Local authorities urged to make space around schools - creating School Streets. Image iStock

Charity says banning cars from the school gates at peak drop off and pick up times will encourage more families to walk to school

Living Streets, the UK walking charity behind the biggest walk to school campaign, has written to local authorities urging them to take urgent action to improve the walk to school.

The government recently announced a £250m emergency active travel fund. Living Streets wants local authorities to use some of this money to implement ‘School Streets’.

School Streets will ban cars outside school gates at peak drop off and pick up times. This, the charity says, will make the walk to school safer and more attractive. Adding that it will also free up space for families to physically distance.

Jenni Wiggle, interim chief executive, Living Streets said:

“As schools plan their return, encouraging parents to walk to school will be an important part of ensuring roads around schools aren’t overwhelmed with cars.

“It’s incredibly important we choose healthy and active ways to travel. Not only for our own health and wellbeing, but to protect the strain on the NHS. It’s very important that we don’t replace one crisis with crises around inactivity, air pollution and climate change.

“We know from our work with schools across the UK that families are put off walking to school by traffic, road danger and air pollution. By removing cars, we remove these barriers. In these times, it’s even more important to create space around school gates so families can physically distance.

“Local authorities should use the funding available to improve the walk to school. Living Streets is ready to help them achieve this.”

Local authorities can regulate traffic and restrict access

Since launching its School Streets toolkit last year, Living Streets has seen an increase of schemes across the UK. The walking charity wants more local authorities to follow suit.

Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 local authorities have powers to regulate traffic and restrict access. Residents who live and work on a school street will be able to register free of charge for an exemption. Blue badge holders will also be exempt. 

Both the local authorities covering Marston Vale were contacted to see they were likely to implement any School Streets schemes within the next 12 months.

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said:

“The Council has not yet been told how much funding it might expect to receive from the Government’s emergency active travel fund.

“We are aware of the ‘School Streets’ initiative and are looking to trial it a local school later this year.”

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesperson said:

“We are supportive of the School Streets scheme and are currently looking into how we can implement it. We will publicise more details when decision have been made.”

May is Living Streets’ National Walking Month. The charity wants better walking infrastructure so more people can join the celebration of this simple act.

It is also calling on everyone to write to their local council via its Living Streets’ online form, urging them to invest in School Streets. Visit livingstreets.org.uk/schoolspace for more information.