Using our urban design skills to ensure parking safety at local school

Matt Thirsk, Landscape Architect, is involved with his local primary school to try and alleviate the problems arising from dangerous and inconsiderate parking during the school run. Having witnessed the parking and traffic problems firsthand he decided that a solution was needed to increase the safety of pedestrians and residents. Below, he tells us how the project has developed.

Applying a range of my landscape architecture skills, I developed a series of visuals to show how things could be improved and presented them to the Headteacher as well as to the Local Councillor and the council’s Principal Highways’ Engineer.

This opportunity was supported by JBA to help the local community as well as broaden the portfolio of our Landscape team.

Parking up the wrong tree

The school is located within a busy residential estate in North Leeds meaning on street parking opportunities are limited due to the volume of cars owned by the local residents. This doesn’t deter parents and carers from following the school run mantra of ‘must get as close to the school gates as possible’ which in turn brings confrontation and frustration.

Those residents who do have a driveway can often find their access is restricted or even blocked which is just part of the inconsiderate manoeuvres that also includes parking on junctions, across drop kerbs and on grass verges.

The situation has developed because the housing estate and the school were developed in an era before car ownership became so common place. The roadside space is already struggling to accommodate the volume of cars belonging to residents.

The parking by some residents also leaves a lot to be desired and coupled with the extra volume twice a (working) day the pressure to find somewhere to park is exacerbated resulting in a free for all creating a genuine risk for pedestrians.

Bumps in the road

JBA Urban design school parking before
Before picture identifying where the urban design would be implemented.

I identified several areas where defined parking could possibly be created ensuring that they were sufficiently sized to accommodate a minimum of five cars. Once the proposal was finished I contacted the school to arrange a meeting with the Headteacher to discuss the details and agree a way forward.

The meeting was very productive, and the Headteacher would support any improvements that made things safer for the pupils as well as reducing conflict for the residents. The ideas were well received by the Headteacher and although the school’s influence on these matters doesn’t extend beyond the gates, I was given contact details for individuals within Leeds City Council who may be interested to see the ideas.

I circulated the proposal to a number of the contacts and received positive responses for the ideas that had been produced. It was suggested that a meeting on site, at the time of the morning school run, would be beneficial as part of the discussions on how the ideas would work in practice.

New Year, old problem

I met up with the local councillor and the council’s Principal Engineer for Traffic Management on a cold, damp January morning to walk over the site and witness a chaotic traffic jam condensed into a 20-minute window that was no doubt being repeated simultaneously elsewhere across Leeds.

Unfortunately, due to budget constraints it wouldn’t be feasible to carry out all the proposed improvements. We focused on one which would provide space so that residents’ cars are not clustering around the main junction used for entering the estate.

This junction is particularly dangerous as vehicles entering the estate can’t always clear the busy road from which they are exiting meaning the impact of bad parking isn’t just confined to within the estate.

It was also proposed to extend the current parking restrictions from this junction further along the road to dissuade parking and encourage drivers to move further into the estate where the density is less. There were also discussions around creating parking spaces nearer to the school although this will require further investigation by the Council to assess the feasibility.

Overall the changes may mean an additional five minutes onto the school run for some but longer term they should help to improve the safety for all affected by the current situation.

Want to know more?

Contact Matt Thirsk for more information on the proposals and the beneficial things he learnt. You can also visit our Landscape Design and Assessment web page for more information on the variety of projects we can assist you with.

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