Lower speeds and safer fleets are coming to make Gyumri’s roads safer

Armenia, News, Occupational Road Safety Management, Road Safety Governance and Capacity Building

Road safety in Armenia is becoming an issue of growing public concern. In 2018, the number of road collisions and casualties were higher than in any of the previous three years, with 108 crashes resulting in 10 fatalities and 154 serious injuries (of which 11 were children). Around 40% of these collisions involved pedestrians, with 3 fatalities and 42 serious injuries. Sadly, the provisional figures for 2019 show that this trend is continuing to rise.

It is within this context that EASST and our local partner, the National Road Safety Council NGO, have been working with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the City of Gyumri to improve road safety as part of a wider project supported by the EBRD Shareholder’s Special Fund to carry out rehabilitation of major streets and modernisation of public lighting in the city.

Gyumri has a history going back more than 3,000 years, and is the second largest city in Armenia. It is located close to the borders with Turkey and Georgia in the Shirak Province, and has long been a stopping point for travellers as well as a cultural centre loved equally by locals and visitors. The construction of a new North-South Corridor Road in Armenia, connecting Georgia with Yerevan via Gyumri, should help improve the city’s economic prospects when completed and will bring renewed tourism and trade. The anticipated influx of visitors – in particular tourists – makes it vital to ensure roads are welcoming and pedestrian friendly.

Earlier this year, our project launched with a series of workshops and training to build capacity in road engineering and improve safety for non-motorised road users in the city, focussing on the most hazardous and problematic locations. Last month, the EASST team returned to Armenia for the next phase of the project where we held dedicated fleet safety management training for local transport companies, the first of its kind in the region, and brought together key local authorities and stakeholders to discuss tangible solutions to reduce road casualties in Armenia.

The fleet safety management training was based on EASST Academy’s accredited Road Safety at Work: Online Course for Managers developed in partnership with EASST, Cranfield University and IRU Academy. It included a blend of online lectures and in-class training led by EASST Academy Managing Director, Dmitry Sambuk and EASST partner, Tatiana Mihailova of the Automobile Club of Moldova (ACM). The course covered topics such as how to build a case for road safety at work, the role of the fleet managers, effective driver management, eco-driving and importance of vehicle checks. Tatiana presented on Moldova’s success in improving occupational road risk and significantly reducing the number of crashes involving public transport vehicles – sharing her step by step action plan with the participants – all of whom committed to follow up with their organisations to establish safer practices of fleet management.

One course participant commented:

“This training was the first ever in Gyumri and in the whole region. It was very useful for us to hear and learn from international experience, case studies and best practices. It will be very good if such a training could be organised once again in Gyumri region. Thank you all for this opportunity.”

EASST’s visit to Armenia also included organising a high-level roundtable meeting with key authorities and stakeholders in Yerevan which culminated in a public commitment by the Head of the Republican Road Police and the Governor of the Shirak Region, where Gyumri is located, Mr Tigran Petrosyan, to take action to reduce urban speeds in Gyumri. They said,

“We commit to working jointly to introduce reduced speed limits by 10 km/h around schools in the city of Gyumri and to increase road police speed enforcement work in the city during the period 2020.”

The meeting was chaired by Mr Petrosyan who spoke of the importance of pedestrian safety to the region, and welcomed the support of the EBRD and work by EASST and the National Road Safety Council NGO to highlight these issues. The meeting was also attended by Dmitri Gvindadze, Head of the EBRD Resident Office in Armenia, and Loretta Martikian of the Bank’s Communications Department, who spoke of the great importance of road safety for the Bank. As a key member of the Multilateral Development Banks Road Safety Group, all EBRD project must identify, evaluate and monitor traffic and road safety risks to workers and communities. This project is part of that commitment.

Others attending included Andrea Baggioli, Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, HE Birger Karlsson, Ambassador of Sweden to Armenia, Dr Egor Zaitsev, Head of the WHO Representative Office, Mr Nikolay Baghdasaryan MP, and representatives of government institutions, the road police, emergency services, parents, student organisations, NGOs, international organisations and media. A key aim was to enlist and encourage their involvement in disseminating road safety messages and finding solutions to reduce road casualties in Armenia.

This has already been seen to be working, as the following week school children and teachers in Gyumri, along with the Road Police, held an action day where they stopped passing cars outside their school and handed them leaflets on the importance of road safety and safe driving. The National Road Safety Council NGO also held a train the trainer for teachers on how to use the EASST Road Safety Education Pack to deliver age-appropriate road safety messages to children.

The NRSC/EASST/EBRD project will continue until late April 2020, and will include further training and assistance with road design, as well as campaigns to improve driver behaviour and highlight the importance of visibility as well as educational programmes.