News / Transport

Car ban trialed at Brunswick school

The aim of the Open Streets initiative is to make public streets safer for recreation

Students outside the school in Stewart Street. Photo: Bicycle Network via Twitter.

Staff reporter
Monday, March 20, 2021

A BRUNSWICK school has been the site of a radical trial in closing streets to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists over motorists.

Stewart Street outside Brunswick East Primary School was closed for drop off and pick up of students for three Fridays in March in an experiment to modify traffic behaviour and create a safer environment for students.

It saw the street taken over by kids on scooters, bikes and skateboards before and after school.

The Open Streets trial co-ordinated by cycling advocacy organisation Bicycle Network and Moreland City Council is part of an initiative to promote the use of public streets for recreation, mobility and leisure-time activities. It is modeled on a similar project in the UK.

The section of Stewart Street between Cunnington Avenue and Nicholson Street is usually teeming with traffic in the morning and afternoon as motorists pass through dropping off and picking off students, as well as commuting to work.

But on March 5, 12 and 19, it was closed to motor vehicles between 8am and 9.30am and between 3pm and 4.30pm so it could be used exclusively by people riding, walking, scooting and skating with no congestion and car traffic.

“Car congestion around the school gate is stressful for parents, students and teachers and sitting in cars instead of walking and bike riding means our kids are missing out on exercise and social interaction,” said Bicycle Network’s general manager for behaviour change, Leyla Asadi.

“Open Streets tackles these issues by supporting students and their families to actively travel in a fun and vibrant environment.”

Ahead of the trial, information flyers were distributed to the school community and residents. Residents within the Open Street zone were still able to enter and exit their properties with help from traffic managers, while parents who drove their students to school were required to park their cars nearby and complete the trip on bike or foot.

“This is such a great initiative to open up the streets to children walking and riding to school, without the car traffic, to encourage more active, connected and happier communities on our streets,” said Moreland Mayor Annalivia Carli Hannan.

“We’ve provided funding towards this program which will also create space for exercising, having fun and being healthy, and we hope to support more initiatives like this in the future.”

One of the reasons why Brunswick East was chosen for the trial was the school’s high participation rate in the annual Ride2School program. More than 50 per cent of Brunswick East students currently ride, walk, scoot or skate to school, more than double the national average.