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CityLab
Transportation

To Rethink the School Run, Get Rid of the Cars

London neighborhoods are introducing “School Streets” — closing roads to traffic in the morning and afternoon to encourage schoolchildren and parents to walk and bike. 

Blocking car traffic inside school zones has proved to be an effective way of encouraging more kids to walk or bike in London neighborhoods. 

Blocking car traffic inside school zones has proved to be an effective way of encouraging more kids to walk or bike in London neighborhoods. 

Photo: John Surico/Bloomberg CityLab

Just before 3 p.m. on weekdays, a subtle change unfolds on Lowden Road in south London. The street grows quiet as parents start to wander in from different directions, bound for the entrances of Jessop Primary School. Many walk in the middle of the road, prams in tow; others roll up on bicycles. Car traffic all but disappears.

Then, the gates open. Out of the school come children, running out to meet their carers on scooters, cycles or their own two feet. The division between curb and street practically becomes non-existent. One mother, who arrives by bike to pick up her young daughter, rides by and tells me: “I used to get a taxi or Zipcar, but I can’t come here with those so now I just cycle. It’s made a big difference.”