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A street transformation in Sumgayit City, Azerbaijan, aims to reduce speeding and protect pedestrians

Families walk to School No. 2 in Sumgayit City, Azerbaijan, in a new protected pedestrian space as part of a street transformation project that GDCI delivered with local partners.

Between 2013 and 2017, the Republic of Azerbaijan had 11,600 road crashes. These crashes resulted in the deaths of 4,691 people — including 399 children. Pedestrians were involved in 40% of these crashes, but were overrepresented in the most serious injuries and deaths.

To address this trend, in 2018 leaders created the 2019-2023 State Program on Road Traffic Safety of the Republic of Azerbaijan which sets out to improve road safety and reduce crashes through traffic calming measures and road infrastructure improvements. The state program has been curious to learn how street transformations might contribute to improved safety.

Over the past year GDCI has worked with the Azerbaijan National Automobile Club (AMAK), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST) to put these priorities into action. With support from UK Aid through the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility, in March the team began researching locations in Sumgayit City, the second-largest city in Azerbaijan, for places where simple changes to road design could improve safety for people walking, rolling, and biking. AMAK analyzed the data with the Traffic Police Department of Sumgayit City and identified a number of places where particularly vulnerable users have to interact with dangerous traffic conditions.

One location stood out in particular as an opportunity to create positive change: the entrance to School No. 2. School No. 2 is a school where children and their families travel each day, yet it is located in an area without pedestrian infrastructure, heavy traffic, and high speeds. After looking at crash data mapped from across Sumgayit City in the last three years along with surveys and assessments by the AMAK team and key stakeholders, School No. 2 was selected as the best location for a pilot project. Despite over 50% of students walking to school, the street surrounding the school entrance was predominantly designed for vehicle movement and parking. This project hoped to show how changes to the street design could manage school traffic and reduce speeds, both here and in Azerbaijan more widely.

EASST, AMAK, and GDCI worked with the Sumgayit City Police and local engineers to develop plans for the temporary road infrastructure changes around the school entrance, and to make sure the plans meet local road safety regulations. GDCI also paired with local designers from ICMA LAB who brought local familiarity and expertise with tactical urbanism and street safety projects in Azerbaijan. Working together, we created a design that transformed the site to improve the safety of students and others coming to and from the school. This included creating dedicated pedestrian space for walking, waiting, and crossing the street. To ensure vehicles were traveling at a safer speed, travel lanes were also narrowed and speed humps were installed. The transformation design was based on GDCI’s street transformation methodology, which observes the street from the perspective of children, introduces temporary, low-cost interventions that involve local communities, and reduces the risk of road traffic crashes.

We worked throughout the summer of 2022 to approve and implement this design in collaboration with ICMA LAB, and it opened on September 15 – just in time for children to return to school. The redesigned street gives children and their families dedicated space to walk and gather while being protected from cars traveling along the street.

In just a few short weeks, Sumgayit is already seeing results. Our street transformation at School No. 2 has reduced congestion in front of the school and slowed traffic considerably. Initial data shows that there have been 17% fewer vehicles exceeding the speed limit since this implementation opened. There has also been a 33% reduction in vehicle speed overall. Both of these are making the street safer for everyone who uses it.

We look forward to continuing to follow the progress of this transformation, and to share how other municipalities across Azerbaijan can learn from this approach and use it to make more streets safer across the country.

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