A delegation of engineers, doctors, lawyers and child safety advocates from Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, recently spent several weeks in the U.S. to learn strategies for improving traffic safety. The project was sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and hosted by the World Trade Center Institute in Baltimore.
Due to the alarming numbers of children who are involved in pedestrian crashes in Baku, the delegation was particularly interested in programs that promote child pedestrian safety. Although schools in Baku have participated in International Walk to School Day, they have not yet established a Safe Routes to School program.
Joe Pelaia of Maryland's Highway Safety Office gave a presentation about the Safe Routes to School Program in the U.S., and the group followed up with a visit to Baltimore's Safety City (a miniature version or an urban street system where children in Baltimore learn hands-on pedestrian and bicycle safety skills). They were particularly impressed with Wanda Harris, Safety City's dynamic trainer who never fails to keep kids excited and engaged as they learn safety skills. The Azerbaijanis jumped right in to help fit bicycle helmets, and were keenly interested in how we train instructors to teach safety classes in the U.S.
Jennifer Toole of the National Center for Safe Routes to School presented the delegation with copies of the Center's most recent program report, which charts the progress that has been made in the U.S. over the past three years. The delegation left with promises to keep in touch as they implement their own SRTS programs in Azerbaijan.