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road safety

From Nairobi to Manila, mobile phones are changing the lives of bus riders

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture

Every day around the world, millions of people rely on buses to get around. In many cities, these services carry the bulk of urban trips, especially in Africa and Latin America. They are known by many different names—matatus, dalalas, minibus taxis, colectivos, diablos rojos, micros, etc.—but all have one thing in common: they are either hardly regulated… or not regulated at all. Although buses play a critical role in the daily life of many urban dwellers, there are a variety of complaints that have spurred calls for improvement and reform. For users, the lack of information and visibility on services has been a fundamental concern. Having to pay separately for each ride disproportionately hurts the poor traveling from the periphery, who often have to catch several buses to reach the center. The vehicles are old and sometimes unsafe. Adding to concerns about safety, bus drivers compete with each other for passengers in what is known in Latin America as the “guerra del centavo” or “penny war”. Non-users, planners, and city authorities also complain about the pollution and accidents caused by these drivers as well as the congestion generated by the ‘wall of buses’ on key city arterials.
 
To address these issues, cities have attempted to reform these informal bus services by setting up concession contracts and bring multiple bus owners and operators together under formal companies (refer to the attached note: Bus Reform in Developing Countries—Reflections on the Experience thus Far). But even though some of them have made great strides in revamping their bus services (particularly by implementing Bus Rapid Transit systems), the overall success of these attempts has been limited, and unregulated buses remain, in countless cities, a vital component of the urban transport ecosystem.
 
However, we are now witnessing a different, more organic kind of change that is disrupting the world of informal buses using ubiquitous cheap sensors and mobile technology.

Traffic jams, pollution, road crashes: Can technology end the woes of urban transport?

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture
Photo: Noeltock/Flickr
Will technology be the savior of urban mobility?
 
Urbanization and rising incomes have been driving rapid motorization across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. While cities are currently home to 50% of the global population, that proportion is expected to increase to 70% by 2050. At the same time, business-as-usual trends suggest we could see an additional 1 billon cars by 2050, most of which will have to squeeze into the already crowded streets of Indian, Chinese, and African cities.
 
If no action is taken, these cars threaten literally to choke tomorrow’s cities, bringing with them a host of negative consequences that would seriously undermine the overall benefits of urbanization: lowered productivity from constant congestion; local pollution and rising carbon emissions; road traffic deaths and injuries; rising inequity and social division.
 
However, after a century of relatively small incremental progress, disruptive changes in the world of automotive technology could have fundamental implications for sustainability.
 
What are these megatrends, and how can they reshape the future of urban mobility?

Halving road deaths

Pierre Guislain's picture
Road traffic fatalities per 100,000 population
Roads are the dominant means of transportation worldwide. They connect people, communities, and markets together—bringing opportunities to the poor and enabling broad-based economic growth. Yet every year, millions of tragic and preventable deaths and serious injuries result from road safety failings. Although solutions are available and progress has been made, efforts to reduce traffic fatalities remain insufficient, especially in low and middle income countries. Urgent action is needed if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development target 3.6 of cutting the number of road fatalities in half.
 
As things stand, every 30 seconds a person is killed in a road crash. To see how many road deaths there are in your country each year, click here. And that’s not all: for every death in a road crash, there are generally at least 20 times as many injuries.
 
In many countries, school children have to gamble their lives to get an education, crossing against speeding traffic to get to school. Approximately 500 children die every day in road crashes, with many of these deaths occurring when children try to cross the road on their way to and from school. Click here to see Luc Besson’s striking 3-minute film on this situation.
 
Over 90% of road fatalities and injuries occur in low and middle income countries. Rapid motorization in developing countries, when it takes place without effective road safety management and infrastructure, contributes to the epidemic of road deaths.

Habitat III will shape the future of cities. What will it mean for urban mobility?

Nancy Vandycke's picture
Photo credit: Rajarshi Mitra/Flickr

Next week, the international community will gather at Habitat III - the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development - to discuss important urban challenges as the world’s cities grow at an unprecedented rate.

