Citizen science project Straatvinken: Straatvinken traffic counts and Straat-O-Sfeer liveability survey
The citizen science project Straatvinken is one of the citizen initiatives in the region of Flanders responding to growing societal concerns on the adverse impacts of traffic-related pollution, lack of green space, safety issues and other challenges related to street liveability. It was initiated as a collaboration between Ringland, a large citizen movement from Antwerp, and the universities of Antwerp and Leuven.
The project started from the observation that the regional government had set itself ambitious modal shift objectives (from 70% car trips in 2017 to 50% in 2030), but – aside from abstract traffic models – there was few empirical data to monitor whether the shift towards sustainable mobility is actually taking place in the streets. The involvement of citizens in monitoring this important policy objective was non-existing. In response, Straatvinken launched an annual large-scale traffic counting moment in the month of May. The 2018 pilot edition was immediately picked-up by large groups of citizens (1,400 citizens in 2018; approximately 4,000 in 2020) and gained national media attention on television, social media and print media. Furthermore, in 2020 some 60 municipalities promoted the event among their citizens. While the initial focus was on the city region of Antwerp and the city of Leuven, the project has been expanded geographically and now covers the region of Flanders (Belgium), and also citizens in the Brussels Capital Region participated.
One of the responses to the demands of stakeholders was the launch of a new Straatvinken initiative that has the ambition to complement the monitoring of traffic with a study of street liveability perceptions. This became the start of the Straat-O-Sfeer surveys in 2019, which documents perceptions on the liveability of streets through a narrative-based approach. In the May 2019 edition 680 citizens shared stories about street liveability and this number grew to 3,100 in May 2020. SenseMaker was chosen for these surveys, which is a narrative-based approach involving the captation and analysis of a large number of short stories to understand and respond to complex issues. Experiences are understood through the eyes and voice of the people themselves. This kind of meta-analysis bridges the gap between qualitative case studies and large-sample surveys. In the Straat-O-Sfeer survey respondents are asked to write down what they would tell when their best friend asks advice whether to move to that street. This is followed by questions on street design, social, environmental and traffic-related factors and socio-demographics. A main output is a composite index of perceived street liveability based on the scoring of 20 street-level parameters.
The traffic counts are communicated by means of a digital map which enables citizens to consult the results by clicking on a street (http://straatvinken.datylon.com/). The results of the Straat-O-Sfeer liveability survey can be consulted in an interactive ‘barometer’ which presents the key indicators and comments by participants (https://straatosfeerpublic.straatvinken.be/).
The aim is that the Straatvinken traffic counts and the Straat-O-Sfeer liveability survey help citizens and organisations to improve street liveability in a participatory way.
Who is involved?
Gazet Van Antwerpen – Media partner .
Participating municipalities (edition 2020)
Aartselaar (2630), Arendonk (2370), Beerse (2340), Berlaar (2590), Beveren-Waas (9120), Boechout (2530), Boom (2850), Borsbeek (2150), Brecht (2960), district Borgerhout (2140), Dessel (2480), district Deurne (2100), Edegem (2650), district Ekeren (2180), Essen (2910), Geel (2440), Grobbendonk (2280), Heist op den Berg (2220), Hemiksem (2620), Herentals (2200), Herenthout (2270), Herselt (2230), district Hoboken (2660), Hulshout (2235), Kalmthout (2920), Kasterlee (2460), Kontich (2550), Lebbeke (9280), Lier (2500), Lille (2275), Lint (2547), Londerzeel (1840), Malle (2390), Mechelen (2800), Meerhout (2450), district Merksem (2170), Merksplas (2330), Mortsel(2640), Nijlen (2560), Olen (2250), Oud-Turnhout (2360), Puurs-Sint-Amands (2870), Ranst (2520), Ravels (2380), Retie (2470), Rumst (2840), Schelle (2627), Schilde (2970), Schoten (2900), Sint-Gillis-Waas (9170), Sint-Katelijne-Waver (2860), Turnhout (2300), Vosselaar (2350), Westerlo (2260), Wijnegem (2110), Willebroek (2830), district Wilrijk (2610), Wommelgem (2160), Wuustwezel (2990), Zele (9240), Zemst (1980), Zoersel (2980), Zwijndrecht (2070).