Daily journeys between home and the work place or school constitute a significant part of urban transport and generate excessive demand on the road network during peak times. This leads to heavy congestion. Donostia-San Sebastian took a proactive approach targeting pupils and employees to opt for sustainable modes.
Implementing sustainable mobility
Donostia-San Sebastian was willing to change the travel habits of pupils, their parents and teachers at ten schools in the city. At the same time, the city targeted people working in three selected business districts. At the start of the project, 95 percent of these employees were commuting to work by car.
The main objectives of the measure were to:
- Raise awareness of sustainable urban transport among pupils and employees;
- Reduce the number of private car trips; and
- Reduce congestion and pollution.
Donostia-San Sebastian wanted to educate the two selected target groups as to why they should use collective modes of transport for their daily trips to school or work and back, and what benefits this will have for them personally and for society at large. The municipality wanted to teach school children road safety and cycling skills, while also increasing road safety in the areas around the schools, for example through speed controls. The measureentailes the implementation of walking-to-school programmes and pedestrian school bus schemes.
Donostia-San Sebastian also engaged with employers and employees to come up with mobility plans to promote more sustainable travel choices. In cooperation with managers from the Zuatzu, Miramon, and Belartza business district, commuter travel plans were developed. Employees were actively involved in the design of schemes to reduce car traffic, increase cycling and walking, and introduce programmes for car pooling and car sharing.
In 2009, a first pilot project was launched at one school and a diagnostic study to develop school mobility plans was completed. Following this pilot experience, in 2010, surveys were conducted at ten selected schools, aimed at analysing travel behaviour and its associated factors among the different groups who travel to the school every day, and identifying the main barriers to sustainable mobility in school-based mobility. Travel plans were rolled out in 2011, developing two fundamental streams of work:
- Infrastructure improvements to promote changes in mobility behaviour in the family environment (and the educational community at large: students, teachers and parents).
- The second stream is developed together with teachers and parents associations to raise awareness of the need to promote a behavioural change in school-based mobility.
Awareness rising events for children and parents were organised. In particular, 60 workshops in 24 schools within the city were held, engaging over 2,500 pupils, 60 teachers and 3,500 parents. Ideas collected led to physical interventions to increase safety conditions around the schools as a key factor to promote sustainable modes of transport, namely non-motorized mobility.
After a first preparatory phase, a series of activities were presented and implemented, including:
- The way-to-school: constitution of walking and cycling groups;
- Road safety programme: plan, design and implement physical interventions to improve traffic safety around schools, based, among other criteria, on suggestions made by pupils;
- Cycling promotion: training and examination of cycling skills and traffic behaviour;
- Information and promotion campaign for the opening of the new Morlans cycling tunnel.
Physical interventions included elevated crosswalks, improved sidewalks, new crosswalks painting, traffic light green phase correction, traffic calmed by cushions, narrowing of circulation lanes, implementation of new traffic lights, painting of loading and unloading reserved areas, containers moving and relocation, sidewalks with bollards protection, arrangement of traffic systems, penalties for illegal parking, new signposting placement and installation of bicycle parking spaces. In parallel, the municipality of DSS developed five Commuter Travel Plans for five employment/business areas (Zuatzu, Miramón, Igara, Poligono 27 and Belartza). Based on a comprehensive research phase aimed at the understanding of travel behaviour in each business area, particularly the high incidence of car use and the reasons behind such car dependency levels, Commuter Travel Plans identify actions to reduce car use, the promotion of cycling and walking and the introduction of programmes for car-pooling and car-sharing, together with an effective monitoring and evaluation plan. It was planned that the implementation of the foreseen actions would started right after the presentation of the Action Plans in each industrial and business are. Unfortunately, while all of these Action Plans were presented and discussed with stakeholders, the financial crisis delayed the implementation of most of the initiatives which require any kind of investment, and only actions under the strategic line “Interaction, information and awareness” accounted any progress.
Regarding school based mobility, the survey conducted revealed that walking levels significantly increased after the implementation of the School Travel Plans (from 60% to 70% of all trips to school), while the rest of the modes declined its use, being especially relevant the reduction in the use of the car and motorbikes (over 2% reduction in both cases). Also public transport usedecreased in favour of walking (nearly 5%). On the other hand, a small reduction in cycling was also experienced (around 1% reduction). The modal shift away from car, together with the physical improvements in the surroundings of the schools, prompted an important increase in the perception of security among school community members, which reached a 78% (25% increase as compared with the situation before the measure started). As for the acceptance of the measure, initially it was very high (87% of the school community showed interest in the measure and took part in the surveys). But a decrease in the level of involvement with the measure among all target groups was experienced after the implementation of the measure (64%). This lack of acceptance was more significant among parents (from 84% to 46%), which seemed to be more sceptical about the transforming potential of the initiative. This placed a significant barrier for the future success of the measure, considering that, at these ages, parents decide on the mobility of their children and therefore are to a high degree responsible of the behavioural change required. No significant results could be regarded in the Business Areas, since the Commuter Travel Plans were not fully implemented by the end of the project.