School Streets designs are rapidly expanding around the world. While New York City has only a small school street program, many other cities—including London, where they’re a key part of the COVID-19 pandemic response, and Paris—are accelerating their programs to reclaim space for people from cars.
These car-free spaces reimagine the road adjacent to schools by restricting access to cars during drop-offs and pick-ups and making it safe for pedestrians and cyclists. They promote active travel and support action on the climate emergency, but they also reduce air pollution and traffic congestion outside of schools. And they’re popular: in Hackney, for example, tailpipe emissions dropped by 74 percent and walking and cycling to school increased.
The design of each school street is unique to its local community, and each one is responsive to the needs and desires of those who live there. But there are some key steps to take when planning a school street:
Communicating with your community and other stakeholders is crucial. It bolsters your application for DOT funding and ensures that your Open Street will reflect the broad input of your local school community, including administrators, transportation professionals, teachers, parents, students, organizers, and residents.
During the pandemic, school street projects are often led by schools themselves, but they’re also facilitated by municipal governments and sometimes by nonprofits. Regardless of the type of project, they’re a powerful way to reclaim space for people—and not cars—and to encourage parents to drive their children less and walk and cycle more.