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The European Answer to School-Drop-Off Chaos

Photo: Sciennes Primary School

Now here's an elegant solution to the school drop-off problem: A growing number of European cities simply prohibit cars on the streets surrounding schools at the start and end of the school day.

The concept is called "school streets," and it started in Bolzano, Italy in the early 1990s. Since then, school streets have spread from Austria to the U.K, according to the European Local Transport Information Service — and collision rates involving school children has decreased by half. About 45 percent of students in Bolzano walk to school every day, according to ELTiS.

School Streets are marked with signs indicating the restricted hours. Fifteen minutes before school begins and for 15 minutes after it lets out, "school guides" — the European equivalent of crossing guards — place painted wooden signs signs at the streets blocking traffic, ELTiS.

Other European cities are seeing the benefits.

Two years ago, Edinburgh completed an 18 month "School Streets" trial at 11 schools. Data showed it produced a big drop in traffic: 3,179 fewer vehicles traveled the streets around the schools during a survey. Meanwhile, traffic was increased on surrounding streets by just 920 vehicles. Overall the experiment produced a three percent increase in the number of students walking to school and a six percent decrease in children being driven to school, the Scotland Herald reported.

Vienna recent moved to make its school streets permanent after a six-month pilot improved safety and increased walking and biking among students.

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Photo: Hackney Council
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Meanwhile, in East London, School Streets have been implemented at five schools. At Millfield's Community School in Hackney, teachers say the strategy also improves air quality for children. And parents say they like it.

Obviously Europe is very different from the United States, but the arrangement is not unheard of here either. Today, when I was walking home from dropping my son off at daycare, I passed a street in Cleveland where through-traffic is restricted by a school. The crossing guard was out placing cones in the street just like this.

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