Four African countries are among the world’s five most dangerous for walking and cycling, a new UN Environment Programme report on transportation finds, but positive change is making big strides.
From Uganda’s student bike-sharing programs, to Zambia’s village bicycle ambulances and Namibia’s bicycle-based recycling pickup service, Africans are taking an innovative lead on safer solutions.
The UNEP report, released ahead of next week’s COP22 assembly in Morocco, looks at how alternatives to driving motor vehicles – now the fastest growing sector for greenhouse gas emissions – need to be a priority governments plan for in the fight against climate change. Part of that planning includes changes in both culture and infrastructure that make healthier low-emissions options easier and safer to choose.
Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia have higher fatality rates than most of the world, but there are unique differences to each country. Cycling, for example, is a more popular urban choice in Zambia and Malawi (as well as Burundi) than elsewhere on the continent, so higher fatality rates may reflect that higher incidence of adoption.
Planning for people and planet within the specific circumstances will help to reduce safety risks, the UNEP says, while helping to reduce carbon emissions and improve lifestyles.
Pedestrians, as in Côte d’Ivoire, also need support to make climate-friendly choices. The report found that crashes in Abidjan involving pedestrians are on the rise, but sidewalks, pedestrian bridges and crosswalks aren’t being built to keep pace. An urban master plan provides for better infrastructure, while in some cases (including the Bicycle Empowerment Network in Namibia) programs are creating jobs too.
Not all problems are technical though. In Ghana, cycling isn’t seen as a transportation alternative for social and cultural reasons, so awareness campaigns are helping to change the landscape in Accra and its environs.
To see the UNEP policy recommendations and other information, view the report linked here.
Image: Bicycle Empowerment Network, Namibia