Safer and more sustainable cities across the EASST region

Active Travel and Healthy Streets, Moldova

Transforming streets to inspire safe, sustainable, and healthy cities

In 2014, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) launched the Global Designing Cities Initiative (GDCI) to focus on transforming streets to inspire safe, sustainable, and healthy cities.

Supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety, the NACTO mission is to build cities as places for people, with safe, sustainable, accessible and equitable transportation choices that support a strong economy and vibrant quality of life. They do this by empowering a coalition of cities to adopt transportation policies based on street designs that take a people-centred approach to transport, prioritising walking, cycling, and the use of public transit.

Towards the end of last year, EASST delegated Tatiana Mihailova of the Automobile Club of Moldova (ACM) to join NACTO at the 2017 Designing Cities conference in Chicago, USA where she began working with the team as a Knowledge-Exchange Fellow in order to learn about their street transformation methodology and practices. Tatiana then joined the team in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where she was able to witness at first hand (and take part in) an on-site transformation.

Based on her training, Tatiana, will lead in extending the geographical range of the NACTO methodology. She and the ACM team will soon meet with local partners and authorities to propose the first EASST transformation in Moldova as well as facilitating the training of EASST partners in other countries to conduct similar work.

Designing Cities Conference, Chicago

The Designing Cities conference brought together 800 officials, planners, and practitioners to advance the state of transportation in cities. The conference programme was very intense and consisted of various workshops (including Designing Streets for Kids; Speed Management for Vision ZERO; and Global Cities among many others), which gave an excellent opportunity for Tatiana to learn about and share examples of modern urban transportation, safe streets, and vibrant public spaces. The conference also included special ‘walkshops’ whereby Tatiana could explore and experience the local transportation system and streets of Chicago not only as a tourist, but also as a transportation professional.

Tatiana also attended designated training on the CDCI’s the Global Street Design Guide, which showcased transformation projects from across the globe and enabled delegates to experience a design charrette as well as offering hands on experience in using tools developed by the GDCI team. The Guide itself, which is endorsed by EASST, was developed in collaboration with hundreds of people from 70 cities and 40 countries. It is a timely resource to set a global baseline for designing streets and public spaces while redefining the role of streets in a rapidly urbanizing world.

Addis Ababa Intersection Transformation

Following the conference in Chicago, Tatiana joined the CDCI team in Addis Ababa to take part in all the pre-event meetings as part of their latest intersection transformation in the city, as well helping with the transformation itself and attending the launch of the Safe Intersection Program (SIP).

In 2016, more than 448 people died in road traffic crashes on the streets of Addis Ababa and around 80 percent of those killed were pedestrians. Led by a task force that includes representatives from the relevant local authorities and city agencies, the SIP is part of an ambitious effort to improve road safety and reduce traffic crashes in the city by 50% by 2023 through redesigning ten intersections each year, using international street design standards, including the CDCI’s Global Street Design Guide.

As part of the SIP’s launch, a transformation was carried out at Sebategna (near Merkato), one of Addis Ababa’s busiest intersections, which sees around 13,000 pedestrians cross each hour during peak times. In 2016, one pedestrian and one motorist were killed and four people were seriously injured at the intersection. Prior to the transformation, the SIP task force spent months studying traffic patterns and pedestrian behaviour at the intersection as well as meeting with the local community to hear about their experiences and ideas for improvement.

Then, over the course of three nights, the SIP task force (and Tatiana) used paint and planters to make pedestrian walkways more visible, reduce crossing distances, and create safe spaces for all street users. Following international best practice, these materials to tighten corners and widen walkways. These are all design strategies that encourage slower turning speeds and safer pedestrian behaviour.

Janette Sadik-Khan, a principal at Bloomberg Associates and Chair of the NACTO Global Designing Cities Initiative said at the launch event:

“Building on life-saving street designs from cities around the globe, the Safe Intersections Program proves that the language of safe streets is universal. Using just paint, planters and other inexpensive interventions, projects like these are low-cost but high-impact, and the citywide commitment will reduce speeding, prevent crashes and save lives on streets across Addis Ababa.”

The Sebategna interim intersection transformation will be in place for six months so that the city can collect data for a permanent redesign. A similar phased approach will be used for future SIP transformations. The Safe Intersections Program builds on the experience from the previously-transformed LeGare intersection in Addis Ababa. LeGare was redesigned with interim materials in December 2016 and permanent reconstruction is currently under way.

Extending the NACTO transformation methodology to the EASST region

By extending the NACTO transformation methodology to the EASST region, EASST Director Emma MacLennan says:

“Often what is needed for safer street design is a vision of what can be done to improve dangerous roads, and experience of the impact on all road users. The city transformations carried out by the NACTO Global Designing Cities Initiative provides just this. When municipal leaders, city engineers, local businesses and commuters see the benefits of the simple modifications on their own cities, it transforms not only specific intersections but also old ways of thinking. EASST is delighted that our partner, Tatiana Mihailova, had the opportunity to work and train with NACTO/GDCI in carrying out a transformation in Addis. Tatiana is just the person who can take forward these lessons and achieve these initiatives in our EASST partner countries, where urban road design is greatly in need of transformation.”