Let’s put people first, not cars in transport systems – ZRST

THE Zambia Road Safety Trust is concerned about the US$300 million Lusaka decongestion plan, which focuses more on motorisation – widening of current roads – and little or nothing on creating cycling and walking paths.

ZRST stated that the motorisation projects come at an alarming cost to health: less physical activity, an obesity epidemic, increases in chronic diseases, and more traffic deaths and injuries.

“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 per cent.  But a survey by JICA in 2009 revealed that 65 per cent of people in Lusaka walk, 24 per cent use public transport, 10 per cent own vehicles, and 1 per cent may be on bicycles. The current increasingly hostile and unsafe environment created by motor vehicle traffic on our roads has rendered bicycle use insignificant,” it stated.

“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.”

It stated that the government would gain significant benefits by building infrastructure that makes it more attractive for people to walk or cycle.

The ZRST stated that in 2016, more than 1,200 people were killed while walking and cycling – 63 per cent of all traffic deaths – and many more people were injured while walking and cycling.

It stated that 324 children 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 hospitalisation, emergency room visits, and treatment for people injured or killed totalled K5 billion,” it stated according to ZRST chief communications advisor Mailos Mwale.

ZRST stated that the main socioeconomic benefit of cycling and walking was on the health side.

“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’. 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 number of vehicles makes a significant difference too,” it stated.

“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.”

Trust chairperson Daniel Mwamba said walking and cycling was the solution to the Lusaka decongestion plan.

Mwamba urge the government to allocate at least $50 million of the $300 million for active transportation and see how the economic and health benefits will follow.

“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,” said Mwamba.

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