You may be travelling less – and that’s a good thing
From the 28 April 2015 article at The Conversation
Traffic death rates are falling in OECD countries, but generally rising elsewhere as mass car ownership spreads to other countries. For this reason, the WHO forecast traffic fatalities moving up to the fifth leading cause of death globally by 2030.
Paradoxically, fatality rates (deaths per 100,000 people) are far higher in low-income countries, despite their low levels of vehicle ownership. The main reason? Pedestrian and cyclist deaths can be as high as two-thirds of those killed, compared with 16% in Australia.
Tens of millions are also injured each year on the world’s roads. Particularly in low-income countries, this can mean a double catastrophe: loss of earnings and high medical costs for the affected families.
Air pollution also results in millions of premature deaths, especially in Asian megacities, and the rapid rise in vehicular traffic is an important cause. Further, a recent Chinese studyhas found that children’s school performance was adversely affected by living in traffic-polluted areas.
What’s the alternative?
For some time in OECD countries—and even elsewhere, when we consider traffic casualties and air pollution health effects—the societal costs of extra mobility have been rising faster than the benefits obtained. We must now focus on accessibility —the ease with which people can reach various activities — rather than vehicular mobility.
When access replaces mobility, we can finally start designing our cities for humans rather than cars. We’ll need to design our cities and towns to encourage an attachment to place, rather than endlessly trying to be someplace else. Excess mobility can destroy this sense of place.
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