Today, 54% of people live in cities and towns. Cities can be magnets for population growth and offer opportunities for jobs and social empowerment; but they can also be a source of congestion, exclusion and impoverishment. Which path of urban growth will prevail depends, in large part, on the quality and availability of mobility solutions. Transport is a structuring element of cities.

The reality of mobility in today’s cities is alarming— especially when measured against the four criteria that define sustainable mobility.

Sustainable cities, two related challenges: high quality mobility on foot and efficient urban logistics (Part I) ​

Bianca Bianchi Alves's picture
 
Peatonito is a Mexican transport specialist using humor to interact with drivers and create awareness about the need to respect traffic rules. Photo: Peatonito / Flick


Walking is the cheapest, most non-polluting, and possibly healthiest mode of transport. And dense cities seem to be a pre-existing condition for enabling us to meet our daily walking needs, along with diversified land uses, typically called “mixed-use development”. Densification and “mixed-use development” are currently seen as a strategy for designing sustainable cities, and many high-quality mobility plans, which consider the interactions between land use and transport, also pursue this type of urban development.

But densification and “mixed-use development” present (at least) two challenges. The first is how to provide quality pedestrian infrastructure that encourages non-motorized mode choices. The second is how to efficiently deliver the large quantities of goods required in these dense cities. These were the themes of successful seminars recently held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, thanks to a World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility grant.
The “mobility by foot” seminar was a four-day learning event on pedestrian mobility organized by Brazil’s Associação Nacional de Transportes Públicos.  In Brazil, as in most cities in Latin America, around 35% of people’s daily trips are on foot, and there is evidence that this number is underestimated given the limitations of current data collection methods. Given the priority in reducing the impact of our carbon “footprint” (or “carprint”), governments need more evidence and incentives to move the sustainability agenda forward.

Picking up the Glove on Road Safety

Verónica Raffo's picture
I was part of the World Bank delegation that participated in the 2nd Global High Level Conference on Road Safety, held in Brasilia on November 18-19. 
 
I arrived with high expectations on what this event could mean in terms of re-launching international efforts to fight against this global epidemic that kills 1.25 million people, and maims another 50 million, every year.
 
For the road safety community, the Brasilia conference was a crucial moment to take stock of what has been achieved so far, and rethink the strategy towards the future so the international community can scale up action and funding to meet the UN Decade of Action  targets and the respective SDG targets on road safety.
 
In these first five years of the Decade of Action (2010-2020), the initial objective, namely stabilizing road deaths, has been achieved: global road deaths (per year) have plateaued since 2007, as shown by the WHO latest report. We  should note, however, that among the largest contributors of road deaths (China, India, Brazil, among others) there is significant potential for under-reporting.
 
In any case, we are still far away from the objective at the heart of these international commitments: reducing road deaths by half by the end of the decade.  And we should also note that 90% of these deaths continue to happen in low and middle-income countries, affecting the youngest and most vulnerable.
Streets in Bogota / Photo: Carlos Felipe Pardo, Flickr.

How the Insurance Industry Can Make Our Roads Safer

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal's picture
Road crashes are a global health and development challenge with significant human and economic costs, especially in developing countries. The leading cause of death among people aged 15-29, road crashes kill 1.25 million people every year and injure another 50 million—more deaths than from malaria or tuberculosis. In low and middle-income countries, this is estimated to reduce GDP by 3 to 5%. The United Nations recognized the severity of this challenge by adopting specific road safety targets in the Sustainable Development Goals: to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road crashes by 2020.
 
Photo: Carlos Felipe Pardo

This ambitious target can only be achieved through a concerted effort that involves all major stakeholders: national and local governments, multilateral development banks, bilateral donors, civil society, and the private sector. The latter, a key stakeholder in this agenda, can contribute the knowledge, resources, and innovations that are required to accelerate progress and decisively change existing trends.

