New report on walking and cycling

Catherine Benson from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) reviews a new report prepared by the UN Environment Programme entitled the ‘Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling.’


UNEP Releases Outlook on Walking and Cycling

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released the ‘Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling,’ which highlights that limited investment in safe walking and cycling infrastructure contributes to deaths from traffic accidents and limits opportunities to address climate change through more sustainable forms of transport. The report calls for increased investment in walking and cycling infrastructure to save millions of lives and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution from motorized transport.

The report finds that 1.3 million people die annually from traffic accidents, 49% of whom are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. The report states that twice as many people die in road traffic accidents in low to middle-income countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America compared to high-income countries. The report identifies Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, South Africa and Zambia, as the most dangerous countries for walking and cycling. By 2050, the report projects that the number of private cars will triple, with the majority of new vehicle growth expected in developing countries that already have high levels of road fatalities and injuries.

Motorized transport is the fastest growing sector in GHG emissions, according to the report. It states that such transport currently contributes 23% of global carbon dioxide emissions and is expected to contribute 33% of emissions by 2050. The UN cautions that current trends in vehicle growth “will severely restrict the world’s ability to limit the global average temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius.”

UNEP recommends countries invest at least 20% of their transport budgets in walking and cycling infrastructure, stressing the importance of such investments to save lives, reduce carbon emissions and reverse air pollution. UNEP further recommends, inter alia: national and local policies focused on non-motorized transport (NMT); focusing on vulnerable NMT users, like children, elderly and people with mobility challenges; and increasing political will for such policies.

UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim called for putting “people, not cars, first in transport systems.” He elaborated that “designing transport systems around cars puts more vehicles on the road, increasing both greenhouse gas emissions and deadly air pollution.” Solheim also stressed the importance of investing in safer infrastructure to prevent increased traffic-related deaths.

The report documents the inclusion of NMT in national or city policies through a survey of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and includes country reports and a special section focusing on vulnerable groups in Africa NMT policies.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address sustainable forms of transport through SDG 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages), SDG 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts). SDG Target 3.6 aims to “by 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.” SDG Target 3.9 aims to, “by 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.” SDG Target 11.2 aims to “by 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.”

The report is available here.


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