Featured Blog @COP21- “Drive Less, Live More: The Lessons Learned from Road Safety and Sustainable Transport”
By Mary Williams OBE, chief executive, Brake, the road safety charity
We must support the Paris Process on Mobility and Climate (PPMC). With transport the fastest growing contributor of CO2, we need a global agreement on climate action that requires national and urgent government action for sustainable transport; in the face of the continuing and increasingly archaic popularity of the car. For many people around the globe, having a car remains either an aspiration, or a bad habit they are unwilling to break.
The theme of Brake’s Road Safety Week in the UK last month was Drive Less, Live More, and we highlighted people’s surveyed admissions in the UK that they were choosing to drive when they were able to walk, cycle or take public transport. History teaches us that if a road is built, it will be filled with vehicles, casualties, and emissions. The Global Fuel Economy Initiative estimates the global car fleet will triple by 2050: fuel efficiency gains will have to happen at lightning speed across that fleet to prevent this resulting in rising emissions.
Governments have the answers at their disposal to stop this madness. As we rapidly urbanise, sustainability and safety professionals are demanding liveable, mobile cities that are built for children and bicycles; and public transport infrastructure and freight rail services between our cities. Our roads must be traffic free, to enable buses and emergency services: emergency services that are no longer tied up responding to the global, immediate tragedy of someone dying on our roads every 30 seconds.
To help inspire and enable governments to take this urgent action to reduce transport CO2, campaigners in all transport sectors including road safety must join forces, knowledge share, and proclaim from the rooftops the economic, as well as planet saving imperative, of sustainable transport solutions. Up to 5% of the poorest nations’ GDP is spent on the aftermath of road casualties, and significantly more on the health impacts of lack of mobility and bad air quality. I attended the World Health Organisation global conference for road safety in Brasilia last month, and I was heartened that at long last the link was more firmly being made between road safety, sustainable transport, and economics. For example, by making active transport safe, healthy and enjoyable (by transforming our cities to have cycle paths, crossings, slow speeds and vehicle exclusion zones), we can create, rather than just encourage, modal switch, and have thriving, richer places to live.
During the transport section of the Lima Paris Action Agenda eight development banks committed to fund sustainable transport development, inclusive of low carbon and safety gains. But the reality is that, despite this intention, road upgrades funded by these banks and others, and self-funded by countries, continue to spread their tentacles across the poorest nations, with a focus on trade-related, economic gains; and used by mainly old, polluting, and deathly vehicles, including significant levels of freight.
In Kenya, for example, the Nairobi to Mombasa highway in Kenya is notorious for being fatal for pedestrians while also suffering gridlocked trucks causing Armageddon style traffic jams up to 30 miles long. A rail freight line is being constructed on this route; roll on a sustainable transport future for Africa. We need it now – the planet is bleeding, and in 30 seconds’ time another person will die under a wheel, and nine times out of ten that will be a person in one of our poorest nations.