09/08/2017 – After a successful pilot study in the Antwerp district, all nine districts of Antwerp will sign in for Route2School, a project by the Transportation Research Institute of Hasselt University and Abeona Consult. “After all, Antwerp is a cycling city”, says the mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever. “If we want more people, particularly students and pupils, on their bikes, then we need to keep providing safe cycling paths and routes.”
September last year: district Antwerp decided to map students’ school routes with assistance from Route2School. District chairman Paul Cordy explains why the city agreed on collaborating with Route2School: “We were charmed by the method they follow. In terms of road safety, it portrays not only the bottlenecks, but also the quality of existing roads with colour codes.” Thanks to this approach, direct solutions can be sought.
“With the information we receive from the bottleneck reports, we can get started right away,” so says the urban States-General of road safety. “Some bottlenecks can be handled easily and with a limited budget. For others, we need to look for possibilities in the long term. Nevertheless, the goal is to create a broad network of ‘green’ and thus safe city routes.”
Moreover, also the success of Route2School in Zemst was a decisive factor in starting the cooperation. Meanwhile, the project is also active in other cities across Flanders including Peer, Zulte and Puurs.
Expansion to all Antwerp districts
Within the ‘Citizen Budget 2016’, already five high schools in the Antwerp district have enthusiastically collected data about their school environment and made the pilot project such a great success. There, Antwerp decided to extend the collaboration and expand it to the other eight districts of Antwerp, namely Berchem, Berendrecht-Zandvliet-Lillo, Borgerhout, Deurne, Ekeren, Hoboken, Merksem and Wilrijk.
“Road safety is a priority for the Education Policy of the city,” says the chairman of education Claude Marinower. “After all, there are about 450 schools in Antwerp, which means more than 100.000 students. Most of these students, particularly in high school, travel to school by bike. Pupils from elementary schools often come by foot. It is important that they can travel safely from their home to school. Therefore, the Antwerp Government Agreement 2013-2018 included that we will work on mapping student’s school routes in this period.”
A digital school route map
Thus, for the next four years, Route2School will halt in all the districts of Antwerp. “We start in Merksem. Afterwards, Ekeren and Wilrijk will follow”, so says Prof. Dr Davy Janssens (IMOB, Hasselt University), who is closely involved within the project. The school route maps will be digitally supplied. The city can observe closely and react rapidly thanks to these digital maps.
“On the one hand, the maps illustrate the issues with a detailed description and visual material. On the other hand, we can adjust the maps easily once the bottlenecks are solved,” so says the States-General. “It gives us the opportunity to diffuse current information about temporary obstacles, and indicate discomfort and changed traffic conditions.” Nevertheless, these are not the only two advantages. When we look into the future, the digital version can also be very important. “This map creates the possibility to plan a ‘traffic educational route’, based on the collected information. This route will learn children to proceed safely in traffic. In the long term, it has to be possible to lay out alternative routes tailor-made to active traffic users and based on the safety qualifications.”