The lack of adequate transportation policies and the frequent increase in taxes, as well as an increased purchasing power, caused a 25% drop in the use of public transport in Brazil in the last 15 years. Depending on the location, it is cheaper to use a motorcycle or a car than public transport. Not coincidentally, the levels of motorization in the country have risen greatly. Since the beginning of the millennium, the fleet of cars in Brazil nearly tripled while motorcycles increased by about 650%, creating more congestion, pollution and deaths.
In 2013 there were 500,000 cases of permanent disability and deaths reported and medical expenses totaled more than R$3.2 billion. The deaths in traffic accidents surpassed 43,000 (rate of 22.5 deaths/100 thousand), equivalent to nearly 5 deaths per hour or 180 Malaysia Airlines accidents, which occurred in March. This index puts Brazil in a prominent yet very uncomfortable position in a ranking that no country would want to appear. Our rates of vehicle accidents are twice as high as in the North America and seven times higher than Sweden, which is the reference standard in road safety.
These frightening numbers have also served as an important call to action and have led to initiatives and organizations that aim to save lives, such as the Decade of Action for Road Safety, started by the United Nations, and the National Pact for the Reduction of Accidents, started by the Federal Government. But to win the war on traffic it is necessary to rethink the way we travel. The irrational use of the automobile has already shown its serious consequences.
A recent study published by EMBARQ shows that the cities that have increased the use of public transport, cycling and walking, not only saved lives but also improved the health of the population. Between 1998 and 2009, Copenhagen has seen an increase of 28% in the number of bicycles on the streets, while the city has halved the number of accidents and fatalities involving bicycles. In New York, with the deployment of 320 miles of bike lanes, the number of trips by bicycle quadrupled from 2000 to 2010, while the percentage of accidents involving cyclists decreased by over 70%.
Global examples include the city of Bogota, the TransMilenio Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has prevented an estimated 200 deaths in nine years, located on the Avenida Caracas. The average number of accidents on the road decreased from 61 to 21, a reduction of 65%. Another positive example comes from Guadalajara, Mexico, where incidents in the Macrobús corridor fell 46% over the previous system deployment period.
But the number of incidents only decreases when the implementation of a mass transit system comes with a design in accordance with the best engineering practices of road safety infrastructure. In the developed world, where projects are designed with the accompanying road safety auditors, the public transport system results in greater safety for alternative forms of transportation.
How do you think cities can encourage the use of public transportation?
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, can be found here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.