Motorists cause traffic chaos outside many schools, which is dangerous for children. School streets reduce traffic problems in the vicinity of schools and improve safety for children. They enable children to travel independently and actively to school.
In Austria, one fifth of children aged 6-14 travel to school by car. Active journeys to school by way of walking and, to a lesser extent, cycling account for one third of trips to school. Almost half of children aged 6-14 use public transport to travel to school. The proportion of active travel among children strongly depends on the traffic planning in their residential environment.1 Children will be granted a higher level of independent mobility if parents perceive the traffic environment on the way to school as safe.2
Children´s mobility is restricted
If the vicinity of schools is designed for cars, children will have lower levels of independent mobility on their everyday journeys and are accompanied more often by their parents.3 In an effort to make roads outside schools more childfriendly, the school street, including its own traffic sign, was legally enshrined in the Austrian road traffic regulations (StVO) in 2022. School streets allow restricted vehicle access to the streets around school gates and are a good step towards more traffic calming and improved safety in the vicinity of schools.
In 1995, 50 per cent of journeys to school were still made on foot or by bike in Austria, whereas about 20 years later the figure stood at only 35 per cent.4 However, independent and active travel to school is particularly important as the mobility behaviour in childhood shapes travel habits that continue into adulthood. Eight out of ten young people in Austria aged between 11 and 17 do less than one hour of physical activity per day, which is below the minimum levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).5
Mobility restrictions influence children‘s development
Independent and active travel is crucial for children as physical activity promotes their mental, physical and social development. Studies have found that children who travel independently and actively to school have better spatial awareness, a better sense of balance, faster social development and fewer learning disorders on average than children who are driven to school.6 Creating more space for safe walking and cycling to school is particularly important as school journeys account for over half of the journeys made by 6- to 14-year-olds.7
Road safety enables independent mobility
In Austria, 434 children aged 6 to 15 were injured in a traffic accident that occurred on their way to or from school in 2022; sadly, there was one fatal accident. Five times as many children were injured in traffic accidents in their leisure time.8 Road safety is much higher on the school journey than during leisure time. When children travel to school, school crossing patrols and the police help them cross the road safely, drivers are more alert and in recent years road safety measures have been implemented outside many schools. The school journey is a perfect opportunity for children to acquire road safety skills in a safe environment.
Safety on the journey to and from school can be further increased by implementing infrastructure measures such as creating wide pavements suitable for children and young people, separate cycling paths or kerb extensions at intersections, as well as organisational measures such as reduced speed or restricted access to school streets. For example, children play twice as long on average without parental supervision in traffic-calmed 30 km/h zones in residential areas as they would in a street with through-traffic and a 50 km/h speed limit.9
School streets create space for children
The school street scheme has proven to be successful in South Tyrol since the 1980s. In Austria, school streets were legally enshrined in the road traffic regulations in 2022. Similar measures had already been implemented in Austria before then. School streets are closed to motor traffic at defined times, such as the start and end of the school day. Emergency services, as well as residents, are granted exemptions to enter and leave school streets, but they are required to travel at walking pace.10 School streets help prevent traffic chaos outside school gates caused by parents driving their kids to school. They also encourage children to travel to school in an active way instead of being driven, especially if campaigns raise additional awareness for this measure.
Among the Austrian provincial capitals, Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck have already implemented school streets. Graz plans to introduce three school streets in 2023. Bregenz is currently preparing a concept for improving road safety outside schools; generally, a 30 km/h speed limit has been introduced outside schools. In addition, vehicular traffic is banned outside schools at certain times on school days, for example in Bregenz, Klagenfurt, Linz and Salzburg.11
Visibility of school streets is important
A school street is indicated by a uniform traffic sign with a supplemental sign showing the timings of the road closure. A simple way to make access restrictions more visible is the use of temporary physical barriers, such as expandable safety barriers or other mobile barriers. If authorised vehicles, such as vehicles used in an emergency for fire brigade services, have to access the street, they should be able to enter, leave or pass through quickly.
Physical barriers make school streets more effective, but they have to be set up and taken down by the school staff themselves. At the Vereinsgasse all-day primary school in Vienna, car traffic decreased by 52 per cent after the introduction of a school street, and by 68 per cent after the installation of expandable safety barriers.12
Children need more space
Cars take up a lot of space, both while moving and when parked, and this also creates problems outside schools. A slow-moving car takes up more than 40 square metres of road space while driving, a bike under eight square metres and a pedestrian only one square metre.13 That is why there are already campaigns all over Europe demanding more space for children and school streets around educational institutions. At the “Streets for kids” network, almost 600 campaigns across Europe are registered. In Austria, there are already 20 initiatives under way to cycle together with Kidical Mass.14
School street at Bad Hofgastein primary school
Following the creation of a school street at Bad Hofgastein primary school in Salzburg, the traffic chaos at school drop-off and pick-up times disappeared and no other roads in the vicinity of the school were heavily congested.
In addition, as part of school mobility management by klimaaktiv mobil, the school implemented a school route plan and three locations within walking distance where parents can park. The school route plan helps parents show their kids safe school routes. In May 2022, 18 per cent of the pupils scooted to school, which is a significant increase compared to 2020. The proportion of children being driven to school fell by half from twelve to six per cent. These kids are also dropped off at the pre-arranged locations for parents to park and walk the last part of the journey.22
Expanding school streets for more safety
School streets encourage active and safe mobility among children. Expanding this scheme, for example through an intuitive street design in the vicinity of schools or, where possible, all-day shared space or pedestrian zones with restricted access, makes a lot of sense.
