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Transport planning and social aspects of transport
Municipals and local authorities all over the world are attempting to boost the number of children walking or cycling to school as the benefits for children and society as a whole deriving from an active travel to and from school are widely acknowledged. For this reason programs that encourage active travel to school are often implemented by local authorities or schools. Many of these programs focus on the child. Cycle training or motivation programs aimed at a mode shift towards active travel are relatively easy to set up and can lead to quick results. Yet, a child centred review of the road infrastructure is necessary to sustain these modal shifts, as the road safety concerns of children and parents remain a major barrier to children’s independent travel to school. The needs of youth and children are often neglected in road and traffic design. This fact can be traced to a number of factors. The number of children using an active travel mode to school can be very low to start with, while the road network that the children commute on can be extensive. Only little data is available on children’s independent commuting patterns or their use of road infrastructure. These factors can lead to ad hoc decision making or to inactivity in implementing necessary road works. If only a fraction of a child’s route to school is perceived to be unsafe, if has a great potential to prevent children from walking or cycling to school. Children’s perception of dangerous road infrastructure is a major barrier to children’s independent travel to school. This study asked children to trace the routes that they take to and from school on a provided paper map. The children were than encouraged to mark areas and places on the map of where they felt or unsafe in traffic, using a set of predefined symbols. The resulting routes and symbols have been digitalised and analysed using the Geographic Information System ArcView. Of the 172 surveys distributed to 6th year students of St. Fiachras Primary School in Beaumont Dublin a 36 % response rate was recorded. From the resulting 62 routes, 22 are categorized as walking routes, 18 were cycling routes and 16 routes are those of car passengers. Defined differences in the distribution of positive and negative markers along these routes were recorded, whereby the location of negative markers pinpointed a distinct problem area in the road network. Surprisingly, on a site visit this area was served quite well with pedestrian / cycling infrastructure. The results of this study indicate that children’s maps are a valuable analytical tool that can help road engineers to pinpoint problem areas in a road network in relation to specific road users. The methodology employed is cost effective and a fast method to survey small sample groups which can be used to analyse relatively large areas of road network and could be applied on a national scale.
Bondzio, F. & Boyle, K. (2012) Using children’s maps to locate areas of perceived danger on children’s routes to school, Proceedings of the ITRN 2102,University of Ulster 29-30th August . doi:10.21427/mrx7-ym91