social justice transport

Crossing the road should be easier than this

Last week I wrote about road safety, and by way of follow-up, here’s a short film by Luc Besson. It was made as part of the FIA Foundation’s campaign to secure a specific road safety goal as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, and it contrasts the experience of children walking to school in France and in South Africa.

Pedestrian infrastructure is a tough political sell in developing countries. Children are the most important beneficiaries, and they don’t vote. Their parents do, but the voices of those in marginalised communities aren’t heard over the clamour for more and wider roads. The issue rarely gets serious political backing at the local level, which is why global advocacy for road safety is so important.


  1. This seems to mirror our development in the 1950s-1970s. Car represent modernity while walking and cycling are the poor past those societies are trying to leave behind.

    As they get more developed then as with us the pendulum will hopefully swing back. All part of the Kutzets curve. I wish that developing countries would learn from our example or that of other countries more recently developed and see that in time they will regret the failure to provide for pedestrians and cyclists but experience tells me they won’t.

    1. Yes, cars and dreams of modernity definitely do go together, and China’s attitudes to cycling relflect that potential to move forward aggressively and then regret it. However, roads in Africa only mirror our experience extremely faintly. Britain already had a highway code and roads with pavements before the invention of the car, and the widespread adoption of cars in Britain happened slowly. It also happened in a much more equal society, with a functioning democracy and with the rule of law.

      1. The first highway code was only published in 1931 but it is true that cars were more tightly regulated from the start, falling as they did into regulations sponsored by railway companies in the 1860s to hobble steam road carriage competition, with the requirement to have a man with a red flag walk in front only being repealed in 1896 and even then speed limits were zelously enforced. This lead to the AA being set up principally to warn members of speed traps. Hence why AA patrols used to salute members, if they didn’t salute you should slow down as a speed trap was ahead.

        I think it’s interesting that Will Norman’s comments that London cycling is not inclusive of women or ethic minorities don’t cover the fact that among many immigrant groups bicycles are seen as a low status form of transport and not amount of infrastructure is going to change that.

        1. True, the highway code is the booklet summarising the law, not the law itself. Rules governing the highways predate the highway code, including rules banning bikes from pavements – at one point bikes were the newfangled menace to ordinary people.

          I haven’t read Will Norman on cycling, but riding a bike is cultural and will always appeal to some more than others. Focus on safety and keeping cars and bikes separate, I’d say, and people will cycle.

  2. This reminds me of why the students of Parkland, Florida are being heard concerning gun violence. They are making the issue about their danger and are using their POV — and since this horrific shooting took place in an affluent, sophisticated community there was a ripe youth advocacy voice ready too roar. But, recent history shows us there are also ripe youth voices in developing countries. I would recommend the Parkland students not only be a model for gun violence – but also for youth advocacy.

    1. That’s a good point, and I expect there are examples of youth advocacy for road safety at the local level that I won’t have heard about. I certainly hope so – and supporting and amplifying those voices could be a useful contribution.

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