Road Safety News

London borough pilots ‘Healthy School Streets’ initiative

Tuesday 14th February 2017

Camden Council is piloting a scheme under which roads near schools are closed as children arrive and depart, in a bid to encourage more pupils to walk and cycle to school.

In September 2016, St Joseph's Catholic Primary School became the first to see a nearby road closed as part of the ‘Healthy School Streets’ initiative, which is designed to protect children from traffic and pollution.

Macklin Street, which runs alongside the school, is closed between 08:30-09:15 and 15:15-16:00, Monday to Friday during term times. The street is closed by signage and enforced by bollards raised and lowered by school staff.

According to Camden Council, early indications suggest minimal impact on residents and businesses on the street, while parents are reporting a significant improvement in how safe they feel.

In an article on the BBC News website, Nicola Scott-Phillips, deputy head at St Joseph's, said there had been a ‘really positive reaction’ to the pilot, adding that the school, which has 300 pupils, has seen about a 50% reduction in the number children arriving by car.

Cllr Phil Jones, Camden Council, told the BBC: "Hopefully it'll spread. We've got a lot of problems in London with pollution and car domination so this is one way we can tackle those problems.”

As part of the initiative, Camden Council is also offering to help schools reduce the number of journeys being made by car by providing pedestrian and cycle training, and running events to raise awareness of and interest in walking and cycling.

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There's approximately 250,000 miles of roads in the UK Charles. Apart from motorways, they're typically mixed use - that's a lot of 'Poyntons' to design and build! The 'Poynton' type scheme works well in town centre junctions, but the principle can't be applied to every piece of the highway network.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

Hugh, no matter where the road is, it needs to be designed to tolerate user error and its safety should not rely on all its users being 100% infallible. If it is required to tolerate mixed modes, then it needs to be designed to ensure that vehicle users choose speeds appropriate for the types of interactions with other users that they can expect to encounter.
Charles, England

Agree (5) | Disagree (6)

What about country roads Charles? There's rarely a footpath or footway but still a mix of mainly vehicular traffic, the occasional peds, cyclists and horse riders - it's a sort of shared space already - how would your utopia of equal status and priorty work there and how would it be managed and enforced? ..block pave the whole highway network?
Hugh Jones

Agree (1) | Disagree (3)

Rod, you don't need to go to the Netherlands to find examples of such schemes working - try Poynton, Brighton, and even London, in the UK. So we can eliminate the red-herrings that such schemes need Dutch bypasses, Dutch cycling culture, Dutch 30 km/h speed limits and Dutch "presumed liability".

In fact, such schemes work, not because of the orthodox measures you mention which may, or may not, also be present, but despite of them. Drivers drive slowly and considerately, not because of signs and fear of losing their no-claims bonus, but because they they are given full responsibility for their actions and have to concentrate on the road and other road users, rather than on the colour of lights. And incidentally, in places such as these, where drivers aren't given signals or signs to tell them when to stop or when and how fast to go, they don't have the time or bandwidth to use their smartphones at the same time. Such schemes work equally well whether these superfluous road laws and regulations are enforced, or not. It's a win-win - roads are safer and no enforcement is needed!

The bottom line is we can get safe (very safe) roads without the need for ever stricter (and futile?) attempts to force drivers to obey arbitrary laws and regulations. Why would we not want that, other than it would remove the opportunity to use drivers as scapegoats and it would remove drivers as a revenue source? Sure, sticking plasters and political sops are cheaper in the short term, but they are not sustainable and do not tackle the underlying problem - they merely pander to the ill-informed vociferous minority. As for costs, according to DfT figures the cost to the UK of KSIs for just one year is a staggering 8+ billion pounds. Would you rather spend the money that way - year on year, or invest upfront to eliminate that ongoing disgrace?
Charles, England

Agree (6) | Disagree (6)

As I am sure I have read here often, most Road Safety Officers these days, are involved in the business of Sustainable Transport and encouraging cycling and walking. This scheme on the face of it seems to be getting very positive results in terms on cutting the number of car journeys to and from schools. There may be limited evidence of children being involved in collisions on there journey to school but, if we can get them out of their car and on there feet in these times of growing obesity - then this can only be a good thing. I don't think that we should be deciding on measures based on number of KSIs anyway, no KSIs probably means people think it is too dangerous to walk or cycle there, so they don't! We know that one of the things that stops parents allowing their children to walk to school is fear of an accident and so having no or limited traffic near to the school is bound to help.

