.

TfL data from 2018 showed the school run made up a quarter of weekday morning traffic, despite the average school journey being a 10-minute walk.