Road Safety Trust calls for modal shift from Motorised system to Walking & Cycling

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In 2016, more than 1200 people were killed while walking and cycling—63 percent of all traffic deaths— and many more people were injured while walking and cycling. Focusing on children, 324 kids under the age of 16 were killed and 1,500 were injured mostly while walking to and from school. Besides the loss of life or function due to injury, traffic deaths and injuries are costly. Government analysis of 2016 data reveals that the health costs of hospitalization, emergency room visits, and treatment for people injured or killed totaled K5 billion.

As the main socioeconomic benefit of cycling and walking is on the health side, the Zambia Road Safety Trust (ZRST) calls in particular upon the health sector to live up to its responsibility. The Ministry of Health should actively reach out to other government departments, particularly the Ministry of Transport, for fully inclusive active transportation policies. This also relates to the concept of ‘health in all policies’.

Bicycle use was common and significant 20 or 30 years ago in Zambia. In 1969, Lusaka’s share of commute trips by bicycles was 55 percent.  But a survey by JICA in 2009 revealed that 65 percent of people in Lusaka walk, 24 percent use public transport, 10 percent own vehicles, and the rest 1 percent others may be on bicycles. The current increasingly hostile and unsafe environment created by motor vehicle traffic on our roads has rendered bicycle use insignificant.

Walking and cycling is a proven way to get healthy levels of physical activity; people who walk or cycle regularly have lower weight and blood pressure and are less likely to become diabetic. With the increase in illnesses associated with sedentary lifestyles and the reduction in levels of physical activity, cycling provides a cheap and easily accessible form of exercise that can be incorporated into daily lifestyles.

The Zambia Road Safety Trust is concerned about the $300 million loan, Lusaka decongestion plan, whose focus is more motorization – widening of current roads, and little or nothing on creating cycling and walking paths. These motorization projects to our communities come at an alarming cost to our health: less physical activity, an obesity epidemic, increases in chronic disease, and more traffic deaths and injuries.

Government will gain significant benefits by building infrastructure that makes it more attractive for people to walk or cycle. Building that infrastructure creates jobs, and it does so extremely cost effectively. In fact, there’s no better job creating opportunity for unemployed youths for government road infrastructure projects. Road projects are materials intensive; much of a road project budget goes to materials. By contrast, cycling and walking projects are labor intensive and create more jobs per dollar than road projects.

The Zambia Road Safety Trust has implemented Safe Routes to School initiatives for two schools in Lusaka to get children walking to school safely, as a pilot project, to demonstrate what can be achieved at little cost in no time, using local engineers, materials and labour. We know how to reduce these deaths and injuries: put in sidewalks, street lighting, cycle lanes, and well marked pedestrian crossing. These improvements give people safe places to walk and cycle, separated from traffic. Slowing traffic or reducing the amount of vehicles makes a significant difference too.

Government should take it that the hierarchy of road users is important when considering road safety. This is a well-established concept in transport planning which places the most vulnerable road users at the top: pedestrians, and in particular people with disabilities, followed by cyclists, then public transport and finally other motorised transport. The reason for this is to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable are fully and actively considered in the development of transport schemes. As the evidence has become more widely known, the trend is starting to shift: developed countries are looking to improve walkability and access to transit.

Daniel Mwamba Chair for Zambia Road Safety Trust said:

“Walking and cycling is the solution to the Lusaka decongestion plan, I urge government to allocate at least $50 million out of the $300 million for active transportation and see how the economic and health benefits will flow. Designing transport systems around cars puts more vehicles on the road, causing more traffic deaths and injuries, increasing both greenhouse gas emissions and deadly air pollution. Let’s put people first, not cars in transport systems”.

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