Nw Delhi: Lack of safe walking and cycling infrastructure is leading to millions of deaths every year, the United Nations said on Thursday and asked countries to invest at least 20% of their transport budgets to create such infrastructure to save lives, reverse pollution and reduce carbon emissions.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report ‘Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling’ surveyed 20 low- to middle-income countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, where compared with high-income countries, twice as many people die in road traffic accidents.
The report said that some 1.3 million people die each year on the roads, almost half of them pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
“Of the most dangerous countries to walk and cycle from the sample, four African countries topped the table. In Malawi, a total of 66% of all road fatalities were pedestrians and cyclists, in Kenya 61%, South Africa 53 %; Zambia 49% and in Nepal 49%,” it added.
The report said that countries like India and South Africa have drafted high-quality engineering design and construction guidelines for bicycle and pedestrian facilities, but their implementation has been weak.
“People are risking their lives every time they leave their homes. But it isn’t just about accidents. Designing transport systems around cars puts more vehicles on the road, increasing both greenhouse gas emissions and deadly air pollution. We must put people, not cars, first in transport systems,” said Erik Solheim, head of UNEP.
“Unless we act to make our roads safe, in ten years an estimated 13 million more people will have died on our roads–that is more than the entire population of Belgium. The human impact is horrific, but the impact on all of our survival must not be ignored,” Solheim added.
The report also stated that poor air quality, in part due to vehicle emissions, is estimated to cause around seven million premature deaths each year and is increasing health problems like bronchitis, asthma, heart disease and brain damage.
It said the global fleet of private cars is projected to triple by 2050, with most of this new vehicle growth expected to take place in the same developing countries that are already hardest hit by road fatalities and injuries.
“In line with current trends, not only will this result in a staggering increase in road fatalities globally, but the increase in carbon-polluting cars will severely restrict the world’s ability to limit the global average temperature rise to less than 2°C,” it warned.