Investing in safer roads in Dushanbe

Main Image
New road sign.
New road sign.
YGT road safety education.
YGT road safety education.

The 52 most dangerous road crossings in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, have seen the installation of high-visibility road signs to reduce pedestrian fatalities in the city, thanks to a partnership between road safety NGOs and local government.

The project was run by the Foundation’s long term partner, the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST), through a donation from the Safer Roads Foundation (SRF) with support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and Young Generation of Tajikistan (YGT). The Office of the Mayor of Dushanbe and local traffic police worked with the organisations to make urban roads safer for vulnerable road users.

In Tajikistan, every fourth person killed on the road is a child or teenager under the age of 16, usually on their school journey. Since 2015, YGT has worked in Dushanbe schools to increase students’ knowledge and awareness of road risks, equipping them with the skills to be as safe as possible on the roads. However, road infrastructure - including road signs around schools - has remained a significant challenge. The Safe System approach to road safety identifies infrastructure as an integral element, of which adequate road signage is a fundamental aspect.

A YGT survey of one school in 2017, for example, found that over 1250 vehicles travelling at an average speed of 72 km/hour passed by in just one hour, almost double the road’s speed limit. Investigation of the road identified a number of contributing factors: digital traffic lights were installed too far from the school; a lack of surveillance means that drivers jumped the red light at the crossing; and there were no road signs to identify the speed limit or warn of a nearby school. The road signs that were present, highlighting the pedestrian crossing, were not reflective and actually had the effect of hampering visibility, particularly during twilight hours when children arrive and leave school.

The installation of high-visibility road signs in these 52 high-risk areas will give drivers earlier warning of upcoming crossings, allowing time to slow down and let pedestrians cross safely. The ‘diamond-grade’ high-visibility signs can be seen at night from a distance of 1,500ft – three times further than low-quality reflective signs. Moreover, the new signs are much larger to make them more visible from a distance.

Naimjon Mirzorakhimov, Director General of the YGT said: “The objects near which these signs are located are of great social importance - schools, universities, hospitals, kindergartens, parks, markets. In this regard, the signs contribute to the protection of vulnerable groups - children, youth, women and the elderly, who often use these crossings. This is the first time when such signs have been installed in Tajikistan. If our assessments show a decrease in the number of incidents at these crossings, this will help is lobby for the installations of further signs at other road intersections through the state budget.”

The sites were selected following a series of visits by a special working group which was convened to address the issue. The working group included EASST Director Emma MacLennan, EASST Advisor Matt Chamberlain, representatives of the Mayor’s Office of Dushanbe, the Traffic Police and the YGT. Over the coming months the YGT will be working with the Mayor’s Office and Traffic Police to measure the impact of the new signs and ensure a safe journey to and from school for every child.

Speaking about the project, Mr. Khushov Ziyoratshoh Nasibovich, Deputy Head of the Dushanbe Traffic Police said: "This is the first time that road signs that meet international standards have been installed in the capital of Dushanbe. The local authorities have plans to install more in order to make roads more secure for all road users, especially children.”

The partnership with SRF builds upon EASST’s EBRD-sponsored work to improve road safety along the newly re-constructed M41 highway known as Somoni Avenue. The heavy, fast-moving traffic on the highway was identified as an area of particular risk to pedestrians and other road users, and the improvements were implemented alongside local Tajiki road engineers to develop their skills for future road development. There has been a close working relationship with the Tajikistan Technical University (TTU) to develop their existing road engineering course and implement a suitable road safety module. The module seeks to follow good international practice whilst remaining practical to ensure there is no conflict with existing technical standards and practices in Tajikistan. As a result, the TTU have committed to including new training materials (designed by EASST consultants) into their curricula for the 2018-19 academic year.

Reflecting on the work in Dushanbe, EASST’s Director Emma MacLennan said: “The work EASST is doing in Dushanbe illustrates the importance of partnerships in road safety. With the support of the Safer Roads Foundation and EBRD we are able to introduce safer road crossings for pedestrians. Our EASST partners the Young Generation of Tajikistan have worked closely with the Office of the Dushanbe Mayor and local Road Police to identify the most dangerous crossings, and with the input of Matt Chamberlain – a skilled road safety engineer – we are starting to reduce risk at these dangerous points.”