School Streets reduce nitrogen dioxide by up to 23%, research shows

Closing the roads around schools to traffic at pick-up and drop-off times has reduced polluting nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 23% and is supported by parents, new research published by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has revealed.

To measure the air quality benefits of the new School Streets, 30 sensors from the Breathe London network were installed at 18 primary schools across Brent, Enfield and Lambeth to record nitrogen dioxide levels. The air quality monitoring project, funded by FIA Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, was launched in September 2020.

Since April 2020, almost 350 School Streets have been delivered across London with funding from TfL and the boroughs to tackle children’s exposure to air pollution and improve their health. Roads surrounding schools are closed to motor traffic at drop-off and pick-up times, enabling children to walk or cycle to school, reducing car trips and improving air quality. School Streets also provide space for social distancing and help to reduce road danger around schools, making journeys safer and easier.

TfL has also today published new survey results which suggest that interventions outside schools to make walking and cycling safer are popular with parents and carers and have contributed to a drop in car use. Parents and carers from 35 schools took part in the study and the results showed:

– 81% of those surveyed at schools where measures had been implemented believed a School Street is suitable for their school
– 73% of parents and carers at these schools agree with School Street measures remaining in place while social distancing is still required, with 77% supporting the changes being kept in the long term subject to consultation
– 66% of parents and carers at schools without School Street measures support their implementation while social distancing is still required and a majority of these parents (59%) also support such measures in the long term subject to community engagement and consultation
– Since the pandemic, parents and carers reported walking to school more, and driving less, at both School Street schools and those without School Streets

At schools with School Streets, parents and carers reported driving to school less as a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the School Street. The School Street had a greater impact (-18%) on reducing car travel to school compared to the impact of COVID (-12%).

The Mayor’s Streetspace plans have also made walking and cycling easier and have seen 90 kilometres of new or upgraded cycle lanes built or are under construction since May, along with more than 22,500 square metres of extra pavement space reallocated for people walking. The measures mean people are increasingly using bikes to get around their local area, access their local shops and for exercise, with recent TfL cycle count data showing cycling has increased by 22% in outer London compared to spring 2019, with a seven per cent rise in inner London.

“I am doing everything in my power to stop Londoners breathing air so filthy that it damages children’s lungs and causes thousands of premature deaths every year,” said Khan. “Since 2016, there has been a 97% reduction in the number of schools in areas which exceed the legal pollution limit and I’m committed to bringing that number down to zero.

“School Streets play an important role in enabling parents and children to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school which has so many benefits, not least in improving air quality. It’s great to see the huge reduction in nitrogen dioxide during pick up and drop off on schools streets – a time where countless children and adults would otherwise be exposed to dangerous emissions. Too many lives are already lost each year as a result of our city’s toxic air and the results of our monitoring study show just how much of a difference reducing car journeys through School Streets makes.”

James Austin, Sustrans London director, added: “This research backs up what Sustrans sees in our work across London – that School Streets make the school journey safer, cleaner and more fun. We’ve made huge progress in the past few months, the evidence is there and so is the demand from parents and children. Now with schools reopening we need to take urgent steps to make sure that every child in London is physically active and protected from air pollution and road danger.”

Read the March issue of BikeBiz below:

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