The pilot schemes are also strongly supported by parents, according to the research published by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Fresh thinking

To measure the air quality benefits of the new School Streets, 30 cutting-edge sensors were installed at 18 primary schools. These are located in Brent, Enfield and Lambeth in London, 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. Funding from Transport for London (TfL) and the boroughs was used in order 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. It reduces car trips, but also other passing traffic at times when children and parents are using the streets. The project also provides more space for social distancing and helps to reduce road danger around schools. This in turn also encourages healthier transport options from walking to cycling to and from school.

Air quality, life quality

Around half of London’s emissions come from road transport. The toxic air levels already leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year, while also stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness. Air pollution has also been linked to increased risk of contracting Covid-19 and experiencing the most serious effects.

TfL’s survey results looked at interventions from 35 schools. The results showed:

  • 81% of those surveyed at schools 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. Furthermore, 77% support the changes being kept long term
  • Two thirds (66%) of parents and carers at schools without School Street measures support their implementation. 59%  support the idea of long term implementation
  • Since the pandemic, al parents and carers report walking to school more, and driving less, whether with School Streets or not
  • School streets have had a greater influence on reducing car travel to school compared to the impact of coronavirus (18% t0 12%).

London sets the bar

Measures introduced in London have already cut the number of state schools with illegal levels of pollution by 97%.

The Mayor’s Streetspace plans have also made walking and cycling easier. 90km of new or upgraded cycle lanes have been built or are under construction.  The measures mean people are increasingly using bikes to get around their local area, access their local shops and for exercise. 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,” says Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

“School Streets play an important role in enabling parents and children to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school. This 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… Too many lives are already lost each year as a result of our city’s toxic air”.

Michael R. Bloomberg, U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Ambition and Solutions, comments: “This initiative empowers the public to fight air pollution and make school communities safer. It’s exciting to think how its findings could help improve children’s health not just across London, but in cities that follow suit around the world.’