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School Streets scheme is working well for cyclists in Oxford


Sep 10, 2022

A pioneering scheme is making life safer for pupils at a number of schools and nurseries, as Cyclox member Jamie Clarke explains.

With the start of the school year, the school run traffic chaos will be missing from five Oxfordshire schools and nurseries which have pioneered ‘School Streets’ schemes in the county.

At these schools the pupils will avoid the usual traffic dangers, pollution and congestion.

Instead they will be walking, cycling and scooting to and from their schools each day.

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For the past year parents, teachers, councillors and community volunteers, supported by their schools and Oxfordshire County Council have successfully implemented School Streets schemes outside St Ebbe’s primary and Grandpont nursery, Windmill and Larkrise primary schools in Oxford city and St Nicolas CE primary school in Abingdon.

The School Streets scheme works by opening up the streets outside schools for walking, cycling and scooting at the start and end of the school day by limiting vehicle access.

So rather than a hundred plus vehicles all converging on a small stretch of road for a short period only local residents, those with disabilities and those with special needs drive down.

The result has seen a significant shift in the way pupils have arrived at school.

Oxford Mail: Photo: Cyclox Photo: Cyclox

As a parent of children at St Ebbes school I was keen to support the trialling of the scheme because the traffic chaos outside the school was notorious. I’d witnessed more than one ‘near miss’ between kids and cars.

The normally tranquil cul de sac outside the school regularly turned into a dangerous car park with cycling and road-crossing kids negotiating three point turning cars with overstressed drivers not wanting to be late. In a survey of parents in 2020 91% said there was congestion, 69% said the road was dangerous and 80% said they would support reducing the number of cars outside school. Many said they’d rather not drive but felt they had little choice as the street was too dangerous.

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Recognising that shifting out of using the car was not going to be easy for everyone, the volunteers set about reaching out to those who might struggle. St Ebbes school has a high number of pupils from outside the catchment area so we knew this was important.

With the support of our local councillor a Park and Stride was set up in our local park so that parents could park a short way from the school and walk the last part. In addition an inspirational family initiated a ‘bicycle bus’ to pick up and drop kids from their homes. Meanwhile cycle training is offered to children and their parents and a bicycle library has been established to loan bikes to those who may not be able to afford them.

Oxford Mail: Photo: Cyclox Photo: Cyclox

The results have been transformative. Traffic has reduced by 68% outside the school and the vast majority of pupils now actively travel all or some of the way.

As one parent said “I wouldn’t let my daughter ride to school before because of the dangers on Whitehouse Road. Now I’m happy to and she enjoys it”.

The response of the children has also been really positive. One pupil said “I love cycling to school now, but before I always came by car”.

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But there have also been unexpected results – one mum who had initially been very opposed to the scheme said “I was very angry about the scheme at first but with the support of the team my daughter is now cycling to and from school and so I’ve been able to increase my hours at work”.

Plans are being made to make these School Streets schemes permanent, with volunteers being replaced by cameras (to allow approved cars access) and there is hope that further schemes can be rolled out to help hundreds more children gain the health and educational benefits whilst reducing congestion and climate change impacts.

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Andy.ffrench@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailAndyF