The “Safer Road to School” project
Traffic generated by parents driving their children to school by car is becoming an increasinly pressing issue in Bologna. The city wants to encourage children and their parents to choose sustainable modes for their trip to school and is working towards making these alternatives safer.
Implementing sustainable mobility
Traffic problems caused by parents taking their children to school by car is not a problem unique to Bologna but an issue that cities in many industrialised countries are struggling with. Bologna is eager to develop sustainable alternatives to reduce traffic and pollution around schools.
The main objectives of this measure are to:
- Increase road safety around schools;
- Reduce traffic generated by parents taking their children to school or picking them up by car; and
- Raise awareness of sustainable mobility among children.
The “Safer Road to School” project focuses on enhancing pedestrian safety as part of Bologna’s Urban Traffic Master Plan that was approved in 2007. It has been developed by several public institutions in cooperation with citizen associations. During the first phase of the project, research on types of road users and causes of accidents in five school areas has been concluded.
Within CIVITAS MIMOSA, the project will continue and innovative activities to enhance safety for school children will be implemented. Bologna wants to make bike paths safer by separating them from car traffic and improve safety where children are crossing roads. The city will introduce traffic calming measures and set up a so-called pedi-bus, a walking school bus where groups of children accompanied by a few parents walk along fixed routes. There are several stops along the route where children can join the pedi-bus similar to a regular bus route. The best route will be identified together with parents. Information campaigns will disseminate the achievements of the initiatives to get more parents and children on board. In addition, Bologna wants to extend the project to 15 other schools.
Bologna kicked off the measure with a preliminary study and analysis for the implementation of the mobility plan involving schools, parents and students. The research involved 15 nursery schools, 17 kindergartens, 16 primary schools and two junior high schools. Questionnaires were given to pupils and parents to assess the current situation and collect data for evaluation activities. The aim was not only to investigate their mobility habits and behaviors, but also the gaps between parents’ expectations and children’s imagination in relationship to mobility topics. Statistical data on traffic flows and accidents around schools was also compiled.
As first step, a safety zone around the primary school Felice Battaglia was approved and works on safety measures in the area were carried out. The planning phase and the selection of schools to pilot the pedi-bus (pupils walking together to school in a group led by an adult person) was completed in 2011. Five primary schools that have the biggest potential for the realisation of the project in terms of accessibility and high car use were selected for the project. Preliminary meetings with schools and district representatives to organise the pedi-bus project were held.
Concerning communication campaigns, schools were highly involved in the European Sustainable Mobility Week 2009 and 2010, particularly in some sessions on safe cycling. In 2010, the municipal police department ran a “Cycling safely” course for children on the Piazza Maggiore, the central square in Bologna where a mock cycling path was set up to teach children traffic signs and rules for safe cycling. At the end of the course, the children were awarded a symbolic cycling license and gadgets. During the two days that the course was offered, more than 200 children participated. The do-it-yourself bike fixing workshop was very popular during the European Mobility Week. At these workshops people can repair their bikes themselves with the help of experts. While waiting for their turn, people were informed about sustainable mobility in Bologna and were given information and promotion material. The police also organised several other trainings for kindergarten, primary and high school children to give them a better understanding of road safety. More than 1,000 primary school children have been trained. In a new project the police informed 280 teenagers who want to obtain a motorcycle licence on driving, basic mechanics and first aid in 47 training courses. Furthermore, a campaign on traffic safety and sustainable mobility was launched in primary schools with a drawing competition.
In May 2011 Emilia-Romagna Region held the stakeholder meeting “Community Planning for Safer Home-School Routes”. To promote the meeting and disseminate the measures among the stakeholders, a smart video was also produced (in Italian), downloadable from YouTube. In the same month a pedibus pilot project was kicked off in the elementary School San Domenico Savio. The project was a good test to implement the pedi-bus scheme in other schools. The pilot project, completed in June, consisted of five different pedi-bus routes; it involved about 40 pupils (out of 200 attending that the school). The pedi-bus required quite a dramatic change of habits in terms of children’d independence from their parents and safety perception. Therefore experts and psychologists were made available to assist parents. Fears about letting children go to school by themselves were addressed and parents were asked to think about urban mobility and the need for children to be physically active. Children were made aware of the road safety behavior required to join the pedi-bus, as well of cultural information along the routes. In the meantime pedi-bus passengers (i.e. children) received safety jackets and accessories to help them on their way. A special campaign to inform drivers on the pedi-bus activation was organised by the Municipality of Bologna in cooperation with the Municipal Police Department: children involved in the pilot distributed informative brochures to drivers to create awareness on the ongoing project. In June 2011 the Municipality called for the selection of a company to coordinate the activities related to the activation of the pedi-bus scheme in five selected schools. After having awarded the contract, the programme started during the 2011-2012 school year. In September, at the beginning of the school year, some meetings were organised to activate again the pedi-bus service. In June 2012 the pedi-bus scheme with two 15-minutes’ routes was extended to eight elementary schools,(including San Domenico Savio, where the service had been first activated in 2011), around which a set of safety initiatives, funded outside MIMOSA, (e.g. small-scale traffic calming works, parking places review, small roundabouts, redesigning crossroads and pedestrian crossings, signs etc…) was implemented. In two of the eight schools, the pedi-bus was organised and run independently by parents. The scheme started again in October 2012.
