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Home > News / Report shows how better urban design can reduce traffic fatalities

Report shows how better urban design can reduce traffic fatalities

Report shows how better urban design can reduce traffic fatalities

More than 1.3 million people are killed in traffic crashes worldwide every year, making road fatalities one of the leading causes of death in cities, especially in developing countries, with children, elderly citizens and the poor particularly vulnerable. A new report offers practical guidance for designing safer streets and communities that can reduce traffic fatalities and improve people’s lives, with the study including more than 30 specific urban design recommendations for planners and policymakers.

The ‘Cities Safer by Design’ report from the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities emphasizes two ways to improve traffic safety: first, by building and retrofitting urban environments to reduce the need for individual vehicle trips; and second, by reducing vehicle speeds in areas where cars, pedestrians and cyclists mix. Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, a long-standing supporter of WRI’s work on sustainable cities, the report focuses on improving infrastructure for pedestrians, cycling and for mass transport.

Report shows how better urban design can reduce traffic fatalities

The report includes illustrated recommendations for specific design elements that have been proven to improve traffic safety, including: urban design that includes smaller block sizes, frequent street connections, narrower streets and access to destinations in compact environments that alleviate the need for vehicle travel; traffic calming measures such as speed humps, chicanes, curb extensions, raised pedestrian crossings and other elements; arterials and intersections that reduce conflicts between road users by providing clear crossings, medians and refuge islands; pedestrian facilities ranging from pedestrian-only areas to basic, consistent sidewalks; cycling networks that feature protected bicycle lanes and special attention to design at intersections; and safety improvements around mass transport stations and corridors. The report also includes examples from several cities, including Tokyo (Japan), Atlanta (USA), Mexico City (Mexico), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Istanbul (Turkey), New York (USA), and Paris (France).

“With the right urban design, we can make cities more livable, with safer streets for everyone,” said Ben Welle, senior associate at WRI and one of the report’s co-authors. “It’s often children, the elderly and the poor who are most at risk for traffic accidents. As cities around the world rapidly expand, there’s an urgent need to design communities that are compact and connected, with calm traffic and streets that promote walking, cycling and access to transit.”

Ani Dasgupta, global director at WRI, added, “Cities and streets can be designed to protect lives, or they stick with status quo policies that endanger hundreds of millions of people in cities large and small. This research makes a strong case that strategic design and evidence-based measures can better protect those lives.”