Politics and policy
Campaigns for new design and sharing of roads gathers pace to reduce deaths
Posted Friday, January 31 2014 at 14:03
- Contest between motorists and other road users usually culminate in road accidents that kill or seriously injure someone every six seconds.
- United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) is now promoting a global programme dubbed ‘Share the Road’ to address some of these challenges on the road.
Scholastica Omoga walks to work daily from her Kibera slum house to Westlands shopping centre, taking one hour to cover about 10 kilometres.
Sections of the distance are narrow and often busy with cars, buses, vans, handcart pushers, cyclists, and the pedestrians like Ms Omoga. It is often a delicate balancing act because the sidewalks are not adequate.
Ms Omoga says she always crosses her fingers and prays not to be hit by the vehicles moving at high speed, and, for the matatus, stopping at the wrong points to pick up and drop passengers.
Other Kenyans staying in busy cities like Nairobi go through a similar scenario of competing for road space, especially during the peak hours when the bulk of the people report to or return from work.
This contest between motorists and other road users usually culminate in road accidents that kill or seriously injure someone every six seconds, says Unep. This makes a yearly toll of about 1.2 million fatalities mostly in developing nations, adds the agency.
In Kenya, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that road crashes kill between 3,000 and 13,000 people every year.
Road traffic injury represents about 45 to 60 per cent of all admissions in Kenya’s surgical wards, further straining the country’s already overstretched health system.
A 2003 study indicated that road traffic injuries cost Kenya between Sh5 billion and Sh10 billion annually, which figures do not take care of costs associated with lost productivity arising from deaths and disability.
However, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) is now promoting a global programme dubbed ‘Share the Road’ to address some of these challenges on the road.
The agency is advocating for a road construction suitable for motorised transport and walking, cycling and skating.
“Our message is simple: build roads with adequate walking and cycling facilities to save lives and propel development,” says Rob de Jong, the head of transport unit at Unep’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics. Mr Michael Njonge, the traffic manager at the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) says new design for roads is long overdue.
He says Kenyan roads lack facilities to accommodate the rising number of people coming into the urban centres. About 30 per cent of Kenyans live in urban centres now, but this is expected to double by the year 2030.
Walking and cycling constitute more than 50 per cent of journeys made in urban cities like Nairobi, he said. “It’s no longer a question of whether we can afford it or not. We just have to build roads with adequate space for vehicles and other modes of transport,” he says.
Wilson Tikwa, the chief road safety officer at Kura says “it’s clear that at any point in our cities, we have more people on foot than in cars.”
It doesn’t make sense, Mr Tikwa said, to implement a multi-billion shilling road project for few motorists but fail to construct anything for thousands of other road users.”