Every time we go out to the street we feel that cities are changing. Technology in the automobile industry is advancing fast, environmental challenges are now a matter of survival and the public space is changing in order to give place to new ways of mobility. In these times of transition, challenges are huge, but none will be as decisive as the safety of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. It makes sense, therefore, that road safety prevention dominated the Road Safety Sessions held on the 19th in the Algarve University Penha Campus.
The last conference before the Portugal Mobi Summit gathered in Faro politicians, experts and businessmen of the mobility sector. Everyone agreed that today, moving around a city is not as it was 20 or 30 years ago. We don’t even need to go that further back. Less than a decade ago, bicycles, motorcycles and scooters interfered very little in the cities routines. Cyclists, pedestrians and drivers now need to find safe ways to live together in traffic. And on the other side, infrastructures also need to anticipate traffic needs of autonomous driving.
It’s the future that is imposing new challenges, but it is also the past that is coming back with number of deaths increasing towards figures that we didn’t see since 2012, said Global Media Group manager, Afonso Camões: “675 deaths in one year it’s a nightmare”. We went back on road safety, but the situation in the European roads is not optimistic either, points out Carlos Lopes, expert in the ANSR – Autoridade Nacional de Segurança Rodoviária (National Authority in Road Safety).
Between 2001 and 2017 the number of deaths in the EU countries decreased 58% but this decrease has been slowing down with car passengers representing 46% of the total while pedestrians, motorcycle drivers and cyclists counting the other 46%. “For Brussels, it’s enough to recognize that it’s not possible to reduce road accident deaths in 50%, letting the goals of 2010-2020 fall” says the director of the ANSR Unit for Prevention and Road Safety.
Reducing the use of cars will always be one of the answers to fight road accidents defends the Mayor of Faro. But changing old habits will never happen without insisting in soft mobility that aims to bring cyclists and pedestrians to the urban centers: “In Faro it makes total sense, since the city is flat” says Rogério Bacalhau.
Changing habits is the hardest thing. People still take the car to make a trip that would be 10 or 15 minutes walking.
Rogério Bacalhau, Mayor of Faro
As the other three participants of the Road Safety debate stated, this happens in Faro and in all the other cities. “A new rout to a new efficiency” was the starting point for a conversation on stage that started with the urgent call for the need to change the chip of public policies for road safety. Communication, being one of the pillars of any strategy, will have to forget old strategies if they want to reach their target audience. “Campaigns, as we know them, don’t work anymore”, warns João Pereira, director of strategic planning of Partners Agency. Today, a message with more than eight seconds risks to fragment our attention, says the expert, putting the emphasis in creativity to plan campaigns that aim to have a real impact in the change of habits.
Vehicles, infrastructures and communication are the three dimensions of a policy for road accidents prevention, defends on the other side, Luís Marreio, head of Brisa’s Road Safecty Observatory. And both the governments and the public entities have to incentivize brands to invest in road safety and prevention. Training also assumes a vital importance, mainly in schools and even with the right to become a school subject: “Children won’t only interiorize the message but will also educate their parents”.
What cannot happen is that the fight against road accidents remains circumscribed in one dimension. Nor stay closed in small circles. “Policies have to be articulated with all of the agents involved”, defends Fátima Pereira da Silva, specialist in mobility at the Traffic Psychology International. An efficient campaign is the one that connects all the phenomena that interfere in the road safety – alcohol and other drugs, road speed, digital distraction and all of the risky behaviors.
Many are the realities that happen simultaneously on the road, which is enough to call all the entities – public and private – to this fight. Schools, parents associations, companies, brands and the automobile industry need to sit down together in order to understand what each and one of them is doing: “Living in a small country, it’s not understandable the dispersion of measures, with initiatives and polices that end up by having little or no effect”.
But if the amount of cars circulating in cities is still the main obstacle for road safety, the tendency amongst the younger population is that of minimizing its importance. “The millenials prefer to enjoy a month vacation in an exotic place than to pay for a car loan for 11 months” says Gonçalo Castelo Branco, head of Smart Mobility at EDP.
Private cars represent 98% of urban mobility, but in 2035 its weight will drop to 75%, anticipates EDP’s expert, using as a reference the most recent international studies. It was clearly towards the future that Gonçalo Castelo branco drove his intervention focused on electric, autonomous, connected and shared mobility. In just over a decade and a half, 37% of new cars in Europe will be electric and 10% driven by artificial intelligence foresees the expert.
The future seems very stimulating, but we cannot loose sight of the principle that should orient the road driving, warns the president of ANSR: “Safety is everyone’s responsibility, from the pedestrian to the government” insists Rui Soares Riberiro.
And besides all the measures to fight road accidents, the spaces of debate are decisive to “share knowledge” and learn not to repeat mistakes that can cost lives. “One death alone cannot be tolerated” underlines ANSR’s president, closing the Road Safety Sessions.
Kátia Catulo | Text
João Silva/Global Images | Photographs