Busy school runs amight currently be a thing of the past as many children learn from home, but the problems of idling cars and parking battles will not disappear when pupils return to in-person teaching.
And with that backdrop some Yorkshire councils are thinking about how they can solve this problem.
As part of a national scramble to encourage more people to ditch their cars and walk or cycle instead, some are looking at “school streets” with roads outside schools are closed at drop-off and pick-up times to all cars except residents with permits.
In Barnsley, the council plans to roll out “school streets” outside 10 schools in the borough in a bid to reduce short car journeys and improve air quality outside schools.
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“We’re aware streets outside of schools are dominated by cars sat with their engines running, bad parking and poor air quality,” said Barnsley Council public health officer Stuart Rogers.
“We’ve had reports from schools of incidents where people have challenged each other.
“It’s an environment that isn’t very pleasant. We have had lots of reports that it has been a growing issue.”
Mr Rogers spoke of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl in East London who died after a severe asthma attack in February 2013, and whose death was ruled as caused by air pollution by a coroner last year in a landmark case.
“We want to improve air quality, reduce the number of cars and encourage people to be active,” he added.
Originally brought in to help with social distancing outside school gates, the measures could become permanent once the 18 month temporary restrictions end.
Council transport planner Lynsey McGarvey hopes the schemes will stay in place at as many of the 14 schools as possible once the public is consulted, but recognises “school streets” may not be appropriate on busy through roads or bus routes.
“The kids just love being able to use the road space and get on their scooter or bike,” she said.
“The residents are supportive – they don’t have car doors slamming or people parking across their driveways.”
And with parents forced to find parking spaces in other areas, many have decided to ditch car journeys to school and walk the whole way instead, Ms McGarvey said.
Outside Woodlesford Primary School, Highfield Lane and Highfield Crescent are closed to cars each day between 8.20am and 9.30am and 2.40pm and 3.50pm, though residents have permits allowing them to access their homes at these times.
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Deputy headteacher Adam Strafford is pleased with the results so far.
“It has been a positive change,” Mr Strafford said.
“Of the parents we have spoken to, the reception has been quite positive. Prior to September, the traffic was an issue here.
“Residents still have a permit so they can access their homes during the closure hours.”
Meanwhile in Pudsey, ward councillor Simon Seary says a closure outside Pudsey Primose Hill Primary School has also worked well.
Primrose Hill is a dead end, meaning closures at drop-off and pick-up times have had a minimal impact on traffic.
But Conservative Cllr Seary cautioned against rolling out similar schemes across the city too quickly.
“We have got to know where these cars are going if they are not parked on that road. Some schools are on main roads,” he said.
“We need to get the residents on board because it will affect their journey and what they can do.
“But it’s a great idea and it works great at Primrose Hill.”
Joshua Harris, head of campaigns at Huddersfield-based road safety charity Brake, said school streets are “proven” to improve air quality, tackle congestion and improve pupils’ health.
“It’s vital that when communicating the benefits of school streets, councils also make sure to answer any potential concerns residents may have – for example, there is evidence that school streets also reduce traffic levels on nearby roads,” he said.
But only time will tell how they work, and whether the idea will catch on elsewhere in Yorkshire.
-- to www.examinerlive.co.uk