School Streets Air Quality Study

Organisation: Transport for London (TfL)
Date of publication: March 2021
Date uploaded: 31 March 2021

Closing the roads around schools to traffic at pick-up and drop-off times has reduced polluting nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 23% and is strongly supported by parents, this report reveals.

To measure the air quality benefits of the new School Streets, 30 sensors from the Breathe London network were installed at 18 primary schools across Brent, Enfield and Lambeth to record nitrogen dioxide levels. The air quality monitoring project, funded by FIA Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies, was launched in September 2020 to give the most accurate indication yet of how the School Streets scheme is working.

Since April 2020, almost 350 School Streets have been delivered across London with funding from Transport for London (TfL) and the boroughs 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, reducing car trips and improving air quality. School Streets also provide space for social distancing and help reduce road danger around schools, making journeys safer and easier.

Around half of London’s emissions come from road transport, and London’s toxic air already leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year as well as 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 has also published new survey results which suggest that interventions outside schools to make walking and cycling safer are popular with parents and carers and have contributed to a drop in car use. Parents and carers from 35 schools took part in the study and the results showed:  

• 81% of those surveyed at schools where measures had been implemented 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, with 77% supporting the changes being kept in the long term subject to consultation   

• Two thirds (66%) of parents and carers at schools without School Street measures support their implementation while social distancing is still required and a majority of these parents (59%) also support such measures in the long term subject to community engagement and consultation 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, parents and carers reported walking to school more, and driving less, at both School Street schools and those without School Streets 

At schools with School Streets, parents and carers reported driving to school less as a result of both the coronavirus pandemic and the School Street. The School Street had a greater impact (-18%) on reducing car travel to school compared to the impact of coronavirus (-12%).

Measures introduced prior to the Covid-19 pandemic have already cut the number of state schools with illegal levels of pollution by 97% – from 455 schools in 2016 to just 14 in 2019.

Download the report from the TfL website:—new-studies-show-school-streets-improve-air-quality