By the numbers: Sustainable mobility improves health and road safety
By supporting active transport, planners can limit road crashes and help people to incorporate healthy physical activity into their commute. Photo by Shreyans Bhansali/Flickr.

By supporting active transport, planners can limit road crashes and help people to incorporate healthy physical activity into their commute. Photo by Shreyans Bhansali/Flickr.

Claudia Adriazola, Health and Road Safety Director for EMBARQ – producer of TheCityFix – spoke with David Thorpe of the Sustainable Cities Collective about challenges, trends and best practices in sustainable transport and road safety. Among other topics, Adriazola and Thorpe discussed the importance of making roads and other public spaces more pedestrian-friendly and promoting sustainable transport options such as bus rapid transit (BRT). Have a look here at some of the most striking facts from the interview, and watch the full video at the bottom of the page.

50 million

The number of people that are seriously injured every year in traffic accidents; 1.3 million of these people die.

One strategy Adriazola highlights to reduce traffic crashes is intersection design that accounts for pedestrians’ needs. By reducing the number of lanes and the distance between crossings, planners can encourage drivers to slow down and make roads safer for pedestrians and cars alike. “The environment, if you are going to mix pedestrians with bikers and cars, has to take care of the most vulnerable [users],” she said.

4 million

The number of people that die every year due to a lack of physical activity.

Active transport options – especially walking and biking – can improve health by increasing physical activity. Using public transport such as bus rapid transit (BRT) or metro can also allow people to incorporate walking into their commute. Pedestrianization of public spaces is one strategy to decrease car congestion and provide safer spaces for walking and biking. For example, closing major streets to vehicles in Istanbul gives residents more opportunities for physical activity and makes other modes of transport more accessible by foot.


The approximate reduction in annual traffic crashes on the Macrobús BRT corridor in Guadalajara, Mexico as a result of reserving one lane exclusively for buses.

Before implementing a dedicated bus lane, about 700 accidents occurred annually on this stretch of road. Since implementation, the number of crashes is about five. Dedicated bus lanes are also able to carry more people. The two-lane road could previously carry about 3,000 passengers per hour, while the BRT lane alone can now carry about 5,000.


The number of kilometers of BRT in Mexico City.

Mexico City is leading a shift towards BRT that is spreading in cities across Mexico and around the world. “Many delegations from other countries have come to Mexico City to see what has happened there,” Adriazola described.


The number of cities that have implemented some kind of BRT system, which has continued to rise even since the interview.

Over 31 million people now use BRT systems across the world daily. Adriazola also explained that transport systems have important impacts on driver behavior. “If you have a city like Lima, where you are getting stuck in traffic for two or three hours, you don’t want to miss that yellow traffic light … because you are getting desperate.” She says that “All our work is a system,” and we must examine “what other elements are contributing to this poor behavior.” For example, designing more compact cities with better mass transport can reduce the need for car use and reckless driving.

Deficiencies in urban design and transport systems also cause more people to use motorcycles, a concern for road safety. “Again, we need to look at what is happening behind all this. We have people who live very far away from where they work, the public transportation systems are not working completely, the distances are too big, you cannot bike, and you cannot walk. If you take the bus it is going to take you three hours. So the solution is to take your motorbike and sometimes be reckless.” In addition, this is also the result of poor policy towards motorbikes. “A lot of countries are making a mistake in providing subsidies for motorcycles. The externalities that come with the motorcycle are huge.”


Learn more about the intersections between sustainable mobility, health, and road safety in the full interview below:

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