The World Health Organisation (WHO), has called for transport networks around the world to be made ‘safe, healthy and sustainable’ and has said those responsible for them should increase investments in walking, cycling and use of public transport.
Speaking at this week’s 7th UN Global Road Safety Week, Dr Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Social Determinants of Health at WHO said: “We must put people, especially the most vulnerable, at the heart of our decision making about how we move in the world,” notes “Walking, cycling and public transport – when they are safe – can contribute to making people healthy, cities sustainable, and societies equitable.”
Road traffic injures are a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, with around 1.3 million people killed and as many as 50 million people injured each year. They are the leading killer of people aged 5-29 years. Globally, 1 of every 4 deaths occur among pedestrians and cyclists. Despite this, of more than 3 million km of roads assessed by the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) across 116 countries, only 16% were rated 3-star or better for pedestrians and only 23% were rated 3-star or better for cyclists.
Making way for safe walking and cycling can impact favorably on health and the environment, allowing people to stave off diseases such as cancer and diabetes; breathe clean air; and otherwise reap the rewards of being physically active. Safe and efficient public transport infrastructure can facilitate greater access to health, employment, education and other services and encourage investment, making for more equitable and prosperous societies.
Post-pandemic, countries and cities worldwide are taking this moment in history to rethink mobility. Some examples include:
- In Paris, France, through expansion of the 15-minute city concept which seeks to ensure residents are within 15 minutes of essential services using non-polluting forms of transport, more than 1,000 km of new cycling lanes and 169 pedestrianized “school streets” have been built;
- In India, based in large part on findings from the Global New Car Assessment Programme (Global NCAP), there has been a dramatic fall in the manufacture of zero star-rated cars and an increase in the manufacture of 4- and 5- star-rated cars, with enhanced pedestrian protection;
- In Luxembourg since 2022, all public transport modes – buses, trains and the tram – are free of charge across the territory, leading to reductions in congestion and pollution, fewer private cars, and greater mobility access to low-income residents;
- In Wales from September 2023, urban and village roads across the country will have a default 20 mph speed limit to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries and promote walking and cycling.
During the 7th UN Global Road Safety Week, members of the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety, a key collaborator, will host dozens of national and local activities, as a complement to events being planned by partners at global level. Among many others these include:
- In Argentina, Asociación Madres del Dolor and Asociación Luchemos Por la Vida are engaging with the Mayor of San Isidro to advocate for cycle lanes and 30 km/h speed limits in the city;
- In Eswatini, the Road Accident Action Group is organizing a car-free day and a 5-km walk with the Minister of Public Works and Transport to seek commitments for pedestrian footpaths of adequate width, free from obstructions and vehicular parking;
- In India, People’s Trust Jaipur and the IIS University will host a high-profile media event launching the results of a new pedestrian safety audit of the roads around the university, based on which they will call for a range of infrastructure improvements;
- In Moldova, the Automobile Club is launching a transformed pedestrian crossing at a school in Singerei, where children will host a flashmob to call for 30 km/h speed limits;.
- In Malaysia, Safe Kids is advocating for improved public transport, including government subsidies to increase usage and enhanced infrastructure around public transport hubs;
- In Pakistan, the Road Safety Council is organizing hosting public walking and cycling events, and engaging with the media events, including with the Chief Secretary and Superintendent of Police, to advocate for cycling facilities and lower speed limits.
UN Global Road Safety Weeks are held every two years to raise attention to and action on a specific road safety challenge. They contribute to advocacy around the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030. This guiding framework reflects an ambitious target to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030. The Global Plan highlights that road traffic deaths and injuries can be prevented by addressing the whole of the transport system, ensuring safe roads, vehicles and behaviours as well as improving post-crash emergency care.