Traffic calming: School streets in Prague

Publikováno: 15. září. 2023, 18 min. čtení
Publikováno: 15. září. 2023, 18 min. čtení

Why is it appropriate to calm traffic around schools? How is it done in other countries, what can Czech cities, especially Prague, draw inspiration from, and what legislation do we have in this area? We are reprinting the first of three articles on specific sustainable transportation topics prepared by the AutoMat association.

This is an article by the AutoMat NGO.

The text was created as part of the Central European Active Mobility Lab (CEAML) project supported by the European Climate Foundation. The original text was published on the AutoMat NGO’s website on June 6, 2023.

The text was prepared by Michal Kalina, the head of the AutoMat LAB, with expert consultation provided by Karolína Klímová from the Prague City Council’s Traffic Department. The aim of the text is to present one of the measures leading to traffic calming around schools, namely school streets. It describes foreign practices, Czech legislation, the pilot project of the Prague City Council, and other implementations, including their evaluation.

School streets in general and the situation abroad

As the number of cars in cities increases, so does the number of parents who drive their children to school. This often applies to suburban areas where residents commute by car. However, congestion caused by cars is also a problem in parts of inner cities. According to a survey by the Prague Mothers‘ Association (now Pěšky městem), up to 46% of parents in Prague transport their children to school by car at least once a week, even though their residence is within 1 kilometer. They justify this mainly by the fact that the school is on their way to work and consider it the fastest solution. On the other hand, 55% of parents would welcome traffic restrictions in front of schools. According to Pěšky městem, parked and turning cars endanger children at schools, and the concentration of vehicles measurably worsens air quality.

Similarly, according to the Manual for Implementing School Streets in the City of Prague (hereinafter referred to as the Manual), the first version of which was published by the city in 2020, the trend of so-called „mom taxis“ has „many negative consequences in the social, environmental, and – due to the lack of physical activity leading to worsened physical condition and increased illness – also economic sphere.“ The National Report on Physical Activity of Czech Children and Youth 2022 also states that nearly half of children and adolescents in the Czech Republic are not sufficiently physically active (only 58% engage in the recommended amount of physical activity, and only 66% use active transportation for their journey to or from school).

The situation can be influenced by changing the traffic regime around schools, and one common solution is the implementation of school streets. Among the first European cities where such measures were implemented was Bolzano in northern Italy in the early 1990s. Schools there faced the problem of managing traffic during morning and afternoon peak hours, so they temporarily transformed the streets into car-free zones and successfully eliminated traffic congestion in front of schools. Over time, the project evolved, and the municipality began to address related measures as well, such as alternative means of transporting children to individual schools, primarily walking and public transportation. Guards oversee pedestrian crossings at the beginning of the school day, and assistants are also available on buses. Additionally, every morning, „pedibuses“ – groups of children with designated adult escorts – depart from several locations.

School streets also receive strong support in the United Kingdom. According to an analysis conducted in 2022, there were over 500 school streets in London alone at that time. The first school street was implemented in the Camden district in 2017, and in response to the coronavirus pandemic, an additional 400 school streets were gradually introduced, with the majority being financed by the City of London. The study defines a school street as a road „with time-limited motor traffic restrictions during the times when pupils are being delivered to and collected from school. Typically, this means one to two hours at the start and end of the school day. School streets provide additional space that promotes active mobility and provides a safer, healthier, and more pleasant environment for parents and children.“

There can also be a paradox where parents justify using a car out of concern for the safety of their children due to excessive traffic. As an example, here is a quote from an evaluation of the pilot project at Masaryk Elementary School in Prague-Klánovice: „Well, in general, I have a problem with letting my second-grader go alone. He is a dreamer, always with his head in the clouds, and releasing him into the increased traffic in the surrounding streets doesn’t sit well with me. Since I continue to work by car, it’s unrealistic for me not to drive to school.“

School streets from the perspective of Czech legislation and traffic rules

The implementation of school streets in the Czech environment typically occurs in two ways: either as a temporary traffic adjustment within a pilot project or as a permanent modification. In both cases, documentation of the traffic engineering measures (specific design and placement of traffic signs) is created. The relevant road administration authority evaluates the proposal, obtains an opinion from the Czech Police, and issues a measure of a general nature in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act and the Road Act (Act No. 500/2004 Coll. and Act No. 361/2000 Coll.). In the case of temporary adjustments, all necessary procedures are typically completed within a week, while permanent traffic modifications take at least two months (posting on official notice boards and a thirty-day period for comments, followed by posting the final version on the notice board again).

Once the measure becomes legally effective, it is possible to adjust the traffic signage or install barriers in the new school street. The Manual recommends placing traffic signs „approximately one week in advance, along with indicating the duration of validity – drivers will notice the changes in time and better adapt to the new conditions.“ After a certain period of time, an evaluation of the school street implementation is recommended, which can include an electronic questionnaire for parents and students, as well as documentation of driver behavior. To ensure the functioning of a school street, it is beneficial to engage volunteers (e.g., parents) to manage entrance barriers and seek cooperation from the municipal or local police in enforcing the traffic regulations.

School streets in Prague

The creation of school streets in Prague started with a delay compared to Western European countries, and there have been only a few cases in the past three years. More common forms of traffic calming, rather than restrictions, have included reducing the maximum speed limit to 20 or 30 km/h and adjusting crossings and traffic signs. The Prague Mothers‘ Association, now known as Pěšky městem, focuses on traffic calming projects around schools as part of their Safe Routes to School program. The proposed road modifications are then implemented by the responsible authority, either the Technical Road Administration funded by the City of Prague or the respective municipal district from its own budget.

