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Future of Manufacturing & Transport Q4 2023

Why future mobility starts with making roads safer today

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Nneka Henry

Head, UN Road Safety Fund

As we adopt cleaner and greener transport alternatives, the importance of road safety is being overlooked — and at great cost.

In terms of mobility, there is a huge divide between the Global North and Global South. Every year, there are 1.3 million preventable deaths on the roads, with over 90% of them occurring in low and middle-income countries. As our travel horizons continue to expand, more of us find ourselves facing this hazard.

Nowhere is this hazard more the case than in global cities, such as Bangkok and Delhi, which are among the most visited by international travellers and also have some of the world’s highest road fatality rates.

Ensuring road safety on urban streets

Cities also have more road users who walk and cycle. Road users make up 85% of road deaths in urban spaces. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are increasingly inclined to walk and cycle. Future-proofing mobility means we need to design road infrastructure policies to ensure people can safely use greener transportation — from cycling and walking to ride-sharing in buses or cars.

Today, in six countries — from Kenya to Ethiopia — more governments are going greener and embedding better street designs into urban masterplans, supported by local partners and the UN Road Safety Fund.

Introducing speed bumps can have the biggest
impact on averting costly road traffic crashes.

Safety returns on investment

Rethinking mobility for the future must include investment in pedestrian and cyclist-friendly pathways, enhancing signage and lighting and putting in place intelligent traffic management systems. Safer roads are good for local business, benefit tourism and save on health, productivity and physical damage costs that result from road crashes. Our research in Zambia, for example, shows that introducing speed bumps can have the biggest impact on averting costly road traffic crashes.

Designing safer systems today

Realising any vision of future mobility needs a progressive mindset among those who design it. Road administrators, urban planners, vehicle manufacturers, public transport professionals and others must recognise that a focus on cutting-edge technology and reducing carbon footprints — divorced from road safety — won’t work. In charting the course for future mobility, prioritising safer cities, sustainable infrastructure and a robust safety culture is an indispensable roadmap for a more resilient global transportation landscape.

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