In Paris, streets are turned into pedestrian zones when the vicinity of the school is redesigned. Using removable barriers or gates, the streets are closed to motor vehicles, while at the same time access is maintained, for example for emergency vehicles. As many as 40 streets have been converted into such “rues aux écoles” (streets at schools).15 In a bid to further enhance traffic calming, Bologna (Italy) has created “school squares”, where some car lanes are converted into walking and recreational areas for children.16
In Austria, for example, the school street in Märzstraße, Vienna, is redesigned to become a permanently car-free forecourt of the school.17 In Frohnleiten (province of Styria) a shared space was created around the secondary school and the adjacent municipal road was traffic-calmed.18 In Bregenz (province of Vorarlberg), the Schendlingen school was the first to implement a “Gut-Geh-Raum” (good walking space), which is closed to vehicular traffic from 7:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.19 In Vorarlberg’s association of so-called plan b municipalities, big painted crayons and coloured lane markings also point out schools and kindergartens.20
Enabling independent mobility
More measures are required to make our transport system child-friendly and to enable children to enjoy independent mobility. A school street is a useful instrument to ensure traffic calming. However, additional measures will be necessary to make the entire journey to school safer for children. This includes, for example, the redesign of streets and squares, reduced speed limits, safe footpaths and cycling paths or kerb extensions at intersections to provide better visibility. There are examples in Austria and Europe showing just how diversely the school environment can be designed.
Creating space for children instead of cars
A school street is a simple and cost-effective traffic-calming measure at the start and end of the school day. School streets can also be a first step towards creating a larger-scale traffic-calmed school environment. Children, as well as residents, will benefit from less noise, more safety and fewer emissions from car traffic, also outside school hours. School streets can help demonstrate to all stakeholders that traffic calming has many positive effects on the environment of the traffic-calmed streets.
Traffic calming outside schools and in residential areas enables children to enjoy independent mobility
- Implement school streets as an important step towards improved safety for children travelling to school.
- Make school streets a standard scheme and develop them into full-day traffic-calmed zones where possible.
Expansion of school streets creates space for active mobility
- Promote additional traffic-calming measures such as redesigning the vicinity of schools or creating shared space.
- Adapt the Austrian road traffic regulations (StVO) to also facilitate the implementation of lower speed limits on main roads in urban areas.
- Implement mobility management in educational and childcare facilities to enable sustainable and active mobility.
- Introduce school route plans to promote safe and independent travel to school.
Lina Mosshammer, VCÖ ‑ Mobility with a future
„A child-friendly transport system provides more space for active mobility. This will have huge benefits for climate protection, health and for the quality of life in cities and regions.“
VCÖ is responsible for the content and editing of the VCÖ factsheet. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the supporting institutions. This factsheet was produced with the financial support of the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology.
Kindergartens and schools receive free expert advice on mobility management. Just book the klimaaktiv mobil Mobicheck or make use of the various action and teaching packages as part of the mobility management for children and young people. Info: klimaaktivmobil.at/bildung
|1||vgl. Reiter, K.: Zukunftsweisende Umgestaltung des öffentlichen Raums. Wien: 2018||Weblink|
|2||vgl. Villanueva, K. u. a.: Where Do Children Travel to and What Local Opportunities Are Available? The Relationship Between Neighborhood Destinations and Children’s Independent Mobility. Environment and Behavior, 45(6), S. 679-705: 2012.||Weblink|
|3||vgl. Stark, J. u. a.: Exploring independent and active mobility in primary school children in Vienna. Journal of Transport Geography, 68, S. 31-41: 2018.||Weblink|
|4||Bmvit: Österreich unterwegs 2013/14. Anhang C, Teil 2, S. 1. Wien: 2016.||Weblink|
|5||Fonds Gesundes Österreich: Österreichische Bewegungsempfehlungen (Wissensband 17). Wien: 2020.||Weblink|
|6||siehe Quelle 3|
|7||Bmvit: Österreich unterwegs 2013/14. Anhang C, Teil 2, S. 1. Wien: 2016.||Weblink|
|8||Statistik Austria. Straßenverkehrsunfallstatistik - Unfälle mit Personenschaden. Wien: 2023.|
|9||Höfflin P.: Die Qualitäten urbaner Räume und deren Bedeutung für die Entwicklung von Kindern. Forum Wohnen und Stadtentwicklung, Child in the City, 1/2019.||Weblink|
|10||klimaaktiv: Die Schulstraße. 2023.||Weblink|
|11||Anfragen bei den Landeshauptstädten in 07/2023.|
|12||Rosinak und Partner: Pilotprojekt Schulstraße. Wien: 2018.||Weblink|
|13||VCÖ.2021. Details: Fußgänger 5 km/h 1 m2, Radfahrer 12 km/h 7,8 m2, Auto 25 km/h 1,5 Personen 40,6 m2|
|14||Clean Cities Campaign. Brussels: 2023.||Weblink|
|15||Ville de Paris: 180 „Rues aux Écoles“ dans Paris. Paris: 2023.||Weblink|
|16||Commune di Bologna: Al via i lavori per realizzare cinque piazze scolastiche in città. Bologna: 2023.||Weblink|
|17||Wien zu Fuß: Schulstraße – Wiener Modell. Wien: 2023.||Weblink|
|18||VCÖ-Mobilitätspreis: Einreichunterlagen „Frohnleiten Schule Begegnungszone“.|
|19||Energieinstitut Vorarlberg: Gut-Geh-Raum Bregenz. Dornbirn: 2021.||Weblink|
|20||Vmobil: Große Buntstifte und farbige Bodenmarkierungen für ein sicheres Schul- und Kindergartenumfeld.||Weblink|
|22||klimaaktiv: Volksschule Bad Hofgastein – klimaaktiv mobil. 2022.||Weblink|