The insurance industry is also a key part of this coalition. Already playing an important, if somewhat hidden, role in the road safety agenda, the industry insures almost 1 billion vehicles globally, helping to reduce the costs of road crashes to society and the economy.

Improvements in road safety benefit the public as well as the insurance industry. Broad-based insurance coverage makes sure that health and property costs for victims of road crashes are protected, but it also benefits insurance companies by expanding their market. In the same vein, reducing the number or severity of crashes benefits all of us, while it also reduces the volume of claims to insurance firms.

In fact a huge motivator to create good road safety practices lies in the sense of personal responsibility. A driver who wants to achieve a safe record is far more likely to avoid accidents than a driver who has no care for safety. If insurance is both well designed and implemented, it can have an enormous impact for improving road safety.

Colombia says "Yipi" for public transit

Leonardo Canon Rubiano's picture
As many Colombian cities struggle to keep public transit ridership levels, one city is innovating using technology, gender-sensitive employment, and ideas from Asia to curb the “mototaxiing revolution” and restore ridership loss.
Moto-taxis in Sincelejo, Colombia. Photos: Leonardo Canon

An increasing “motorbike revolution” – represented by spectacular increase in motorbike motorization and reliance on door-to-door motorized services – has changed the rules of the game and cannot be obviated in transport systems.

Flicking through the Uber website, we found that the company used to offer an “UberMoto” service in Paris from 2012 to 2013. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the local Colombian newspaper headlines discuss the legislation forbidding male passengers on motorcycles in a number of cities in an effort to curb moto-taxis.

The impact of motorbikes cannot be ignored. Purchase of motorbikes and operation of moto-taxis have been identified as key drivers for a modal shift from public transit to private vehicles in many places around the world, including Colombia. The nationwide phenomenon of moto-taxis has revolutionized mobility in small and medium-size Colombian cities, and has become a source of income for many.

Want dramatic road safety results? Look to South Korea.

Nak Moon Sung's picture
When looking to improve road safety for children around the world, it is clear that the experience of South Korea has valuable lessons to offer.

To start, the numbers speak for themselves. In 1992, 1,566 kids (14 years old and under) were killed in road crashes in South Korea. By 2014, children deaths dramatically decreased to only 53, the equivalent of an almost 97 percent reduction over that period of time. No other country that we know of has experienced such a remarkable reduction in only 22 years.
Decreasing road fatalities in South Korea, 1990-2015

What made this achievement possible?

Although there isn't a single answer, the evidence shows that comprehensive policies played a crucial role in reducing children deaths due to road and traffic injuries.

Marching towards tomorrow, and onwards for safety

Marc Shotten's picture

Blink and you may have missed that the beginning of May was the third United Nations Road Safety Week.  As with everything omnipresent in our lives, the steady drumbeat of the nightly local news reporting a fatal wreck or injury may only cause a passing glance. Yet, a number of recent actions have focused international institutions, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and others together to take on the number one killer of young people worldwide: road crashes.

GRSF’s Marc Shotten at the UN SDG Briefing
The end of April saw the United Nations Secretary General announced the creation of a Special Envoy for Road Safety, signaling a new level of growing attention to the topic. While this year’s UN Road Safety Week was dedicated to the theme of protecting children, it’s really about ensuring the safety of all ages, especially in the developing world, where 90 percent of road crashes occur each year.


The United Kingdom, Netherlands and Sweden consistently occupy the top of the road safety league table. As the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 hits its mid-point, practitioners are working on transferring these countries’ (and others) lessons more quickly across the developing world. In the meantime, the overall cost of fatal and serious injuries in just the 80 lowest-income countries is estimated to be a staggering $220 billion per year and a global average equivalent to 3-5% of GDP loss.

Action is needed now, to avoid the forecasted rise of road fatalities to be the fifth-overall leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.

There will likely not be a single breakthrough moment to get this topic into the realm of more mainstreamed development issues, but rather a series of sustained pushes across spheres of activity at the country, regional and global level. The month of March 2015 saw three telling activities play out with global aspirations.

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