Safe routes to school
Compared to other countries the level of car accidents in the Czech Republic has been getting worse since 2001 and our backwardness in Europe thus deepens. The number of deaths within 30 days in 2015 increased eg. even to 734, it is by 46 persons more than in 2014. Pedestrians still remain the most vulnerable road users. E.g. in Prague the number of fatalities in 2015 compared to 2014 increased from 20 to 25 persons and all five of these „extra“ victims were pedestrians. The number of accidents with children – pedestrians – is also increasing while fatalities thankfully not, which is probably due to the fact that the kids cannot move themselves around the city with regard to bad road safety.
Moreover, due to the traffic pollution Prague is the second dustiest city (after Ostrava) in the country and 2/3 of its population live in places with above-limit noise. A major factor to this unfortunate situation is the huge increase in private car traffic.
Because of this dangerous situation for children and because we want them to move more arend the city on foot or bikes we began the Safe Routes to School projects. In 2009, these projects became an official program of Prague in cooperation with Pražské Matky. Any school or educational institute in Prague can take part in these projects.
In regions outside Prague, the Parnterství Foundation implements the Safe Routes to School projects within their program On Green Light.
The aim of the project is therefore to increase safety for children on their daily routes to school and encourage them to walk to school or bicycle or use public transport. The projects also trie to improve children’s awareness of traffic rules and better inform them about sustainable methods of transport. The program Safety Routes to Schools was inspired by examples from e.g. Great Britain, Bronx in New York and other countries and cities. It draws on the experience we have collected in about forty Prague schools where we managed to improve the traffic infrastructure in thein neighbourhoods in favor of children pedestrians or cyclists.
Project Life Cycle
The first step is to organize a seminar for parents, children, teachers, representatives of public administration (local government and Transport Department of the relevant district and the Municipal Authority of Prague) and the Police, where the participants obtain basic information about the project, expected effects and an explanation of the principles of traffic calming. Each pupil obtains a map with school surroundings and with the help of their parents they mark the routes which they take to school and the places where they do not feel safe. At the same time the pupils fill in a questionnaire, explaining why the places are dangerous and what could be done to make them more safe. The pupils also describe the method how they get to school and how they would like to get to school. Questions may also be targeted to parents, whose opinion on transport of children can help complete the picture of the whole situation regarding transport habits and preferences in the given locality.
Children together combine their maps into class maps and then create a single school map containing the total of all routes to the school and the list of dangerous places, including their description. This output serves as a basis for a planner to perform a traffic study proposing solutions for dangerous or problem sections. The study is then presented to the Municipal Authority of the City of Prague and the relevant district as the basis for proposed adjustments to traffic design. In enforcement of these proposals the project coordinators work in cooperation with the school, Police, district and Department of Transport of the City of Prague. The cooperation between the children, teachers and parents on one side and the authorities on the other creates a significant educational effect. The children’s participation in the project represents an excellent education in transit issues and increases the sense of responsibility for public issues in general.
The schools engaged in the program are obligated to produce a “Mobility School Plan” – the school’s long-term strategy focused on safe and barrier-free routes and the support of environmentally friendly transport to school. This plan is created using the data acquired from the analysis of traffic safety in the area around the school and the questionnaire regarding the children’s transport preferences.
The funds provided by the City of Prague are used by the schools to perform transport studies and implement measures that support sustainable transport at the school (e.g. bicycle stands, showers, lockers, bicycles for cycling club, cycling trips, transport education etc.). Funds can also be used for remuneration of the senior teacher and school project consultant and minor administrative expenses.
A total of 38 schools or educational institutes have already mapped and planned the routes’ safety in cooperation with Pražské Matky and since 2007 also with Oživení association.
In 2009, the City of Prague assumed the Safe Routes to School as its own program in cooperation with both the associations.
We believe that by cooperation among the Prague Municipal Authority, the city districts, the Police of the Czech Republic, parents, children and teachers we will succeed in making the routes to schools safe in the most efficient manner and thus to protect lives and health not only of children but also of all the other pedestrians using the roads around schools. Moreover, children will be able to use safe streets more independently.
The SRS program has been already implemented by nearly 38 Prague schools and children’s facilities and dozens of measures have been taken as proposed within the program. You can find more information about projects in the individual schools, including photo-documentation, in our database of implemented projects.