Pascal passionate about road safety in South Africa

“I am very passionate about road safety in South Africa. If you want to work in road safety, South Africa is the right place to be. Even if I have to leave to pursue a career elsewhere, I would like to return to this country and continue my work in this important field,” says Pascal Nteziyaremye, one of the Faculty of Engineering’s PhD graduates. Pascal’s story is an interesting one – from being a transportation engineer in Rwanda with a rudimentary command of English, to a Maties PhD graduate who is passionate about road safety and who is now fluent in English.

“I grew up in Rwanda where I did my undergraduate studies in civil engineering. When I was doing my undergrad in 2008, there was a big shift in my country when English was introduced as the language of learning, replacing French. I worked in industry for one year, but really battled to manage as my English was not good. I wanted to improve my English and decided to carry on with postgraduate studies at a university in an English-speaking country. I made a list of possibilities, which included India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and South Africa. I subsequently applied for study opportunities in those countries.

“I had a friend who was studying at the Department of Civil Engineering at Stellenbosch University. He read an advert on the notice board in the department for an opportunity in construction management. That was not my field, but I sent an email anyway to Amanda de Wet, the postgrad coordinator, enquiring about postgraduate study opportunities in Transportation Engineering. She asked for my CV and academic record and within three days I had admission! I enquired about sponsorship and it became clear that there was a small bursary available in the field of Road Safety. It sounded very interesting.

“However, it was very challenging for me to decide if I wanted to go for this option as the bursary was really small and I was not sure if I could manage on it financially. My friends at Stellenbosch University encouraged me to come and proposed that I could find more modest accommodation. They said they survived, because they are not here to have a luxurious life, but because they are here to learn.

“I arrived at the Faculty of Engineering on 17 January 2011. My first contact was Amanda. She soon introduced me to Prof Jan Wium, who spoke to me in French. After all my fears and struggles, finding a professor who spoke to me in my language, made me so much more comfortable.

“For my master’s degree I worked very hard and managed to get good marks. It was tough, though, because it was mostly new stuff and I had to speak, read and write in my third language. My supervisor, Prof Marion Sinclair, encouraged and supported me greatly. My research investigated pedestrian crossing behaviour in Stellenbosch. I finished my master’s in two years and Prof Sinclair encouraged me to continue with a PhD. For this I had to look for funding. I managed to get 50% from my Department and 50% as a loan from my country, Rwanda.

“My PhD study investigated relationships between the attributes of the built environment and pedestrian crash incidence in Cape Town. A variety of geospatial analyses and modelling techniques were used to identify hotspots of pedestrian crashes and to develop predictive models for pedestrian crash incidence based on the built environment data.”

Pascal notes: “I really enjoyed doing research in road safety. Research in this field is still novel and scarce in South Africa. Now that I have completed my PhD, I would love to continue with research in this field, but alas, funding and opportunities are scarce. If you want to work in road safety, South Africa is the right place to be. There are more opportunities in road safety overseas where there is not even a serious problem! I want to contribute where it is needed. I have had training and workshops in Switzerland, Belgium and Germany, but the strategies I learnt from there are not always applicable to the South African context. The context is different. We need local research to get local solutions.”

Title of Thesis: Investigating the link between the built environment and the incidence of pedestrian crashes in Cape Town, South Africa.

100-word summary:

This study investigates relationships between the built environment – density, land use, urban design and transportation systems – and pedestrian crash incidence. Generalised linear models and geographically weighted regression models are used to develop predictive models for pedestrian crashes based on the built environment data. Moreover, geospatial analyses are used to identify pedestrian crash hotspots. The model results indicate that population number, land-use mix, four- and multi-legged intersections, signalised intersections, road classes and roundabouts/mini-circles are all positively associated with pedestrian crash frequency. The models can be used to predict future pedestrian crashes using information that is easily available at the city level.


Pascal Nteziyaremye in the Stellenbosch Smart Mobility Laboratory.