Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women and Families and Children’s Services.
Yesterday’s announcement that Councillor Don Alexander has joined Mayor Rees’s cabinet is great news for the city, and great news for me as I look forward to working with Don to deliver one of our key priorities: permanent School Streets across the city.
School Streets involve short-term daily street closures outside schools during drop-off and pick-up times — the benefits are multiple from both an air quality and road safety perspective; and are particularly welcome given the current challenges around social distancing at school gates.
Bristol School Streets aims to:
- reduce the volume of traffic around school gates
- improve road safety for pupils
- encourage more children to walk, scoot or cycle to school
- improve the air quality and environment at the school gates making it a more pleasant space for everyone
The concept of School Streets comes from Italy, who first introduced them in 1989, but the first local authority in England was the London Borough of Camden in 2017. Since then several local authorities, including Bristol, have set up their own schemes, many of others opting for temporary schemes as part of their covid-19 emergency response.
In Bristol, we have been working on our own School Streets project since 2019. We want to work towards permanent schemes that have a direct impact on the schools and their surrounding communities, building towards our Liveable Neighbourhoods: safe communities where everyone can travel cleanly and safely with less through-traffic.
We currently have School Streets pilots running at four schools in the city with a further four planned for the next academic year. We have taken the decision to consult closely with both the schools, residents and the school communities to make sure that we get these schemes right and that wider communities feel included, listened to, and ultimately feel the benefit of schemes that work for everyone.
As Don will tell us; transport regulations and traffic flows are complicated – and as much as we would like to, we cannot implement schemes overnight. We have developed a matrix to ensure we look at factors including traffic flow, air quality, other road safety measures as well as the broader context of the school community, as we prioritise the roll out of the scheme.
School Streets is a really important project that demonstrates our commitment to better air quality and streets free of traffic, but it also brings children and young people to the forefront of our response to the Climate Emergency and to our work on improving Bristol’s infrastructure to ensure that our city works for everyone.