Building capacity for safer roads in Central Asia
Central Asia has an unacceptably high number of road deaths and injuries. The average number of deaths across the region is 19.1 per 100,000 of the population. This high toll results in an economic cost to the region of approximately $18.2bn every year.
A main factor behind this high road crash rate is poor road design and ailing infrastructure. For example, a recent EASST study on pedestrian safety in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan found that one in eight pedestrian deaths in the city in 2017 occurred at just 15 sites.
Ensuring safer roads and mobility is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for road safety as well as contributing to the development of a truly safe system in which zero road deaths is a possibility. Road engineers, urban planners, designers and others involved in building and managing roads have a vital role to play in making this a reality.
For this reason the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Special Stakeholders fund is supporting EASST and our local partners to build the capacity of future generations of road engineers in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to provide a better understanding of road safety engineering principles and what can be implemented while working within their own country’s technical road standards and norms.
Working with the EBRD and the Vice Rector of the Tajikistan Technical University (TTU), Mr Mamadamon Abdulloev, in Tajikistan we have been developing the existing road engineering curriculum to introduce suitable new road safety modules that follow good international practice whilst also remaining locally relevant.
As such, earlier this year two four-day training workshops were conducted for professors, post-graduates and teaching staff at TTU and several staff from the Ministry of Transport by EASST Expertise consultants Matt Chamberlain and Phil Jordan.
The training included sessions on: an introduction to road safety engineering, roadside hazard management (what is it and why is it necessary in Tajikistan?), international best practice in design, and the critical importance of stakeholder engagement.
Site visits to genuine black-spot sites were undertaken and delegates reported back on suitable remedial measures. Delegates were also asked to conduct a road safety audit including studying drawings and undertaking a site visit to identify potential road safety problems and provide suitable recommendations with an existing road design project. This included its costs and benefits, the different stages of audit and the types of road projects that can benefit from an audit. Some example audits from Tajikistan were presented showing how positive safety change can be achieved.
Particular emphasis was given to the concept that “prevention is better than cure” and that as auditors, we have to become problem “finders” as opposed to problem “solvers”.
Last week TTU confirmed that the materials provided during the training had already been added to curricula for next year as well as being requested for use by designers for new projects.
In March, EASST’s Emma MacLennan and road engineer Paul Disney held a one-day ‘taster’ seminar in Bishkek with representatives from five Universities aimed at improving their road safety training and syllabi.
The seminar was hosted by the Agriculture University in Bishkek who have a specific curriculum on road safety. The event initiated a discussion on designing roads with a focus on vulnerable road users. It included sessions on the need for stakeholder engagement, building the concept of pedestrian safety within the theme of Smart Cities, the use of data and mapping to underpin road safety strategies, as well as the principles of safe intersection design.
Speaking about the workshop in Bishkek, Jyrgalbek Sharsheel, Director of Technical and Economic College, KNAU remarked, “It was nice to have comparative cases of how road safety is addressed in Europe, underscoring the need to engage people in the planning process when thinking about roads. It will help reorient my lectures while training road engineers.”
The workshops in both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan were a real opportunity to assist the next generation of engineers to broaden their thinking on matters of road safety, and to avoid simply following a manual or design standard. For safety to take hold in the region, many steps still need to be taken. One of these requires the next generation of engineers to question what the safest option for the benefit of all road users may be. Participants acknowledged that they did not want to be responsible for training engineers to build the next black spot.
The training is therefore helping to achieve actions highlighted in the 2017-2020 CAREC Regional Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan as well as the Draft Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan for Tajikistan produced by the ADB in 2017 for capacity building in road safety engineering and audit for engineers.