Launched in November 2019, the Fingal County Council School Streets initiative explores how car-free zones outside schools can create safer, cleaner and more environmentally friendly spaces. The initiative is being implemented due to the traffic challenges that are faced outside both St Oliver Plunkett’s and St Andrew’s Primary Schools in Malahide. The challenges include school gate congestion, unsafe parking and blocking of footpaths, road safety risks due to vehicular movements, children being exposed to excess air pollution, and car-dependent children being less physically active.
Following extensive community consultation throughout 2019, a section of Grove Road was selected to be transformed into a car-free, pedestrian and cycling zone. Certain exemptions are available for residents living on this section of the road and for certain disabled badge holders who need to park to pick up or drop off children. School Streets does not operate on school holidays or at weekends.
“Park and Stride” zones have been established within a 15 minute walk of the schools, allowing children to walk to and from school while reducing central traffic congestion.
“Walking Buses” were also established to facilitate active travel. Typically a “Walking Bus” is a group of primary school children who walk to and from school, led by an adult at the front and back of the ‘bus’. All participants wear fluorescent reflective jackets and children are supervised until they reach school, home, or are met by a parent. The bus travels along a pre-arranged route collecting or dropping off children at ‘bus stops’ along the way.
Parking permits have been issued to parents of St. Andrews and St. Oliver Plunkett’s as part of the initiative to permit free parking in the surrounding Park and Stride car parks and along the Mall for a short duration during drop off and collection times. The permits operate for 2 hours at the collection and drop off times. This allows parents and guardians to shop locally, resulting in increased business in the village.
For a compressive assessment of actions implanted see resources below.
Smart technology has played an important role in evaluating the impact of the initiative with the deployment of air quality sensors around the schools. The sensors monitor the levels of Nitrogen Oxide (NO2), a pollutant associated with vehicular traffic. As this project continues, sensors may also be used to count cars, cyclists and pedestrians, providing more valuable data on the progress of the pilot.
A three month impact assessment report found that the School Streets programme had successfully delivered on key objectives:
- 20% reduction in air pollution around the schools
- Increases in in sustainable travel modes by students
- 43% reduction in school related traffic
- Decrease in issuing of Penalty Charge Notices
Learnings from the success of this pilot will support the roll-out of further school street initiatives across Fingal.