Live from Transforming Transportation: Safer by Design / Spotlight on Brazil
Separated bike lane in Vanouver, Canada. Photo by Paul Krueger/Flickr. Cropped.

Separated bike lane on Dunsmuir Street in Vanouver, Canada. Day 2 of Transforming Transportation opened with a plenary session on designing cities for improved road safety. Photo by Paul Krueger/Flickr. Cropped.

EMBARQ, the sustainable urban transport and urban development program of the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the World Bank are co-organizing Transforming Transportation on January 16 and 17 in Washington, D.C. Join the conversation on social media with hashtag #TTDC14, by following @EMBARQNetwork and @wbsustaindev on Twitter, and tune in to for video streaming of select sessions.

Day 2 of Transforming Transportation 2014 began with the fourth plenary of the conference, “Safer by Design: How Traffic Safety is Better for People and Business.” As one of the five opportunities for 21st-century transport identified by the co-organizers and partner organizations behind Transforming Transportation, road safety is a critical issue to address in cities.

A few statistics shared at the start of the plenary highlighted the major costs of unsafe urban road networks: Globally, 40-45% of traffic fatalities occur in urban areas. In India and China, 32 people die every hour from traffic crashes. And a total of 1.3 million people die each year from the same cause. Holger Dalkmann, Director of EMBARQ, summed up the nature of road safety as an urban issue during a presentation that opened the session:

We either win or lose the battle on safety and decreasing fatalities in cities. Sustainable urban transport can help to win this battle, and it needs to be done right – so that “safe” is an integral part of “sustainable.”

“Safer by Design: How Traffic Safety is Better for People and Business”

Karla Gonzalez Carvajal, Transport Sector Manager, South Asia, The World Bank moderated the plenary. The panelists included Mary Crass, Head of Policy and Summit Preparation, ITF; Sudhir Krishna, Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development, India; Esteban Diez Roux, Transport Division of Infrastructure & Environment Sector, IDB; Jean Todt, President, FIA; and Federico Fernández Alonso, Traffic police, Spain.

Dalkmann’s presentation stressed EMBARQ’s commitment to making sustainable transport a reality in cities. Through describing the Avoid, Shift, Improve paradigm for road safety, he emphasized that reducing driving reduces overall exposure to traffic crashes and fatalities. Since the most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, it’s important to focus on sustainable transport solutions, which research shows saves lives. And in the spirit of Transforming Transportation 2014’s theme – “Bettter Cities, Better Business” – Dalkmann shared the wide range of benefits safer cities can have for business, including increasing productivity and health of workers, raising property value, safer delivery of goods to markets, and improving retail sales.

Diez Roux also emphasized the significant economic costs of traffic crashes and fatalities, stressing that lives lost have real monetary costs, and arguing that development banks must use those costs to make a strong case for investing in improving road safety. Crass addressed road safety through a policy perspective, advocating that issues of access and inclusiveness must be prioritized from the beginning of the planning process, and stressing the important role transport has to play in building more sustainable, equitable cities:

When we have outlying areas that are poorly served by transport, preventing those populations to having equal or more equitable access to amenities in urban areas and participating actively in society, that represents an economic cost to society. There’s a huge inefficiency built in there.Transport has an enormous role to play in ensuring the social cohesion of an urban area.

Road safety panelists at Transforming Transportation 2014. Photo by Aaron Minnick/EMBARQ.

From left to right: Federico Fernández Alonso, panelist; Karla Gonzalez Carvajal, moderator; Mary Crass, panelist; Jean Todt, panelist; and Sudhir Krishna, panelist during the road safety plenary at Transforming Transportation 2014. Photo by Aaron Minnick/EMBARQ.

Enforcement was also a major theme of the road safety panel discussion. Krishna and Fernández Alonso emphasized the importance of enforcing regulations that protect road safety in India and Spain, respectively, such as requiring higher insurance payments for car ownership and legal consequences for drinking and driving. Diez Roux and Todt also underscored the importance of prioritizing road safety at both the national and international levels. “If you put road safety at the top of the list,  it will work. If you develop a strong action plan and fund it continually, you will get results,” said Todt. Diez Roux concurred: “The most important thing we can do is raise the issue and make sure it’s an important part of our dialogue…there are success stories from countries such as Spain, Korea, and Argentina where we’ve seen reductions of 20-30% in two to three years. It can be done.” Above all, Diez Roux emphasized that road safety must be recognized as a fundamentally urban issue – “We need to work with cities.”