I do think that being able to find other schools where this type of scheme will work, will be difficult but, where it does work and the community is supportive then why not at least try it? Hopefully, the other cities that try this kind of thing will collect good evidence one way or the other to its success.
Jon in Bristol

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

No Charles, but I watched the 'carefully crafted and one-sided' video (to borrow your earlier phrase). It looks very nice and no doubt was £4 million pounds well spent. Imagine though, how much more pleasant, quiter and less stressfull it would be for the peds and cyclists if, for say 45 minutes twice a day, it was closed to vehicular traffic, as per the scheme in Camden referred to in the news item. I've no doubt that would be even more welcome by the pedestrians.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (5)

Charles. I am familiar with the works of Hans Monderman and I admire that work. But if that is the basis of what you are proposing then you are misrepresenting his work.

Many Dutch towns and villages have bypasses so there is no through traffic, most Dutch children learn to ride their cycles from an early age and do not get any "roadcraft with motors" education. Why would they need a device that is so difficult to park and get where you really want to go? Most Dutch communities have a 30 km/h speed limit. The whole of Netherlands has presumed liability to ensure that there are not equal responsibilities on the roads.

So, I am all in favour of that, but it seems somewhat different to what you were proposing.

And regarding Poynton then this single junction cost £3.5m. How about costing that up across the country.
Rod King, Warriington, Cheshire 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (4) | Disagree (5)

Hugh, have you still not been to see how it works in Poynton (
Charles, England

Agree (1) | Disagree (5)

Rod, read, with an honestly open mind, the following section of a recent Guardian article. It starts about three-quarters of the way down the page, and begins "In the mid-1980s" from

Then please report back here with what you think about the idea of totally and sustainably eliminating the domination of motor vehicles like that.
Charles, England

Agree (2) | Disagree (4)

If no motorised vehicle existed which was capable of exceding say 10-15 mph, Charles' idea of everyone having equal priority on the highway might have a chance, however in the real world that is obvioulsy not the case, so we have to work with what we have i.e. a system which allows different road users to use the highways, but with certain restrictions and if necessary, localised restrictions, to manage potential conflict. That in itself is only as good as those using it complying with the system as required of them as a particular class of road user. Excited, exhuberant children in close proximity to motorised vehicles is a potentially risky scenario anywhere and the authorities would not be doing their job if they did not attempt to manage that conflict if and when necessary.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (4)

A great idea Charles. Tear down all the infrastructure we have, educate kids on driving early in their life and see how it all works out. Let us know when its fully costed and when any country in the world has made such a transition.
Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

Are the school staff 'Chapter 8' qualified to be working in the road putting bollards up in a potentially live traffic situation? If I worked at the school I would be checking on the Council's insurance manager's view before putting on a hi-viz and stepping into the road in an official capacity.
Guzzi, Newport

Agree (11) | Disagree (2)

Full marks for the transparent and balanced initial report on the scheme gleaned from the Council website. The Council acknowledge that the school site is relatively unusual (section 3.3) and seem to be suggesting that schools with ordinary levels of local residential car ownership may put up much more opposition to such schemes. That and the fact that this only works with one-way streets means that widespread roll-out of the scheme is not likely.
Pat, Wales

Agree (11) | Disagree (3)

Rod, yes I am *absolutely* suggesting that the motor vehicle dominance of our public roads should end - and I thought I'd been making that opinion loud and clear in my posts here since I first started contributing! That is exactly why I challenge the wisdom of measures, such as the one highlighted here, which I believe can only make the current dire situation worse.

