Brian's Column: Why are roads chronically being designed for vehicles?

Brian's Column: Why are roads chronically being designed for vehicles?

Brian is back with his  regular columns of road safety through the eyes of a young person in Africa. He asks the question, Why are roads designed only for vehciles? Calling out the system to take a human centered approach.

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A safety risk guaranteeing future casualties in Africa.

20190522 131010What’s the easiest mode of transport to get to and away from most airports here? I find myself asking this rather strange question to my guide-turned-friend Hannes Kaltenecker during the International Students Week at the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany earlier this month. Not only are we both "certified health freaks", but we’re also owned by 2 dogs! Well, he adjusts his eyeglasses, turns and looks at me, as if he didn’t hear me at first. “Train, of course”, he responds. “What about you?”, he asks of me.

Where does one start? The start of course…

There’s a growing repute for most African countries to venture into the Airline business. A few months ago, Uganda brought in a few aircraft to rejuvenate her airline hopes, sadly not on time to fly the National Team to Egypt where the #AFCON2019 is set for kick off. Google that. Ethiopia has now, an undisputed busiest Airport able to serve 21 million people a year: -the closest rival is OR Tambo in South Africa at an estimated 17 million. Casablanca still topping the size charts as the elephant in the room. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya could take gold if it were a marathon. We all know those Kenyans can run don’t we

However, apart from those few airports, getting to and fro airports in our continent can be quite the hell. Let’s see…

001 taxiThe commonest way is to grab an airport taxi. This is equivalent to being driven to the airport by a friend (or whatever you prefer to call him/her). We all know how this will go, as you will be chillaxing in a traffic jam for more time than you will be on that plane. It won’t be long before you begin to curse your gods.

002 busThe second best alternative, take public transport? A suicidal mission? Maybe! Many will agree for its sheer consistency in delays most often making unsolicited stopovers literally anything and everywhere: from dropping a passenger 100m from where they were picked to someone wanting to buy a fruit from the hawker Mind you, this bus or whatever it is, shall stop 5+km away from the airport. You can (almost) be guaranteed to arrive too early for your next probable flight.

003 scooterThe third option, let’s explore them, shall we? Consider Commercial Motorcycle Service. There has been growth spurts in this line of business, with innovations from Safeboda, Uber helping to connect the customer and the biker through a tap on the phone.

They will manoeuvre through the monstrous lanes of traffic, leaving jealous, stuck drivers and passengers alike cursing at the back of their teeth as you glide past them. It’s still dangerous though. There’re no clear lanes for 2 wheeled vehicles. Traffic lights don’t signal for 2 wheeled vehicles. There’re no established schools training and certifying these bikers, so you have to say a prayer (literally) on safe arrival. When it does make it though, you will hi5 the biker, become bros and sis for real until you probably need that liver transplant. God bless thee.

004 bicycleFourth option, bike your way to the airport. Possible time saving, environment, health and energy benefits. The weak clammy grip of hope doesn’t lie. Truth is, you can’t bike to most airports. Designated places for parking are inexistent in addition to the many challenges stated already for 2 wheeled vehicles.

There have been meetings on meetings,  calls on calls for African countries to halve traffic deaths including THIS that was made at this year’s UN Road Safety Week by the UN Economic Commission for Africa. In South Africa, the new Transport Minister declared 3 days ago, Road Safety as a National Crisis citing ineffective law enforcement and the need to introduce safer cars. YOURS was in Stockholm, Sweden and gave input on the importance of meaningful youth participation within the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. This included some great progress preparing the 2nd World Youth Assembly for Road Safety! Keep your eyes open to this.

Without fixing our road designs to be human-focused, despite the development indicators we project to brand ourselves, we’re all future casualties. Major ambitions should focus on vision zero for road traffic deaths.

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