City design that combines more public transport and rail networks with smaller, low speed blocks are the best for reducing road transport injuries, according to a new global study.
The research, which appears in The Lancet Planetary Health, identifies the best and worst performing city designs with respect to road injuries.
Researchers from Australia, Spain, and the United States compared maps of almost 1,700 cities across the world with injury data to understand urban design factors that contribute to the most road injuries.
Cities were categorized into nine unique design types ranging from locations with highly organized road and rail network (“High Transit,” “Motor City,” and “Intense” types) to areas with almost no public transport and sparse urban design (“Sparse” and “Informal” types).
The research aims to highlight the importance of urban design and planning as a key factor in reducing transport related injuries across the world, says lead researcher Jason Thompson of the University of Melbourne.
The study finds “High Transit” cities with strong rail networks like Barcelona, Durban, Jerusalem, and Toronto had the lowest rates of road injuries compared to “Informal” type cities across India, China, and Africa where poor urban design contributed to twice the injury rates.
“If reducing the road toll is your ultimate goal, it is better to invest in safer alternative transport options rather than continuing to focus on car-based safety interventions,” Thompson says.
Australian cities like Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, and Melbourne fell under the “Motor City” category with extensive road networks and suburbs designed around the needs of drivers that create car dependency.
“Australia has successfully reduced road injuries through enforcement and public safety education in the past but a shift away from motor vehicles toward more compact city design and investment in safe, efficient public transport is key to reducing future road injury rates,” Thompson says.
The study also found that the income of a country did not necessarily relate to road injury rates. High-income countries like Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates were still experiencing high road injury rates due to city designs that encourage motor vehicle use.
The researchers conducted the work at the University of Melbourne’s Transport, Health, and Urban Design Research Hub in collaboration with the Barcelona Institute of Global Health and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Funding for the study came from the Australian Research Council, the National Health and Medical Research Council, and the US National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Source: University of Melbourne