Session 2C – “Country Focus: Brazil”

Three parallel sessions followed the morning plenary: Session 2A – “Compact Cities are Good Business”; Session 2B – “Public Private Partnerships”; and Session 2C – “Country Focus: Brazil.”

The eyes of the world will be on Brazil this year as it hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and again in 2016 when Rio de Janeiro hosts the Summer Olympic Games. To complicate this exciting international moment, Brazil will also hold national elections in October 2014 after it was wracked by the largest protests in 20 years in June 2013 – motivated in part by public transportation fare hikes. At the same time, this public scrutiny created a unique window of opportunity for improving transport systems in the country, culminating in transport joining the list of social rights guaranteed by the Brazilian constitution.

Luis Antonio (Toni) Lindau, Director of EMBARQ Brasil, opened the Brazil session with a brief presentation and served as the session moderator. To set the tone for the panel discussion, Lindau shared the following figures about Brazil: With nearly 200 million citizens, Brazil is the world’s sixth largest economy, and 84% of its population live in cities. And Brazil has lots and lots of cars – 350 for every 1,000 residents. The country also has the fourth highest amount of deaths from traffic fatalities after only China, India, and Nigeria, at 22.5 deaths/100,000 population. Traffic congestion and fatalities are both rapidly increasing problems for the country, contributing to a great need for immediate, effective solutions in its urban transport realm.

The panelists who endeavored to discuss the challenges and opportunities Brazil currently faces included Clarisse Cunha Linke, Director, ITDP Brasil; Ciro Biderman, Director, SPTrans, Sao Paulo; André Dantas, NTU, Brasília; Shomik Mehndiratta, The World Bank; and Marcio Henrique Nigro, Founder and Director, Caronetas.

"Country Focus: Brazil" panel at Transforming Transportation 2014. Photo by Aaron Minnick/EMBARQ.

From left to right: Clarisse Cunha Linke, panelist; Toni Lindau, moderator; Ciro Biderman, panelist; and Marcio Henrique Nigropanelist, panelist, during the Brazil session at Transforming Transportation 2014. Photo by Aaron Minnick/EMBARQ.

Linke identified two main pillars that will define urban transport investment in Brazil for years to come: the national urban mobility law and the Growth Acceleration Program (Programa de Açeleração de Crescimento [PAC]). The national urban mobility law requires all Brazilian cities of over 20,000 inhabitants to develop an urban mobility plan by 2015. If cities fail to meet this deadline, they may lose opportunities for future funding of infrastructure projects. Lindau clarified that there are 1,669 cities in Brazil required to meet the deadline, but more like 3,000 plans must be developed when you consider all of the cities within metropolitan regions. Developing all those plans by 2015, he says, is nearly “impossible.”

The second pillar mentioned by Linke, PAC, has tabled $57 billion in federal funding available for infrastructure development. So in some cases, Brazilian cities are getting funding for urban transport projects before they have their urban mobility plans in place – the timing is tricky, Linke emphasized. At present there’s a lack of clear criteria for what urban transport projects should be funded, but the funding does represent a major opportunity for a new era of sustainable transport development in Brazil.

Mehndiratta stressed that while it’s great that there is now considerable federal funding available, in order for it to be most effective a structured investment program must be developed. “There’s a need for capital investment, and the money is there, but there’s an opportunity to structure that investment. Other countries have done a good job at that [which Brazil can learn from].”

An interesting question from an audience member at the end of the sessions inquired as to how Brazil can balance high-quality public transport and affordability for  low- and middle-income citizens – the driving force behind last year’s massive protests. Mehndiratta answered that the issue always goes back to tension between Brazilian transport operators and users – a theme also mentioned in yesterday’s “Integrated Mobility” session. He elaborated that the fundamental takeaway operators should glean from the protests is the need to build trust with users about the effectiveness of investments.

Biderman, representing Sao Paulo transport operators, agreed that some positive lessons came out of the protests. “The good side of asking for a reduced fare is that it has exactly the effect of pushing us towards transparency and more efficient operation.”

In the final question from the audience, a participant asked if he was being too optimistic in believing that public transport was improving in Brazil. Several panelists agreed that they feel enthusiasm for Brazil’s opportunities in urban transport, and Lindau, appreciating a positive spin to the end of the session, concluded with a quote he’d read earlier in the week: “Brazil is not a country for amateurs!”

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Transforming Transportation later today on TheCityFix! In the meantime, join the conversation online using hashtag #TTDC14 and by following @EMBARQNetwork and @wbsustaindev on Twitter.

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