Clean Cities Campaign (CCC): Tell us how your School Street came about?
IL: It all started with a pavement 2 years ago. This pavement was too narrow and dangerous for the school children to use to enter the school. From there we started to think about how to improve safety and mobility around the school. We thought widening the pavement, making the intersections safe and eventually creating a School Street which would also benefit 4 different schools.
CCC: What was the secret to achieving it?
IL: The first secret was believing in it! We started with a group of about 4 or 5 parents, and we involved politicians, local representatives and supportive associations. The idea of a School Street was suggested to us by a city councillor, and the first contacts with the Milan City Council were facilitated by a parent who was then President of the City Council.
We followed this up with meetings and emails (many of them!), and then mobilising with city associations (Legambiente and Cittadini per l’aria). Especially important was involving the school children.
CCC: What is the space like now?
IL: The School Street was created in an area with a very high density of cars and cement. There were no green spaces and there was nowhere to play. For the students of the Liceo Carducci and the primary and middle school at Giorgi it has now become an excellent space to play, study, have lunch, and spend time. Elderly people in the neighbourhood are also beginning to frequent it – we see that what young and old people need from public space is often very similar.
The School Street has made some road crossings safer. This definitely improves accessibility to school. The big advantage is that especially on the way out, there is now a space to play, stop, chat and socialise.
CCC: What challenges remain?
IL: The main challenge is to keep the new space alive and well. This street used to be a car park, so it had no identity as a meeting place. The risk is that once the school day is over, the space could become neglected. We need to engage more with people who opposed the project, particularly among those who have lost their parking spaces and among some apartment blocks. And we need to nurture a growing community of people who care about the street and will look after it.