Near the Joseph-Lotte school group, located in the Nord-Saint-Martin residential area, in Rennes, the smiles of children and parents shine at the start of the day. On his balance bike, a schoolboy slaloms in the middle of the road leading to school, closely followed by two friends on scooters. Reassured by the lack of a car, some parents manage to keep an eye on their offspring and take the time to chat in a relaxed atmosphere.
If this is possible, thanks to “streets to schools” system, it has been tested by the city of Rennes since April 25. The principle: removable barriers block the street where the entrance to the school is located, thus reserving space for pedestrians, cyclists and scooters. Traffic will be cut off during peak times, ie every morning, between 8.20am and 8.50am, and 12 noon on Wednesday, between 11.50am and 12.20pm. Residents are still allowed to enter and exit the street, but continue driving at a maximum speed of 20 km/h.
In Rennes, two school groups had the first of the device?: Joseph-Lotte and the Gantelles in the Maurepas district. The implementation follows the “Pedestrian Streets for Schools” project, which was chosen by the citizens in 2021 for the city’s participation budget. The aim is to draw inspiration from what is being done in other major cities to allow children to go to school without fear of being run over by a car.
For some parents, such an initiative came much too late. “Before school, we have all witnessed situations where we had to grab a child by the neck at the last minute to avoid being run over by a car,” said Joanna, mother of two. – Lotte School. “Fortunately, we didn’t wait for a tragedy to change things. †
Beneficial for health
Yet another goal: to provide some daily exercise for all children. “Recent studies show that about 50% of children aged 3 to 10 are taken to school by car,” said Valérie Faucheux, mobility assistant for the city of Rennes. “It is also a health issue. Since the incarceration, there has been a decline in sports activities in this age group… In addition, if they stay at home in front of a screen, the trip to school becomes very important. We can also add that regulating car access around schools makes it possible to limit noise and air pollution. †
For parents who live far away and who have no choice but to go to school by car, a quick stop has been set up less than 300 meters from the branches. Something to please everyone? “We just had a father in the car shouting at us for the first week by calling us Rennes swear because he had to park 200 meters away and walk a bit to pick up his son,” says Antoine, father of the little one. Anatole, who had put the project on the participation budget. “But in general it has become very quiet around the school, there is less tension. †
New schools involved in 2023
Given the general enthusiasm, a vote was finally taken at the beginning of June on the sustainability of the system. In summer, more or less permanent barriers are installed at Joseph-Lotte and Gantelles. If demand is high and there are no major technical constraints, other schools could do the same experiment next year.
“We hope to deploy this device in several other schools in the city, but we will not do it in an authoritarian way, it will be according to the configurations,” specifies Valérie Faucheux. “We will be launching reflections during the first quarter of next school year’s school councils and we will probably conduct new experiments in the spring of 2023.”