What I believe is a major part of the problem is the way we condition our children to kowtow to and to fear motorised traffic. We thus, I believe, and even though unintentionally and clearly subliminally, encourage them to aspire, as "grown ups", to be that stereotypical, omnipotent, road hogging, motorist. So when the day comes and they have endured the initiation ceremony (aka passing their "driving" test), and they inherit the mantle of king or queen of the road, we should not be surprised when they then (subliminally) assert ownership of the road as they were taught was expected of motorists. And the message will then be passed to the next generation and the whole cycle will be self-perpetuating - we need to break that cycle. Sure there are some differently wired individuals who see things in a different way, and who have greater powers of individuality and self-control, and who can become "considerate motorists", but on the whole, the roads are dominated by motorised traffic assuming absolute priority between the kerbs. And we need to dispel the myth that it is in any way possible to ensure that we can all "learn" to defy human nature (whether by training, fines, imprisonment, or whatever) and manage to concentrate 100% on complying with each and every law, regulation, guideline and highway code recommendation that is thrown at us.

A prerequisite of change for the good is to realise that to blame motorists for the situation we have allowed to develop is, in effect, to blame the main victims of that system. So now, rather than actively preventing it, I believe we need to start allowing our children to develop a natural, normal and healthy understanding and respect of the responsibilities of all road users. To help develop that responsibility, we need to allow them to realise that road users of all modes have *equal worth*, *equal rights* and *equal responsibilities* on our roads and that each should respect the space of each other. One way to reinforce that message might be to remove the artificial and counterproductive cues from our roads (markings, signs, signals, kerbs, etc.) that reinforce the dangerous message that motorised traffic gets de-facto priority. We could also de-glamourise driving and thus remove its appeal to young men as a "right of passage" into manhood and reduce its danger as a macho activity by turning it into a "normal" part of growing up, such as reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic - perhaps add "roadmanship" as the fourth "r" to the curriculum and expect all youngsters to be able to drive by the age of twelve - before the adolescent hormones kick-in and start skewing their motivations.
Charles, England

Agree (12) | Disagree (11)

Pedestrians and cyclists are denied access to thousands of miles of public roads due to the danger posed by vehicles. Are you suggesting that this practice should be ended and drivers should instead adapt their behaviour to cope with cyclists and pedestrians on all roads.
Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (2) | Disagree (13)

Hugh yes, I watched the (carefully crafted and one-sided) video, and saw nothing that millions of pedestrians don't encounter every day - that's the nature of the real world. We cannot afford to start denying public access to public roads based on the sort of fallacious argument that is being used here. How do the kids cope outside the confines of those few yards of, now sheltered, street? Better to learn how to accommodate all users in harmony than to start peddling the idea that we can favour some users and ban others. Where will this stop - this could be the start of a very slippery slope indeed?
Charles, England

Agree (18) | Disagree (8)

If Charles cares to watch the video above accompanying the news item, things may become clearer. Generally, roads can only become 'dangerous' when moving vehicles are on them them.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (14)

Rod, let's make your analogy more, er, analogous... Can you imagine going to a public meeting in a building which meets all the current fire regulations and which has no history of fires spontaneously erupting during public meetings, and being issued with breathing apparatus and a fire extinguisher on the way in - just to make you feel safer and more comfortable during the meeting?

If the road isn't dangerous in the first place then it doesn't need any extra measures to protect against danger. On the other hand, there may well be a political reason for introducing them; perhaps to pander to ill-informed concern or prejudices amongst a vociferous minority in the community. But we won't know either way without hearing the casualty and speed review data. Let's hope this scheme doesn't backfire in the same way that some of the politically motivated speed-hump initiatives have.
Charles, England

Agree (19) | Disagree (14)


Can you imaging going to a public meeting and before it starts the chair informs everyone that as there have never been any fires in the building they have have not bothered to maintain the fire escapes, sprinklers or extinguishers which are all now out of use, but not to worry about a thing. If we do ever get a fire then we will be sure to re-instate them afterwards.

I am afraid the pre-occupation with previous death and injury before making our streets liveable, convenient and safer places is one that gains little respect in communities who use such streets.
Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (16) | Disagree (16)

Do we know how many child road casualties there have been in that street in recent years and what the typical vehicle speeds along there are? Is this another case of closing a road for political reasons rather than road safety reasons?
Charles, England

Agree (16) | Disagree (14)