Many schools experience chaotic traffic scenes at the beginning and end of the school day. As a school, we alongside The City of Edinburgh Council, took decision to limit traffic in the street directly outside the school at key times, meaning that parents would not be able to park right at the gates to drop off. Our aim is always to create a safer, more pleasant environment. The scheme promotes travel to school by walking, scooting, parking and striding; in turn reducing congestion and pollution in the area.Abbeyhill primary is one of 6 schools in Edinburgh City Council participating in the initial pilot project. This is an 18 month pilot which began in September 2015 and will run until March 2017. The School Streets pilot is concerned with the closure of Abbey Street, Edinburgh EH7 5SJ which is the main entrance to our school.
Abbeyhill Primary chose to be part of this activity for the health and wellbeing of our children. We were noticing a continuous flow of traffic during peak times and with traffic there are potential dangers for the children in our care. Not only did we want to reduce the traffic but we also wanted to highlight the importance of making healthy and sustainable journeys to school. This project is about educating future generations, involving parents and the local community.
Having consulted staff, parents and local residents on several occasions, it was decided that in order to reduce the flow of traffic leading up to the school during peak times that a street closure would be necessary. As part of the School Streets project, access is restricted to vehicles other than emergency vehicles and residents from 8:20am- 9:10am and 3pm- 3:40pm. By reducing the flow of traffic, the children are also being encouarged to make healthier choices in terms of how they get to school. Our journeys to school are then logged on a travel tracker provided by Living Streets and badges are awarded to children making healthy and sustainable journeys.
By participating in the School Streets project, the children in our school are now more aware of the journeys they are making to school and ways in which they can make healthier and more environmentally friendly choices. Within the Primary 6 class children were discussing their trips to school and suggested getting off the bus a few stops earlier, parking and striding or making more of an effort to walk. The Living Streets travel tracker which was promoted bt Chris Thompson has really opened up the scope for discussion. By displaying the children’s journeys in bar charts, it is very clear to the children how as a class and as a school they are getting to school. Opportunities to use the travel tracker in a cross curricular way are immense.
We have been very well supported by Lorna Henderson from The City of Edinburgh Road Safety department. She has been on hand to consult with parents, staff and local residents on several occasions. She also supported us as we launched the project in September 2015 by funding a Walker’s Breakfast for those participating in the school walking bus.
In October 2015 we welcomed Jamie Hepburn MSP( Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health) to our school. Alongside Strider, the Living Streets mascot, our Junior Road Safety Officers (JRSOs) spoke about the School Streets closure, our walking buses and the online travel tracker. He was very impressed with the children’s views on the importance of walking to school and the benefits not only for the environment but for our own health and wellbeing.
The children within our school are now more conscious of making healthier and more sustainable trips to school. As a result of our road closures, he have introduced a monthly ‘Walking Bus’ which leaves from four different locations within our catchment. The Living Streets online travel tracker is well used throughout the school and provides scope for lots of discussions about the healthy choices we make. Parents are now on board with this and there has been a great effort from everyone to reduce the flow of traffic leading up to our school.
At present, our JRSOs are involved in promoting the School Streets pilot. They have created posters to be dispalyed around the school and have been involved in informing other classes of the project. We regularly tweet pictures of our Walking Buses, JRSO organised events and further information is available on our school website.
Our Junior Road Safety Officers are continually working on activities to promote safer, healthier and environmentally friendly journeys to school.Regular JRSO meetings are held and focus ideas are sent via a newsletter by Road Safety Edinburgh. This is certainly and ongoing project.
Regarding the evaluation of our activities, as a school our main emphasis is ensuring children are safe as they enter our school. We continually monitor the flow of traffic, communicate with our crossing patrol staff and inform Road Safety Edinburgh of any issues occuring. As a school, we are able to view our class results using the online travel tracker and can see how we get to school. I personally think children are becoming more aware of the journeys they make to school and it is certainly opening up lots of discussion.