Crevits announces second trial for traffic restrictions on school streets

Summary

Schools minister declares first test a success and sets out to measure health benefits of local traffic restrictions

Roads closed

A project to test traffic-reduction measures outside schools in Flanders and Brussels has been declared a success by the Flemish education minister. A second trial period will run in May, to get more schools involved and to research the health and environmental benefits of the measures.

While some municipalities have been experimenting with “school streets” for years – Ghent launched the first one in 2012 – minister Hilde Crevits launched the campaign Paraat voor de Schoolstraat (Ready for the School Street) last year to mobilise schools and local authorities to set up trial school streets for a month. This push included Dutch-speaking schools in Brussels along with schools in Flanders, with 123 schools eventually signing up.

The restrictions involved closing streets around schools to all motorised traffic for half an hour at the beginning and end of the school day. Parents and children were required to arrive on foot or by bicycle.

Emergency and utility vehicles were still allowed to use the street, if necessary, while residents could drive out of the street, but not into it until the half-hour was over. Twenty of the participating schools then reported their experiences.

Safer and healthier

Two-thirds of the schools said that the trial had passed without a hitch, while the others mentioned problems such as complaints from local residents, businesses and grandparents, who presumably prefer to drop children off at the school. The project website is now providing model responses to these kinds of complaints.

Encouraged by these results, the government is now planning a second trial period this spring. “We can safely call the first trial a success,” said Crevits. “With the new test period in May, we want to support more schools in setting up a ‘school street’ and so make the environment in and around the school safer and healthier.”

Measurements will be made at two schools, before and after the traffic restrictions are introduced, to quantify the environmental benefits and assess any improvements in the health of children, parents and school staff. The first school to be tested will be Sint-Jozef Mere primary school in Erpe-Mere.

Two more schools will be tested next school year. The research will be carried out by the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living, Vito and PIH.

Photo courtesy VRT