How can urban mobility improve road safety?

Mobility management within urban areas is becoming increasingly complex. Indeed, the emergence of new urban transport modes and the increasing mobility needs of urban populations have generated problems of cohabitation androad insecurity for the most vulnerable road users in case of accident.

Faced with this gradual but profound change in the urban traffic environment and infrastructure, it is necessary to integrate the concept of road safety into the thinking and actions carried out in the context of urban mobility. How can the development and use of clean modes of transport lead to a reduction in risks?

We propose to detail the various measures that can be taken to improve road safety as one of the benefits of urban mobility solutions.

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An overview of road safety in cities

Every year, road safety statistics in France confirm that the urban environment presents many risks, which are fundamentally different from those outside built-up areas. In the city, accidents involving several vehicles are generally less serious, in the sense that they are limited to material damage, mainly due to the lower speed than on roads or freeways.

However, when cyclists or pedestrians are involved, the accidents take a much more dramatic turn, as the following figures show:

  • road accidents in built-up areas are increasing every year and account for 30% of road deaths
  • the main victims of these accidents are motorized two-wheeler drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and people usingpublic transport;
  • 300 pedestrians died in built-up areas in 2021 in France, 81% of them in collisions with passenger vehicles or commercial vehicles;
  • in cities, cyclists are three times more likely to be involved in an accident than motorists, with a 26-fold increase in the risk of serious injury.

In fact, it is essential to implement all the actions and measures necessary to improve road safety in cities, while at the same time promoting sustainable development and the ecological transition.

Supporting the development of new urban mobility solutions

Multiple factors have increased the need for mobility in medium and large cities: growing urban populations, strong economic and cultural attractiveness of cities, and increasing multimodal mobility services. For many urban dwellers, the private car is no longer the preferred means of transportation for, for example, daily commuting.

The consequence of these changes in habits, for the greater good of the environment and air quality in cities, is higher risks, as we have just seen. It is not acceptable that the users most involved in the search for more ecological road traffic are the public most exposed to accident risks.

This is why the urban mobility policy conducted by the State and local authorities must concentrate its efforts on protecting those users deemed to be the most vulnerable in the eyes of the highway code, i.e. those who have no bodywork to protect them. To do this, various levers of action are possible: traffic plan management, adapted infrastructures, dedicated traffic lanes, prevention and information measures, mobility applications, improvement of active and passive vehicle safety, in-depth analysis of accident cause data.

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Urban infrastructure to create a safer environment

Protecting human lives in the city must therefore be a priority, not only to reduce the number of accident victims, but also to maintain the level of enthusiasm for soft and clean modes of travel.

If we take the example of a cyclist using a traditional bicycle or an electrically assisted bicycle who is the victim of a road accident in a built-up area, even though he or she was complying with all the regulations and riding carefully, how can we be sure that this cyclist is not the victim of an accident? How can we be sure that this cyclist will not backtrack and decide to use a car again for urban travel?

Road safety and urban mobility are therefore at the heart of the development of tomorrow's cities, which must provide a safe environment for all users of the road, the roadway and the street. The development of clean traffic areas, reserved exclusively for pedestrians, bicycles, scooters or skateboards, must be a priority, with obvious solutions such as bicycle lanes or the creation of pedestrian-only areas.

Road markings and signs can also be improved to make them more visible and increase compliance with traffic rules. For example, the city of Paris is the first European city to install a 3D crosswalk, which thanks to an optical illusion gives the impression of floating on the road, thus reinforcing its impact and visibility.

Protecting users of green modes of travel must also include protecting their vehicles, which can be expensive and difficult to replace overnight. Cities that have dedicated space and funding for secure parking facilities have seen an increase in the use of bicycles and electric bikes.

Smart vehicles and connected safety equipment

It is important not to overlook the contribution that can be made by the design of vehicles and the equipment intended for the users of these vehicles. To stay with the example of the electric bicycle, it is important to know that the most technologically advanced models can have connected handlebars and a mobility application.

These applications can actively contribute to the safety of users by signalling, for example, the approach of a work zone. In the city, work zones are often accident-prone areas, due to the surprise effect or lack of sufficient signage.

It is also useful to recommend to users of new modes of transport that they choose vehicles equipped with an efficient signalling and lighting system: reflectors, flashing lights, stop lights or position lights on the front and rear.

New technologies are also available to ensure that you are well-equipped for safe urban travel, whether in terms of signalling your presence on the road (reflective clothing or a backpack with direction indicators) or in terms of active protection (helmet, gloves, protective clothing).

Finally, just as it is mandatory to maintain heavy vehicles (cars, commercial vehicles and trucks), it is essential to regularly check the brakes and steering of your bike or electric bike.

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