In the early 1970s Denmark had one of the worst child road casualty records in western Europe. The Danish Traffic Act (1976) required that local authorities create safe routes to all schools and the country now has one of the best safety records in Europe.
The report "Safe Routes to School: an analysis of child road safety and travel" states: "The amendment of the Danish Road Traffic Act in 1976 that enjoined the Police and municipalities to implement measures that protect children against moving vehicles on school journeys seems to be a success and has created safer roads for school children."
In the period 1985 – 2000, Denmark has experienced a 46 percent reduction in child casualties. Closer analysis of the results has shown that there has been a 2-3 percent reduction in child casualties each year in the period 1995-2000 which can be put down solely to road safety engineering measures such as safer crossings, slower speed limits and improved cycle routes.
Soeren Underlien-Jensen, one of the authors of the report said "Danish traffic engineers have been very attentive to the views of children. When young people say that a road is dangerous, it usually is – so safety improvements have been installed in these locations
first. It is very important to address children’s perceptions of road danger if you want to reduce the numbers killed or injured in traffic."
The report also shows that although car use on school journeys is increasing in Denmark, it is still less than half that of the UK. Nearly half of all Danish children of secondary school age cycle to school.
Walk 22% 43%
Cycle 49% 2%
Bus/train 20% 34%
Car 9% 19%
Source: Report 1999 (above) (Denmark) and National Travel Survey 1999/2001 (UK)
Sustrans used the Danish experience of implementing Safe Routes to Schools as a model for similar projects in the UK and there are now over 1000 schools working on Safe Routes to
Some Danish authorities are looking to the UK to see how school travel plan initiatives such as walking buses can stem the rise in car use. Officials in Denmark’s third biggest city, Odense, have taken advice from Sustrans and walking buses have been started at eight schools in the city.
Paul Osborne, Safe Routes to School project director for Sustrans, said:
"This report is enormously significant as we now have the evidence that Safe Routes to Schools can deliver long term safety improvements – as long as traffic planners have the courage to listen to children’s views and then act on them. It is very pleasing that we have learned from Denmark and they are now learning from us."