Budget for safer school surroundings hardly used
Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works, Ben Weyts (N-VA), set 10 million euros free to make school surroundings safer, but the money is hardly used. Scarcely 14 municipalities submitted a request for 63 schools.
“Parents often are afraid to send their children to school by bike because of heavy traffic,” says Weyts. “That’s why they bring their children by car, making traffic problems even worse. We want to break this vicious circle.”
The money was intended for small but targeted adjustments to the street: to ban parking spaces at the school gate, widen crosswalks or create traffic barriers. Municipalities also can decide to organize their ‘school streets’. The street of the school could be temporarily closed at the beginning and the end of the lessons, and for this purpose, barriers could be placed.
Last year, Minister Weyts promised at the beginning of the new school year to free 10 million euros to improve traffic safety in school surroundings. But the initiative never was a success. The main goal was to ban cars and improve traffic safety near schools. But at this moment, only half a million was spent by 63 schools in 14 communities.
Most of the municipalities that made use of the money installed posts to prevent cars approaching the school. Other communities opted for wider crosswalks or speed bumps to reduce speed.
Question is why so many communities did not get into the offer? Maybe it’s because the elections are not long past, and most local authorities still are in the start-up phase. According to a traffic expert, Johan De Mol (University of Ghent), this could be an explanation.
Anyhow, Minister Weyts is still hoping that cities and communities will wake up and do something before the school starts again in less than one month.