Antwerp province funds initiatives to make cycling to school safer

Summary

In an effort to improve road safety and get more children cycling, the province of Antwerp is providing subsidies to primary schools for the development of traffic classes and more

Safe route to school

At the end of July, Antwerp province allocated €22,500 in subsidies to the municipality of Boechout and 11 primary schools to develop initiatives that make it safer for children to cycle to school.

According to a 2014 report commissioned by the government of Flanders, only about one-quarter of students in the region travel to school by bike. The numbers have been decreasing steadily: in 2000, about 40% of students cycled to school. The change is most visible in primary schools, where the number of children arriving on bikes is even lower.

One of the main causes of the decrease is parents being afraid of their children getting hurt in an accident. The fear is not entirely ungrounded.

Research from the Belgian Institute for Traffic Safety demonstrates that the risk of an accident is 63 times higher if you ride a bike than if you’re in a car. However, the older the children are when they learn to cycle in traffic, the more insecure they will be on the road.

Antwerp province is trying to get more students cycling through a project called 10op10 (10 out of 10). As part of the project, the province allocates subsidies to schools that want to set up practical lessons, create initiatives around building a safer school environment and get more parents involved.

The Octopus Plan

“Antwerp province supports, for example, the purchase of traffic signs so that children can become familiar with what they mean by practising on a track at school,” mobility deputy Luk Lemmens explains in a statement. “Cities can also benefit from our support and make school neighbourhoods safer by creating maps of the best routes.” The maps give an overview of the safe cycling routes to and from school.

Cities can make school neighbourhoods safer by creating maps of the best routes

- Mobility deputy Luk Lemmens

With the subsidies, schools can also buy pedagogical materials, such as the Bokabox Verkeer (Bokabox Traffic) kits, which provide engaging and playful ways to learn what the different traffic signs mean. Schools can also get additional money for the purchase of bicycles, bike racks, pumps and banners.

Apart from financial support, the 10op10 initiative provides individual assistance to schools and municipalities interested in improving their own policies on traffic safety. Teachers, parents, police officers and municipal authorities can take part in free training sessions.

Similar initiatives already exist, such as the non-profit Voetgangersbeweging (Pedestrians Movement), which has created the Octopus Plan to make routes to schools safer. The Flemish Traffic Science Foundation provides support to parents who volunteer for activities concerning cycling to school through its Verkeersouders (Traffic Parents) project. In addition, the Fietsersbond cyclist union has created a website with tips on safe cycling.

For an overview of these and other initiatives, visit the Flemish government’s website devoted to the subject of safe cycling

Traffic in Flanders

Thousands of commuters and foreigners pass through Brussels and Flanders each day, and the two regions have suffered from heavily congested traffic and long and frequent traffic jams for years – with no end seemingly in sight.
Record - According to the 2013 report from traffic information platform Inrix, Brussels and Antwerp have the most traffic congestion of any city in Europe and North America.
Calendar - October is the worst month of the year for traffic jams.
Causes - Year after year, heavy snowfall and railway strikes lead to monster traffic jams. Heavy congestion, infrastructure works and multi-lane accidents cause the more ordinary daily tailbacks.
1 285

largest area covered in traffic ever recorded in Belgium in kilometres

70

time Antwerp drivers spend in gridlock per year in hours

10 000

traffic diversions in Flanders per year