Idling action and School Streets – May 2020 update

Bristol City Council has two schemes to influence driver behaviour to help reduce air pollution – Idling action and School Streets. The pilot Idling Action project ran from January to March 2020 and the first two School Streets schemes started from February 2020 – see earlier article

Lauren Curl from the Council’s Sustainable Transport team reports progress below. The team would welcome feedback on the schemes, or any sustainable travel related thoughts, comments and ideas for the future. Send your suggestions to , and we will forward them on.

Idling Action

As with most of the council’s campaigns, the No Idling initiative has had to be put on hold to prioritise communications regarding COVID-19. It would not be appropriate or effective to be continuing with it under the current circumstances.

With the situation changing daily, it is impossible to say when the No Idling campaign might be reactivated. No decisions have been made in principle either way, and if there is appetite within communities, subject to resources, we see it would be beneficial to continue to develop and roll out of the campaign as and when appropriate. This will be when social distancing restrictions are eased and traffic levels rise, It also depends on what key messages are needed and campaigns are happening at the time across the council and the city.

In summary of the No Idling campaign so far, the first phase from Jan-March 2020 focused on activities in and around schools, with over 1400 pupils engaged in air quality activities across 3 schools (5 assemblies and 38 classroom sessions), plus 3 busy after-school Travel Roadshow events, including the Eco team from one school staging their own protest about the pollution from traffic outside their school. Idling Action volunteers heard from parents that their children had asked them to switch the engine off even at traffic lights, so it seems the message was effectively getting home via the schools activity. These are now part of the free activities offered to schools who participate in the active travel accreditation programme, Modeshift Stars, which will continue when schools resume and are ready to receive visitors to facilitate these activities.

Alongside this, we ran citywide communications on temporary street signage during events, billboards, radio campaign, social media and a press release, with the campaign being featured throughout Emma Britton’s Breakfast show on BBC Radio Bristol on the 4th March and an article in the Bristol Post. The hope would be to continue to develop the Idling Action engaging directly with drivers (piloted at the schools events), which tested out the approach modelled by London Idling Action. A couple of learning points from this were that volunteers felt engagement with drivers was more effective whilst school events were running and felt more empowered to do this under the campaign (with branded hi-vis etc) and the temporary street signage aided getting the message across.

There is of course hope that there will be no need for the campaign as people have been able to see how much cleaner the air is without the pre-COVID traffic levels, and hope that this will motivate people to change their own travel habits to support this and keep the positive aspects of the lockdown, transferring their new walking and cycling levels to their commutes to work, school and local journeys. Supporting people to do this will certainly be a focus when people do eventually return to work and school.

School Streets

The parking restrictions at the two schools that launched in February 2020 will resume in September, assuming it is safe to do so. We are looking into what else we can do in the short term to support primary schools during term 6, such as identifying ‘park and strides’.

We are working with our colleagues in Community Development to look at how we can shape and adapt our active travel offers across communities, which needs to begin with the question of what do people most need to walk and cycle safely during social distancing now and as we come out of lockdown? Where are resources most needed?

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