The councillor at Oxfordshire County Council in charge of Oxfordshire’s highways has recommended to roll out camera-controlled road closures outside four Oxfordshire schools at drop-off and pick-up times.
Councillor Andrew Gant (Lib Dem, Wolvercote & Summertown), the county’s cabinet member for highway management, will decide on Thursday whether to permanently implement the School Streets programme, a trial that was launched to boost the number of children walking and cycling to school and increase safety.
It involved a pilot implemented by volunteers and barriers outside nine Oxfordshire primary schools under what is known as experimental traffic regulation orders (ETROs).
Councillor Gant has been advised by council officers to make the orders permanent at Windmill Primary School, Oxford, before the ETRO expires in September and at Larkrise Primary School and St Ebbe’s Primary School, Oxford, and St Nicolas Primary School, Abingdon, before those orders come to an end in November.
All residents on school streets will be among those eligible to apply for exemptions and the council’s report, authored by Bill Cotton, the county’s director for environment and place, stated: “The school streets team has liaised with the four participating schools to ensure children who are on SEN (Special Educational Needs) registers, have behavioural or mobility issues and disabled children and/or parents are not impacted by the proposals.”
If implemented, the county would install permanent signs displaying the closure times and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to enforce them. They are to be paid for through Department for Transport (DfT) funding.
There was 88 per cent support for the school streets and 85 per cent support for the use of ANPR cameras from the 310 respondents to the council’s online consultation, although feedback from a further 63 letters and emails was broadly an even split between supporters and objectors.
The council said there had been a six per cent increase in active travel to schools during the pilot and that almost two-thirds of pupils felt safer outside school.
The proposed closure times are 8.10am to 9.00am and 2.30pm to 3.30pm at Larkrise and St Nicolas, 8.00am to 9.00am and 2.30pm to 3.30pm at St Ebbe’s and 8.20am to 9.00am and 2.30pm to 3.20pm at Windmill. They will only operate during term time.
Mr Cotton’s report added: “School streets create places where children can thrive, be healthier and happier because they are being more active, enjoying improved air quality, getting a boost to confidence from active travel and getting more chances to be sociable.
“The aim is to create an environment where people can walk, wheel, cycle, scoot or park and walk to school with lower air pollution and traffic congestion and make the school gate environment safer for children.
“Creating a car-free environment makes it easier and safer for people to choose to travel by foot, wheel, cycle, or scooter to school, supporting us in promoting active travel and encouraging a modal shift away from private car use for short journeys.
“Air quality sensors will be used to monitor air quality at school street sites. Levels of walking, wheeling, cycling, and scooting will continue to be monitored to measure increases in modal changes and qualitative data recorded by the schools will also inform our records.
“Implementing school streets demonstrates the action we’re taking to address the climate emergency.”