Making cars safer for vulnerable road users

Good progress is being made reducing and preventing car user injuries and now it is time to ensure that similar improvements are realised for those outside the vehicles.

The competitive nature of the car market has seen an increase in protection for those travelling inside the vehicle and this is reflected in the casualty statistics -but the same does not apply to those outside the vehicle. And with current societal trends such as ageing populations, an increasing number of pedestrians and cyclists encouraged by environmental policies, this is an area that authorities such as the European Union are keen to address.

crossroads pedestrian safety

The last 10 years have seen significant reductions in the number of people killed on Europe’s roads. However, while the number of fatalities is decreasing, VRUs have become an increasingly important proportion of the total casualty figures.


Would a ‘distracted walking’ ban make streets safer?



Pedestrian advocate Gil Penalosa says a proposed ban on distracted walking with phones is a distraction from the key factors making cities unsafe.

Lowering maximum speed limits in all residential areas to 30 km or less and adding small islands at crosswalks should be considered by politicians to actively address concerns about safety

We must make pedestrians a top priority in every single community


The Well-Designed City Is A Healthy City

If you design a city to get people walking, then people will do more physical activity. A new global study has found that a well-designed neighbourhood not only keeps people fit but can reduce obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.


In fact, in walkable cities, using a car is actually harder than walking, because of the time it takes to park. People living in these kinds of neighborhoods get up to 90 minutes of physical activity per week.


Safe Speeds also for Autonomous vehicles

While computers in autonomous vehicles may be infallible, the laws of physics still govern safety. Vehicles will need to be programmed to travel at safe speeds for everyone, especially in urban areas.

Risk of pedestrian death increases with increasing speeds. Image credit: Cities Safer By Design / WRI

Driverless Cars Create Opportunity for a Better City

Safety and moral concerns aside, if done right, autonomous vehicles could help create better cities. Driverless cars require less road space, through reducing inefficiencies or the ability to maneuver within a narrow lane, which in theory could free up street space for pedestrians and cyclists. This leads to the question: What kind of cities will be shaped by an autonomous vehicle future? Ones that are safe and accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists, with high-quality public transport systems? Or the cities once envisioned by architects such as Le Corbusier and described by Jane Jacobs as dominated by the car, rather than built for the people? Just as most cities allowed the “horseless carriage” to take over streets, will cities make the same mistake with the driverless car?


Benefits of cycling compared with car use

CCBYNC Open access

The health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: health impact assessment study

Results Compared with car users the estimated annual change in mortality of the Barcelona residents using Bicing (n=181 982) was 0.03 deaths from road traffic incidents and 0.13 deaths from air pollution. As a result of physical activity, 12.46 deaths were avoided (benefit:risk ratio 77). The annual number of deaths avoided was 12.28.

As a result of journeys by Bicing, annual carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by an estimated 9 062 344 kg.


Conclusions Public bicycle sharing initiatives such as Bicing in Barcelona have greater benefits than risks to health and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.




In a walkable neighborhood,  travel is much more accessible. Children can walk to school. Seniors can walk to the grocery store or the doctor’s office. Wheelchair users are able to wheel to work, instead of having to wait for a special bus or a ride from a friend

Graphic from Active Living Research


Walking is clearly better for the environment than driving. I

Physical activity has been associated with a risk reduction for premature death and a number of chronic diseases.

  • Areas with more amenities for biking and walking, such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, or paths are associated with more active commuting to school.
  • Traffic volume, highway density, and traffic speeds are negatively associated with levels of active travel, while smaller block size, access to public transport, retail, neighborhood shops, and street connectivity are positively associated with levels of bicycle ridership.

to wear or not to wear a helmet when cycling

Enough with the Helmetsplaining, there is a difference between racing a bike and riding it to the store

Safety in Numbers

mandatory helmet laws and gory helmet promotion campaigns significantly depress the number of people who cycle for daily commutes or shopping because it is uncomfortable in hot weather and it is ugly, and it is not what people want to do when they are just going out to live normal lives and do normal things.


Slow Down,Pay Attention

even though we all share a responsibility to keep the roads safe, the bulk of that responsibility must be placed on those with the greatest capacity to inflict harm.

According to Public Health Physician Dr. Perry Kendall, if a pedestrian gets hit by a car traveling 19 mph (30 km/h), they have around a 90 percent chance of surviving. If the car is traveling 30 mph (50 km/h), their survival chances are reduced to 15-20%. That should be significant enough for anyone to slow driving

Moreover, driving slowly gives you more time to react to unexpected situations, lessening your chances of hitting that pedestrian in the first place. If you’re driving 30 mph (50 km/h) through a residential area and a child darts out in front of your car, it will be difficult to stop in time to avoid hitting them. Go slow, and there will be enough time to react to potential incidents.


Most of us have been driving for a long time, and we drive often. Cars are so ubiquitous in our culture, so regular a part of our everyday routine, that it can be easy to forget just how serious of a responsibility they are.

Expect the unexpected