United Nations calls for “at least 20%” of transport budgets for cycling and walking

A new report compiled by the United Nations Environment team has outlined how a minimum of 20% of transport budgets should go to active travel in the near future.

“Lack of investment in safe walking and cycling infrastructure is contributing to the deaths of millions of people and overlooking a great opportunity to contribute to the fight against climate change,” starts the report, which offers regional breakdowns of why it believes travel habits must change.

Surveying progress toward active travel, the assessment of 20 low to middle income countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America found startling difference with high-income nations. Almost twice as many people die in road traffic accidents in these poorer regions. Worldwide it is calculated that some 1.3 million people die every year on the road, almost half of whom are vulnerable road users.

“There would be an international scandal if the world knowingly let the entire population of Australia, Ghana or Nepal die in just 15 years,” says Erick Solheim, the UN Environment’s executive director in his foreword. “Yet we quietly accept more than that will die in road accidents. Even worse, we accept it knowing there are alternatives. That’s why this report highlights both the risks and some startlingly simple solutions. Around the world, many people rely on walking and cycling for transport. Many more begin and end each trip on foot. Such affordable, people-powered transport offers huge social, economic and environmental benefits for urban and rural areas.” active

With motorised transport generating almost a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions, the UN stance frowns upon continuing with a business as usual approach to policy and spending.

Motorized transport is responsible for a quarter of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and is the fastest growing sector in greenhouse gas emissions – it will be responsible for a third of CO2 emissions by 2050 at current rates.

The ramifications are go beyond climate change and affect health policy, points out the study.

Poor air quality, in part due to vehicle emissions, is estimated to cause around seven million premature deaths each year and is increasing health problems like bronchitis, asthma, heart disease and brain damage.

Urging countries to halt car dependency, the UN Environment now has four key pointers for policymakers:

  • Draft national and local policies for Non-motorized Transport (NMT), and if they already exist, immediately act to implement them.
  • Increase spending on walking and cycling infrastructure to at least 20 per cent of transport budgets.
  • Ask NMT users where they walk and ride – pay particular focus to vulnerable users, such as women, children, elderly and people with mobility challenges.
  • Actively champion NMT – political will is not only about policies, it is about giving walking and cycling equal status to private cars.

To read the report in full, click here.

This article has now been added to our Cycling Advocacy Resource, a library of information for the active travel advocate to refer to as they push for better conditions.