Vancouver Extends Successful Car-Free Block School Streets Pilot Program
Following a successful pilot debut, Vancouver’s School Streets program, a car-free block beside a school open to walking, biking and rolling during pick-up/drop-off, has been extended for the 2021/22 school year.
In partnership with the Vancouver School Board, the city’s School Streets pilot program debuted between April and May 2021 and involved three local elementary schools. Its primary goals – enhance safety around schools and help meet the city’s drive for two-thirds of trips to be made by active transportation and transit by 2030.
For parents with school children, the chaotic scene in mornings and early afternoons during drop-offs and pick-ups are all too familiar – a long lineup of cars with parents maneuvering for an empty spot to drop off their children.
Gregg Sayer, chair of the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) of Van Horne Elementary, described the situation on a typical school day:
“What this street look like was just a parade of cars and parents dropping off. It did created a lot of anxiety among parents, safety concerns and children walking through cars that were stopped. Of course, kids are small, so they really have a low profile. A lot of parents were concerned.”
The School Street program carves out one car-free block for 30 to 45 minutes beside a school during pick-up and drop-off. During that time, no motor vehicles are permitted to enter or exit the block, but parked vehicles may remain. It opens up the blocked-off area to walking, biking, rolling, or even for parents and children to stand around and hang out.
The feedback to the pilot program from various participant groups has been very positive. Highlights captured in the program report include:
- 29% of families reported driving less.
- 32% of families reported walking more.
- 25% of families reported biking more.
- 21% of families reported “driving to five” (dropping off their children a couple of blocks away from the school) more.
- 76% of parents want the School Street program to continue.
Ian Rowe, Lord Roberts Elementary PAC Chair, reflects on the change in experience at the school block:
“It’s changed how it feels to pick up and drop off kids. It feels smoother, safer, less frustrating. We love it.”
And for Stephen Leung, Van Horne Elementary Principal, he noticed an added benefit beside the enhanced safety. He has been getting reports that children are waking up earlier and leaving their house earlier just so they can get to school and experience the street. Which makes them, of course, be at school on time.
Feedback from the children is also encouraging.
“I want it to continue because I don’t have to worry about the cars. And I get to, like, draw chalk on this road”, says one of the school kids in the video.
Feedback from area residents within and near the car-free block was not available in the report, however.
Vancouver is extending the School Streets program for the duration of the 2021-22 school year at the three initial pilot schools: Hastings Elementary, Lord Roberts Elementary, and Van Horne Elementary. The city will also be expanding the program further and launching new School Streets next year.
(Photos: City of Vancouver)