A project to increase the safety in the areas around nine selected elementary schools was also kicked off. It foresaw the realisation of safe pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes, roundabouts, intermediate traffic islands and the installment of traffic lights. The project was completed in Spring 2012.
In order to promote the measure “Safer roads to school”, several cultural and awareness raising events were implemented in the past years too. In May 2011 mini Olympic games on cycling and motorcycles involved 300 students. Furthermore, a set of training activities was organised:
- During EMW 2011, a course on "safe driving" for children was held by the Municipal Police Department in Piazza Maggiore. Children on bicycles were guided by officers through a cycle path drawn in the middle of Piazza Maggiore. Officers explained the meaning of road signs, the basic traffic rules and principles of a safe driving. At the end of the short course, children were prized with a symbolic driving license and gadgets to make them aware about road safety. The course was very successful, involving 777 children (over two days).
- Many training courses (both at schools and on the road) addressed to different types of schools (kindergartens, primary and high schools) were realised all the school year 2010-2011 through by the Municipal Police to disseminate a better knowledge on road safety.
- From October 2010 to April 2011 a special project addressed to 5-years-old children was started, with bike rides and puppets show (1980 children involved).
- During 2011, the “alcohol is not cool programme” involved high school students with class lessons and on-road courses to inform teenagers about the risks of drug and alcohol consumption. Students also shadowed the Police during night-time checks on car drivers (in 2010-2011-2012).
- Fifty special projects (such as moped driving courses with the use of driving simulators, practical lessons and first aid notions that involved 500 students) were organised.
- From January to April 2011, 57 training courses for junior and high school students were held by the Municipal Police Department to award a driving licences for moped. 1,100 students were involved.
How deeply road safety and sustainable urban mobility are interconnected was addressed, on 12 December 2011 in Bologna, at the public conference “Safety in cities” organized by Camina (an association which promotes a child and teenager friendly city concept) and Emilia-Romagna Region under MIMOSA.
The meeting provied the opportunity to focus on the efforts undertaken by the Emilia-Romagna Region to promote road safety and, in particular, to boost pedi-bus experiences. With 500.000 Euros, RER has co-financed the bottom-up planning of 10 home-school routes, involving all the stakeholders (parents, schools, local administrations and bodies). As far as road safety is concerned, the Emilia-Romagna Region has reached the European goal to halve, within 2010, the dead victims of road casualties, although many critical aspects still need to be carefully tackled and solved. By the end of 2011, 305 interventions for a total amount of 70 million Euros were implemented by the Emilia-Romagna Region, which also runs an Observatory devoted to road education and safety. In 2012 a new communication campaign to reduce road accidents started which involves motorcyclists too.
To evaluate measure success, three key results of the impact evaluation pointed out the achievements of the measure:
- firstly, an increase of 28% of students involved in the cooperation process was observed between 2008/2009 and 2011/2012,
- secondly, more students affirmed that they would not drive after drinking alcohol: from 65% before the training to 84% after shadowing exercise of road control by night,
- thirdly, more than 20% of the students enrolled in the eight elementary schools participated in the ‘Pedi-bus’.
The achievement of road safety improvement in the surroundings of schools as well as the trainings with parents, children and school employees had to be achieved prior to the launch of the ‘Pedi-bus’ activities. The ‘Pedi-bus’ was therefore the last activity implemented and had proved to be the activity which affected most significantly the modal shift of parents and children in the frame of the measure. Furthermore, the bundled indicator (accidents, people injured and killed throughout the Municipality of Bologna included in the analysis) showed a significant reduction: 21.1% fewer accidents from 2010 to 2007 (the last year without any Mimosa measures) and 21.65 fewer people injured over the same period.