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Pedestrian Safety, Urban Space and Health. Research Report

Key messages:

Walking has great potential to contribute to high level government agendas for more sustainable development and should therefore take a central position in urban transport policies. Ensuring that walking is an attractive alternative and complement to motorised transport is a core response to the challenges of climate change, fossil fuel dependence, pollution, maintaining mobility for an ageing population, health and managing the explosion in motorisation expected in low-income and middle-income countries. Because trends established today will determine the future of cities for many decades, actions are needed now for the sustainable cities of tomorrow.

1. Walking is the most fundamental form of mobility. It is inexpensive, emission-free, uses human power rather than fossil fuel, offers important health benefits, is equally accessible for all – except those with substantially impaired mobility – regardless of income, and for many citizens is a source of great pleasure. Yet walking presents challenges to society's least robust individuals.

2. The vitality of a city is closely linked to people being out and about on foot for many purposes. Beyond walking for access to goods and services, these other activities in the urban space are collectively termed “sojourning”. Walking and sojourning are at the heart of urban life and contribute to liveable, attractive, prosperous and sustainable cities.

3. Walking is, however, the neglected transport mode and, despite being at the start and end of all trips, is rarely captured in government statistics on mobility and is often neglected in planning and policy development.

4. Public institutions representing specifically the interests of pedestrians – including the socially disadvantaged members of society who rely heavily on walking – are rare.

5. Walking and public transport are interdependent elements of sustainable urban mobility. Walking is facilitated by a well-connected network with pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and well-designed urban space.

6. Pedestrians are amongst the road users most vulnerable to traffic injury. It has become highly challenging, especially for older and young people, to cope with the complex, sometimes hostile, traffic conditions that characterise today's cities and towns.

7. Pedestrians suffer sever trauma from falls in public spaces and in traffic collisions while crossing streets. The magnitude of the consequences of falls is known to be underestimated. Older people have an elevated risk of severe injury and death from both falls and traffic collisions.

8.Lowering motorised traffic speeds reduces the frequency and severity of crashes, especially those involving pedestrians. Reducing speed also contributes to smoother traffic flow, and enhances in many ways the liveability and sustainability of cities.

9. Motorisation has contributed to urban sprawl, and cities have evolved to accommodate car use, with many negative impacts on life and social cohesion. Changes are required now to manage the preponderant role of motorised traffic in industrialised countries. This is also urgent in low- and middle-income countries, which are now moving rapidly towards much higher levels of motorisation.

ITF (2012), Pedestrian Safety, Urban Space and Health, OECD Publishing. Downloadable Summary Report