Streets for Schools - Creating a Culture of Travelling Actively to School

Patrick Williams, Head of Healthier Places, Sustrans Cymru

Dryden Road in Penarth has a history of traffic problems during the school run, affecting residents and the safety of children of Fairfield Primary School. A new School Street project has closed the road outside the school to motor vehicles at pick-up and drop-off times and, combined with infrastructure improvements and behaviour change, created a safer and healthier environment for everyone.

Sustrans developed the project through a co-design process, involving the local community, the 320 children attending Fairfield Primary School, their parents and their teachers. The aim was to involve all these stakeholders in a design process that would make the surrounding streets safer and encourage a culture of travelling actively to school.

Sustrans engaged at a range of levels to collect feedback from a wide range of people, including those who often don’t get a chance to voice their opinions. As not everyone feels comfortable, is able, or has the time to participate in formal workshops, the engagement was accessible and convenient as possible. Workshops were held on-street, at convenient locations, at times of day that people are likely to be passing along the street, and with quick and intuitive activities.

There was also a mixture of media and other options to engage, such as interactive digital mapping, paper surveys with conveniently placed project post boxes, a regularly updated project website, led walks, street surveys for the pupils and a summer play day.

Traffic volumes and speeds throughout the area were captured, along with artificial intelligence videos, to understand the interaction between pedestrians and vehicles outside the school.

The engagement and data identified the most significant issues were heavy traffic around peak school times, dangerous parking and manoeuvring, and a general feeling of lack of safety for people travelling to school by walking, wheeling, and cycling.

A series of improvements to the street layout of Dryden Road were then developed, including widening the pavement alongside the school and creating a planted verge or rain garden. The rain garden replaced the gullies along one side of the street, acting as a natural drainage system (SuDS), introducing greenery to the street and providing a barrier between cars and pedestrians. The interventions also include introducing a one-way system, which formalises the previously informal flow of vehicles and makes the daily street closures more straightforward.

The school street was trialled for a day before constructing the permanent changes. Temporary trialling the interventions played an important role capturing important additional feedback and finalising the proposals before construction.

The School Street opened in May 2023. Initial survey data captured following implementation have indicated a positive impact. The majority of both parents/carers and residents spoken to think that the street feels safer, more child friendly and overall, a more enjoyable place to be. The project, including the community's views and traffic flows, will continue to be monitored and used to demonstrate the impact of the Fairfield Project on levels of active travel, changes in traffic behaviour, and community views, as well as informing future projects.