The aforementioned Manual was created by the Prague City Council in 2020 as a result of the „School Street“ pilot project. From September 7 to September 25, 2020, a temporary school street traffic regime was introduced near selected schools, including a 30-minute vehicle entry ban in front of the school. The schools selected for the project, such as the previously mentioned primary school in Prague-Klánovice, were facing increased traffic of students transported by cars. According to Čistou stopu Prahou, a news source, the school street regime was permanently implemented at ZŠ Stoliňská following the conclusion of the pilot project. In 2021 and 2022, two school streets were added thanks to the efforts of parents, schools, and the local government: one at ZŠ Hanspaulka and another at ZŠ a MŠ Na Dlouhém lánu in Prague 6. In both cases, after evaluation, it was decided to maintain the traffic measures permanently. In Klánovice, a trial operation of the school street took place in 2022 but was later suspended (see below).

Evaluation of school streets in Prague

For all the mentioned school streets in the capital city, a pilot or trial operation was conducted with subsequent evaluation. The results and progress of the evaluation for each school are described below.

ZŠ Stoliňská and FZŠ Chodovická – in the case of these two schools in Prague 20, which were part of the municipal pilot project, preparations for implementing a school street took place from April to September 2020. The trial operation took place in September, and the evaluation ran from October to November. During this period, the municipal council (based on the evaluation and recommendations of the working group) decided to change the temporary traffic regime to a permanent one at ZŠ Stoliňská. At FZŠ Chodovická, the temporary traffic signage remained in place until November 30, 2020, and the traffic situation was addressed in the broader vicinity using other measures.

Data was collected during the pilot project for subsequent evaluation. Based on surveys among students, the modal share of transportation to school was determined. Surveys of driver behavior in the vicinity were conducted before and after the implementation of the school street at both schools. Additionally, the project team collected feedback from the public, including an electronic questionnaire. In that questionnaire, 205 respondents (79.2%) expressed support for continuing the school street. The summary evaluation of the pilot project is shown in the image from the presentation „School Streets in Prague“ below:

ZŠ Hanspaulka – A trial operation of a school street took place on Na Čihadle Street in front of ZŠ Hanspaulka from September 7 to October 11, 2021. Towards the end of the trial period, an anonymous online questionnaire was launched, which was sent to parents, students, and school staff, and made available to residents on the school’s website. According to the project evaluation, a total of 308 respondents participated (of which 86% were parents of students), and 89% of them expressed their support for continuing the school street as a permanent measure (see graphs below for more details). As a result, at the request of the school administration and the school’s Friends Club, the Prague 6 Municipal District Traffic Department changed the temporary measure to a permanent one.

ZŠ a MŠ Na Dlouhém lánu – In March 2021, the school was selected for the Safe Routes to School project (as mentioned above). In early June, the children presented the results of a questionnaire survey and mapping of problematic areas. The survey results showed that 48% of children rated the morning traffic in front of the school as unpleasant, and 51% of parents welcomed traffic calming measures at the school. A working group consisting of a designer, representatives from the municipal district, and other authorities discussed proposals for addressing problematic areas and created a traffic study for implementing a school street in front of the primary and nursery school (Nechanského Street) and other traffic safety modifications in the vicinity. The school street regime started operating there on April 4, 2022, and after one month, an evaluation questionnaire was launched, with 79% of parents expressing their support for maintaining the measures.

Masarykova ZŠ Klánovice – From May 16 to the end of the school year, a trial operation of a school street took place on V Soudním and Smržovská streets in front of Masarykova ZŠ. In June, a survey was conducted among parents and students regarding the project, as mentioned above, with the participation of 28% of parents and 3% of students. The survey results were not definitive: 35% of parents responded that they wanted to end the school street project, 33% wanted it to remain permanent, and 15% of parents were more inclined to prefer it to remain permanent. According to information from the municipal district, the project is currently being evaluated, and a decision on whether it is a suitable solution will be made at an unspecified time. However, according to the website, the assessment of the project by the municipal council’s leadership is as follows: „The results are quite clear. School streets yes, but it is necessary to address the relocation of cars that create congestion in adjacent streets and increase safety at the Medinská × V Soudním intersection.“


Based on the information provided, conditions have been created in Prague in recent years to expand the implementation of school streets, one of the traffic calming tools for schools. It is evident that Prague is lagging behind Western Europe in this regard, with only three officially designated permanent school streets. However, according to the current statement from the Department of Transportation of the City of Prague (Transport Development Division), in collaboration with Pěšky městem, two more school streets are being prepared: one at ZŠ Solidarita in Prague 10 and another at ZŠ Pod Žvahovem in Prague 5, with the pilot operation starting from this September. ZŠ Praha-Radotín has also expressed interest. Therefore, it can be expected that the number of school streets will increase.

The developed and freely available Manual, as well as the opportunity for collaboration with nonprofit organizations, offer a relatively simple and fast solution for many preschools and elementary schools in Prague, bringing significant improvements to traffic safety. It also promotes better physical fitness for children and increases their independence, such as when they exit their parents‘ cars at a greater distance or choose alternative modes of transportation, such as public transport, bicycles, or scooters. The evaluations of pilot projects in Prague from the perspective of parents and children have generally been positive.

Similarly to other traffic calming measures, individual assessment in relation to the surrounding area is necessary for school streets. Experts therefore recommend identifying the most significant issues first, reaching a consensus through subsequent discussions, and considering the next steps. Typically, a combination of multiple tools is beneficial, including educational initiatives and, if necessary, construction modifications or closures.

This is an adjusted ChatGPT translation of this article:

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