World Resources Institute WRI

Cities Safer by Design - Urban Design Recommendations for Healthier Cities, Fewer Traffic Fatalities


Courtesy of World Resources Institute WRI

Cities Safer by Design is a global reference guide to help cities save lives from traffic fatalities through improved street design and smart urban development. Over 1.2 million people die in traffic crashes globally, mostly pedestrians, and that number is growing every year. This hands-on guide taps examples from cities worldwide and includes 34 different design elements to improve safety and quality of life.

This report is made possible through funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Key Findings

More than 1.3 million people are killed in traffic crashes worldwide, making traffic fatalities one of the leading causes of death in cities, especially in developing countries. Children, elderly, and poor people are particularly vulnerable. The report from WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities and made possible through funding by Bloomberg Philanthropies includes more than 30 specific urban design recommendations for urban planners and policymakers.

Cities Safer by Design emphasizes two ways to improve traffic safety in cities. First, by building and retrofitting urban environments to reduce the need for individual vehicle trips; and second, by reducing vehicle speeds in areas where cars, pedestrians and cyclists mix. The report focuses on improving infrastructure for pedestrians, bicycling, and mass transport.

The report includes examples from specific cities. Tokyo, a dense, but transit-oriented city, has a traffic fatality rate of 1.3 per 100,000 residents compared to Atlanta, Georgia, which has 9.7 per 100,000 residents. Many cities in low- and middle-income countries have higher accident rates, or lack adequate data reporting. In addition, the report provides on-the-ground examples from Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, New York, Paris and more.

The report includes illustrated recommendations for specific design elements proven to improve traffic safety, including:

  • Urban design that includes smaller block sizes, frequent street connections, narrower streets, and access to destinations in compact urban environments that alleviate the need for vehicle travel;

  • Traffic calming measures such as speed humps, chicanes, curb extensions, raised pedestrian crossings and other elements;

  • Arterials and intersections that reduce conflicts between road users by providing clear crossings, medians and refuge islands;

  • Pedestrian facilities ranging from pedestrian-only areas to basic, consistent sidewalks;

  • Bicycling networks that feature protected bicycle lanes and special attention to design at intersections; and

  • Safety improvements around mass transport stations and corridors.

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