5 Questions on safe & inclusive mobility to Eric Remacle, HI Road Safety Specialist

Posted by: on Jul 9, 2018 | No Comments

Ahead of the annual High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development, HI releases a new study on safe and inclusive mobility. Eric Remacle is telling us more on the topic!

HI new publication, “Making Cities Inclusive: Safe Mobility for Persons with Disabilities in Developing Countries”, put the stress on the huge impacts of unsafe roads and inaccessible urban mobility infrastructure on the inclusion of vulnerable road users, especially persons with disabilities. In addition to a general policy brief, four thematic briefs highlight the links between safe mobility and:

road safety,
access to education,
access to employment,
– and Disaster Risk Management.

Read the interview of HI’s road safety specialist, Eric Remacle to know more !

Why make the case for road safety as a central challenge for Urban Sustainable Development?

Eric Remacle: According to the World Health Organization, every year, between 20 to 50 million people worldwide suffer non-fatal injuries in road crashes, and 1, 25 million are killed. Over 90% of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries… These statistics alone highlight the magnitude of the global challenge we face. A challenge intensified by the steady growth of urban population and the significant increase in private vehicle use in most developing countries. And all it implies in terms of unsafe roads, congestion of streets and health hazards tied to poor air quality in urban areas.

Beyond the human cost in lost lives and injuries, the economic and social cost of unsafe roads is also extremely high, up to 5% of GDP in many developing countries. Indeed, road crashes cut in the productive workforce, as most victims are aged 15 to 44, and add a considerable burden on already under-resourced health and social protection systems in developing countries.

 

But why is it a relevant issue to tackle in order to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities?

Eric Remacle: Unsafe roads kill and injure, but they are also a major factor of social exclusion, especially for road users with specific needs. As emphasized in the study, when people feel unsafe to use the roads, they cannot access education, employment, infrastructure and services.

Vulnerable users, which include pedestrians, persons with disabilities, elderly, cyclists and children, are at higher risk of sustaining injuries from road crashes: they represent 46% of road casualties.  For persons with disabilities, approximately 15% of the world’s population, using the road can be difficult or downright impossible. Their needs as road users, differing across a wide spectrum of impairments, are rarely taken into account and remain largely unspoken.

As a result, they experience many barriers: unsafe roads and pedestrian infrastructure (inadequate sidewalk, no safe crossing point, poor road marking…), unsafe vehicles, lack of accessible public transport and personal financial barriers to use of transport. They also face more insidious attitudinal barriers. Self-censure prevents many of those living with disabilities from leaving their homes, out of fear but also due to family pressure, prejudice and stigma.

What does HI mean by safe and inclusive mobility?

Eric Remacle:  We define “safe mobility” as the ability for a person to safely and reliably access preferred destination by navigating an environment considerate of his or her needs and preferences. Therefore, we look at the whole mobility chain, i.e. the entirety of a person’s journey, for example going from one’s home to the bus stop, boarding the bus, travelling to the desired stop and eventually the intended destination. If just one link in the chain is inaccessible or unsafe, mobility becomes a much greater challenge.

Safe and inclusive mobility can have a domino effect towards enhancing an inclusive society that leaves no one behind. States and local authorities must not fail to address the needs of persons with disabilities to enjoy their right to the city.

 How does safety and accessibility interact when referring to mobility?

 Eric Remacle:  Without road safety for all, cities are not inclusive and accessible, and vice versa. It is therefore crucial to link accessibility and safety in order to improve mobility for all in the city. Indeed, when performing a safety audit, you realise that most of the points of attention and subsequent recommendations are similar to those of an accessibility audit.

For example, during assessments carried by HI in Cambodia and Vietnam, and during focus group discussions with persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in Laos, Nepal, Burkina Faso, Kenya, DRC, we found that persons with disabilities usually struggle to get to the transport stop and onto buses, particularly with wheelchairs. Where on-board spaces for wheelchairs or those with other impairments are provided, public awareness and understanding is often a barrier to their proper use. Those who need to remain in their wheelchairs during bus rides are exposed to high risks.

These considerable safety and accessibility challenges often turn persons with disabilities away from public transport. Eventually, it contributes to denying them the possibility to enjoy the city and hampers the realization of their rights, especially for the poorest who cannot afford private transport means.

What are the relevant policy frameworks to promote safe and inclusive mobility in urban context?

 Eric Remacle: Mobility is addressed in core international human rights instruments and development frameworks. Indeed, Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires countries to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers and ensure that persons with disabilities can access their environment, transportation, public facilities and services, as well as information and communications technologies.

Member States of the UN have highlighted road safety as a major concern by adopting the to reduce by half the number of road traffic death and injuries by 2020 (SDG 3.6) and by proclaiming in 2011 a Decade of Action for Road Safety. Through SDG 11.2, they also committed to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.

The New Urban Agenda builds on the SDG 11. It explicitly addresses mobility, persons with disabilities and older persons, calling for improved policies on mobility systems that are safe, sustainable and promote diversity in society.