The United Nations Environment Programme just recently concluded a survey about traffic accidents and they have determined that Malawi, Kenya, and South Africa are the countries where it is most dangerous to be a pedestrian or a cyclist.
In their study, they found that 1.3 million people die each year from traffic accidents. Of those 1.3 million, 49% are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.
They broke down the incidence of these deaths across three African countries that supposedly have the highest amounts of pedestrian and cyclist deaths;
- Malawi: 49% pedestrians, 14-17% cyclists
- Kenya: 47% pedestrians, 14% cyclists
- South Africa: 50% pedestrians, 3% cyclists
To reduce this incidence, UNEP suggests that governments invest at least 20 percent of their transport budgets in pedestrian infrastructure that promotes walking and cycling. This investment into pedestrian and cycling needs will not only curb the sudden deaths of millions resulting from accidents, it will also curb pollution and cut climate-changing emissions from vehicles.
In their report, they show that in low and middle-income countries studied in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, almost twice as many people die from road traffic accidents compared to rich countries.
UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim said;
“People are risking their lives every time they leave their homes, … We must put people, not cars, first in transport systems,”
Part of the examples given for this pedestrian infrastructure and systems in the report were; adding cycle paths to roads, putting in more pedestrian crossings and traffic calming measures and introducing bicycle-sharing schemes in cities.
Another fine point of the report was a forecast that by 2050, the world’s fleet of private cars would triple and most of that growth would be in developing countries. They warn that such an explosion will hinder the world’s ability to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, as agreed by governments.
It is an eventuality that could lead to poor air quality that could cause around 7 million premature deaths each year in addition to worsening problems like bronchitis and asthma.
To this end, UNEP is calling on governments to boost spending on pedestrian infrastructure and also to draft policies for non-motorised transport and to implement them urgently where they already exist.