Frome Safer School Streets scheme has received a boost following two years of development as it reaches the final stages of sign- off with Somerset Council’s Highways team. A Safer School Street is an area that limits vehicle access during school pickup and drop-off making it safer for people to walk, cycle or scoot to school. The Frome scheme includes Trinity School, Critchill School, Oakfield Academy, Avanti Park, and Bright Stars nursery. Construction work is due to begin in Autumn 2023, and it will be followed by an 18-month trial of the scheme beginning in Spring 2024.
The Frome Safer School Streets scheme aims to reduce traffic by restricting traffic and improving safety and making it safer and more attractive for families to walk, cycle or scoot to school. It is the first of a number of School Streets planned across Somerset and also introduces an extended 20 mile an hour zone. Importantly all residents who live in the Safer School Streets area will still be able to access their street without restriction as will buses and people with disabilities.
The funding from Somerset Council has attracted further investment from Sustrans, who look after the National Cycle Network. This will allow for a “quiet way” to be built along Somerset and Oakfield roads, to improve safety for cycling. Construction is then expected to begin in the Autumn, and it will take around 8 weeks to complete. Residents will receive a letter ahead of time to make them aware of any disruption.
Somerset Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital, Councillor Mike Rigby said: “We are really pleased to support this important scheme which will deliver a safe cycling, walking and wheeling route to school for a significant number of children and parents and will cut down on congestion and traffic during peak drop-off and pick-up times.
“Somerset Council is committed to improving active travel provision for people across the county and this trial will form an important part of that aim. We want to maximise opportunities for children to walk, cycle or wheel to school. The benefits are huge – both in terms of creating cleaner, greener streets, and in supporting children’s health and wellbeing.”
The trial of the Safer School Streets scheme won’t begin until the Spring 2024 to give it the best possible chance for success and will be for a period of 18 months. It will restrict vehicle access outside the school gates for short periods at pick-up and drop-off times and will reduce the build-up of traffic.
Families will be encouraged to walk, cycle or wheel to school where possible. Families who do need to travel by car will be able to do so and park a short distance from the schools to drop off their children safely if arriving during these times.
During the trial, Frome Town Council and Somerset Council will monitor traffic numbers, ways of travel and air quality. They will also consult with schools, pupils, parents and residents to assess the impact of the scheme. A decision will then be taken with the community to decide whether to make the scheme permanent.
Frome Town Councillor Carla Collenette said: “The Safer School Streets scheme has been developed over two years with significant engagement with the local community. Parents currently dropping off their children in this area will be very aware of the safety issues and chaos caused by traffic at the school gates. Doing nothing is simply not an option. We are emphasising that this is a trial, and we will continue to listen closely to people’s views and monitor the impact of the scheme over the 18-month period. My hope is it encourages many more families to walk and cycle if they can, and that this will make the roads safer, calmer and more enjoyable for everyone.”
Frome Town Council are working closely with the schools involved in the trial to support active travel through a series of activities, building on successful Active Travel Challenges over previous years. All pupils at the schools have been asked to support the scheme by filling in a questionnaire asking about how they travel to school.
This project is led by Frome Town Council in partnership with active travel charity Sustrans and Somerset Council, and will include Oakfield Academy, Trinity First School, Critchill School and Avanti Park. The final designs of the scheme will be available on Frome Town Council’s website once they have been signed off by Somerset Highways.