Vulnerable road users prioritised as Chisinau’s Dacia Street is transformed

Active Travel and Healthy Streets, Moldova, News, Safe and Inclusive Mobility

Since the publication of the report ‘Disability, Mobility and Road Risk in Moldova’ in 2016, EASST partner the Automobile Club of Moldova (ACM) has been continuing to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and improve accessibility and road safety for people with reduced mobility in Chisinau.

With the support of the UNDP, FIA, FIA Foundation and EASST, the ACM has been working specifically to improve pedestrian crossing facilities along Dacia Boulevard, the main route running through the capital city. Data from the Automated Road Traffic Crash Information System shows that Dacia Boulevard alone accounted for 420 road crashes, resulting in 27 deaths and 529 injuries between 2014 and 2019. 40% of these crashes involved pedestrians, of whom over 60% were hit in spaces designated for their movement such as sidewalks and traffic islands.

In early 2019, the ACM partnered with the Technical University in Chisinau to further investigate why this road is so dangerous. Using the NACTO methodology, combining survey and observation, they sought to identify the main road safety and mobility challenges faced by pedestrians crossing Dacia Boulevard and recommend ways to improve safety and accessibility, especially for parents with children and strollers, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

As part of the study, over 500 pedestrians were surveyed at six crossings and intersections along Dacia at various times of day and on different days of the week. 46% of those surveyed reported feeling unsafe while on the sidewalks and when crossing the road.

“I cross with fear when there are several lanes on the road and it is a pedestrian crossing without traffic lights, not to be hit by cars on the second lane”

It was observed that pedestrian crossings along the route are largely unsignalised and road markings are faded meaning that motorists often speed through without noticing pedestrians. For people with reduced mobility, parents with small children, and elderly people this can be particularly risky.

Last May, in partnership with the Executive Bureau of the National Road Safety Council, the National Patrolling Inspectorate, and the World Health Organisation Regional Office, the ACM organised a National Policy Dialogue at Government House in Chisinau to present these results. During the meeting a number of innovative “universal design” solutions were put forward by students of the Technical University, who came with a new approach and ideas for designing safe pedestrian crossings.

Based on the project team’s recommendations, with the support of local disability groups including the Centre of Protecting the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CDPD), Universal Access, and Motivatie, the Municipal Transport Department approved a set of improvements that will significantly improve safety for all road users at three selected crossings along this dangerous route. Improvements so far have included: lowering curbs and installing ramps at key crossing points, repairing pavements, installing lighting at pedestrian crossings, and applying new road markings. The installation of tactile paving, high-visibility ‘pedestrian warning’ road signs, and at least two LED signalised traffic light systems are also in progress and due to be officially unveiled at the end of August.

Further work is planned in 2020 to improve a crossing at the Matei Millo/Fulgulesti intersection supported by EASST and the Safer Roads Foundation in partnership with the Mayor’s Office.

To ensure long term engagement with these issues, with the support of EASST, the FIA and the FIA Foundation, the ACM has also established a working group including CDPD, Universal Access, the Municipal Transport Department (Lumteh Service), the Police (INSP), and Urban Platform to work on mobility and safety improvements in the city.

The group is responsible for identifying high-risk areas and developing follow-up recommendations to re-design dangerous crossings. Based on surveys and statistical analysis conducted earlier this year, the ACM has procured 10 sound-systems for traffic lights that will be installed in Chisinau in the near future. This is the first ever equipment of this nature to be tested and used in Chisinau and will make road crossing much safer and easier for people with visual impairments. Negotiations on tactile pavements, lowering curbs, and other infrastructure improvements are also in process.