Prague is testing car-free zones in front of elementary schools

Two schools will test to see if closing off the street in the morning improves safety

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 07.09.2020 14:33 (updated on 07.09.2020)

Thousands of children go to school every morning in Prague and then back home every afternoon. Prague together with the city districts wants to increase safety when children go to school, and has prepared a pilot project called “School Street” (Školní ulice).

From September 7 to 25, 2020, the transport rules near selected school facilities will be adjusted. This will prohibit motor vehicles from entering the area in front of the school for a short time, usually 30 minutes, before the start of classes in the morning.

The project was created thanks to cooperation of the city’s Department of Transport, the Prague 20 district and two primary schools — ZŠ Stoliňská and FZŠ Chodovická. It aims to increase safety at schools and draw attention to alternative transport options to primary schools.

“We all want children’s trips to schools to be safe. And with this pilot project, we are showing how we can protect the most vulnerable road users. The streets in front of primary schools are very busy just before school in the morning, so we want to help increase children’s safety, and also point out that you can get to school safely and comfortably in other ways than by car with parents,” Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě), responsible for transport, said.

A survey conducted by the organization Prague Mother shows that up to 40% of children are driven to school in the morning at some Prague schools. According to them, this trend has many negative consequences. Children moving around the school are increasingly endangered by both parked and moving cars, and the high concentration of motor vehicles measurably impairs local air quality.

“I very much support this project for several reasons. In addition to improving safety, a child who regularly goes to kindergarten or school acquires skills they then uses throughout his life — they can move in traffic, navigate by landmarks in the field, and have a good estimate of distance and time. If they share the path with friends, they also develop social skills. That is why I believe that the project will prove successful, and other Prague schools will be added to it,” City Councilor Vít Šimral (Pirates). responsible for education, said.

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In the future, the school street project could become a tool that will make the space in front of the school safer, helping to create better conditions for the active attendance of children. For many years, it has been successfully applied in a number of Western European countries, and since June 2020 also in Říčany in Central Bohemia.

As part of epidemiological measures in the spring of 2020, this special transport regime was introduced in 15 primary schools in The Hague, the Netherlands. A car-free area allows the attendees to observe the prescribed hygienic distances on the street.

“For a long time, we have been trying to make it safer in front of our schools. When I first heard about this project, I was fascinated and it is definitely one of the ways we would like to go. Personally, I would like the school street idea to be extended to other parts of the city. I believe that the evaluation will turn out positively, and other schools will join. Safety for the smallest of us is the main thing we should focus on and we shouldn’t pretend that this problem does not exist,” Prague 20 Mayor Petr Měšťan (ODS) said.

In simple terms, this is a modification of traffic, where no motor vehicles are allowed to enter the street in front of the school for 30 minutes before the start of school. The space will remain quiet and safe for locals and for all who arrive at the school on their own, by bike, scooter or otherwise.

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The entry ban will be enforced by traffic signs and traffic cones. The latter can be briefly moved so that residents can leave the school street at any time and vehicles transporting a ZTP card holder (for disabilities) can get to the school.

The plan includes recommended routes to the school. It maps everything that is important in the vicinity of the participating schools for commuters by public transport, by bike or on foot. These trips will help parents and children to learn to get to and from school safely and without having to use a car. If commuting by car cannot be avoided, parking options are described. The evaluation of the pilot project will be available in October 2020.