01/09/2016 – Four out of ten children who were involved in a traffic accident between 2010 and 2012 were on their way from or to school. Are school routes unsafe? What can cities and municipalities do to improve the road safety? Route2school helps them to see the wood for the trees.
In 2013, more than 2000 road casualties happened in the age category of children from 0 to 14 years old. On weekdays, most of the accidents happen on the way to and from school: in the morning between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., after school time between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.. The largest peak happens on Wednesdays between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., a time that also coincides with the end of a school day. That appears from the statistics that the Traffic Safety Center and the Belgian Road Safety Institute (BIVV) announced at the beginning of this year. In order to reduce the number of traffic accidents and to improve road safety in the school environments, schools and municipalities must take measures.
Understanding a problem is, however, an essential condition for solving a problem. “With the Route2school project, we help schools and municipalities to thoroughly analyse the road safety of school routes and the travel behaviour of pupils. We interview children, parents, teachers, management, cyclists’ associations and youth clubs. How do they go to school? On foot, by bike or with public transport? Which route do they take? How do they experience this route? Which bottlenecks do they meet along the way? Which solutions do they propose? With answers to all of these questions, we look for a suitable solution together with the municipality, police and schools,” so says project leader Kevin Clijmans (Transportation Research Institute – IMOB, UHasselt).
Digitale school route map
The Route2school application works easily. Users enter the route that they travel daily to and from school. Standard, the route is safe and coloured in green. Afterwards, the user can split the route in segments and indicate per segment if he or she feels ‘sometimes safe, sometimes unsafe’ or even ‘unsafe’ on that part of the trip. If the route is ‘sometimes safe, sometimes unsafe’ it is coloured in orange, otherwise it is red. Next, information is asked about mobility bottlenecks that occur on that route. The developers embedded a form in the application to receive more details about the mobility bottleneck. The users need to define the type of problem, describe the problem and propose a solution. The user can also upload a picture.
Kevin Clijmans (IMOB, UHasselt): “We transform this information into a digital school route map, which can be consulted at the website, as well as on the smartphone application. Therefore, the school route map is made for and by pupils. If children have doubts on what to do on their way to school while facing a bottleneck, they can open the application on their smartphone. There they can find more information about the bottleneck: a description, a picture and advice to get safely past the bottleneck.”
Final report as starting point
After the analysis, Route2school delivers a final report and the digital school route map, but the project does not stop here: “Our analysis serves as a basis to take the next steps,” says Kevin Clijmans. “We keep in touch with the municipality and regularly bring the digital school route map back on the agenda. ‘The first bottleneck has been eliminated, which one is next?’” Route2school hopes to implement the digital school route map into the curriculum.
The Route2school team is currently travelling through Flanders and has already stopped in Zemst in Flemish Brabant. There are still other projects in Flemish cities and municipalities on the rise. District Antwerpen, Bilzen, Riemst, Hoeselt, Bornem, Puurs, Sint-Amands, Overpelt, Stabroek and Maarkedal have already signed up for Route2school. These projects will start fall 2016.