ARE OUR KAMPALA ROADS SAFE FOR PEDESTRIANS!!
Walking is good for your health, and it’s good for the environment too. But before you head out on foot for a stroll, power walk, or errand, how safe are you?
According to the Uganda police 2011 Crime report, there were 22,272 road traffic crashes reported to the Police resulting in 3,343 fatalities, 14,438 people seriously injured and 2,181 people slightly injured.
Pedestrians alone were the largest casualty class killed accounting for 39.2 percent of all casualties. By virtue of being a pedestrian, you are at a very high risk of dying for using the road. Pedestrians are considered vulnerable road users largely due to their lack of protection and limited biomechanical tolerance to violent forces if hit by a vehicle. In a collision with a vehicle,
Pedestrians are always the weakest party and are at a greater risk of injury or death compared with most other road users.
And yet this is still the most common means of transport in our country, whether in urban or rural areas. We see pedestrians everyday and everywhere; school children of all ages on the way to and from school, adults walking to work and back home, there are always people on the road moving for one reason or another.
Who is at most risk?
- Male pedestrians are more likely to die or be injured in a motor vehicle crash than females.
- Pre-teen, teen, and young adult (ages 10-29 years) pedestrians are more likely to be treated in emergency departments for crash-related injuries.
The images below, taken around Kampala, highlight some of the ways that pedestrians are at risk of injury;
Figure 1 this road is not safe for pedestrians: Dastur street, Kampala city, Uganda.; this road is not safe for pedestrians: Dastur street, Kampala city, Uganda. The picture shows the absence of safe infrastructure; a pedestrian walks on the vehicle lane, past a gaping manhole that’s obstructing the pedestrian strip. The manhole is lined with protruding metal strips and only tape to serve as a warning. In the event that a pedestrian is forced off the road by a vehicle or pushed by human traffic during rush hour, the person is sure to suffer severe injury either from breaking a bone or getting pierced by the dirty protruding sharp metal. During the night, this manhole is also likely to be inconspicuous, which increases the risk of a pedestrian falling into the manhole.
Figure 2 This road is not safe for pedestrians. Jinja Road, Nakawa town, Kampala Uganda. This picture was taken at Nakawa town a highly residential area with social amenities such as a busy roadside market, a taxi park and a university which are separated by the Kampala-Jinja highway. It can be observed that the road was designed with minimum consideration for pedestrian usage. While the road has been constructed with tarmac for smooth movement of vehicles and motorcycles, the pedestrian strip has been left unconstructed. The pavement that would otherwise be used by pedestrians was left unconstructed and the soil surface has the potential to get slippery when it rains, which can result into unintentional injuries. The pavement is also paralleled by open drainage channels, which can lead to fractures in case a pedestrian falls into one. We also see that a section which could be used by pedestrians has been turned into a parking lot for motorcycles, hence congesting the little space left for pedestrians.
Figure 3 Congestion and bad driver behavior; Market Street, Kampala Uganda; In this image, we see a less planned and poorly developed area at Nakasero market, located in the heart of the central business district of Kampala Uganda. The market attracts a variety of persons, who come to shop and buy commodities, as well as traders and transporters. The road (Market Street) is accessed by the shoppers, supply vehicles, commuter taxis and commuter motorcycles. All these use the very same road to access the market resulting into competition for space and the right of way, which creates pedestrian/vehicle conflict. The pedestrian strip has been abused by traders as vantage selling points, while the supply vehicles, commuter taxis and motorcycles use them as parking and loading points. Pedestrians therefore have to compete for space with vehicles, and some can be seen walking right in the middle of the road. The diversity in road user type in such a congested area increases the risk of pedestrians getting involved in crashes and sustaining injuries.
Figure 4 Pedestrians at risk of harm, Namirembe road, Kampala Uganda. This image, taken on Namirembe road, Kampala Uganda captures pedestrians walking past an unmarked open manhole located on the pedestrian strip. This is very risky to pedestrians, because since there is no warning, one is likely to fall into the manhole if they are walking while distracted. During heavy traffic or rush hours, the pedestrian strip will be congested, resulting in an increased chance of people falling into the manhole and injuring themselves. The pedestrians walking too close to the manhole are also risking harm unto themselves.
Figure 5 Congestion, Poorly constructed pedestrian strip. This image, taken along Hoima road, in Kampala captures pedestrians competing with vehicles for space. The pedestrian strip was poorly constructed, with an uneven surface that can lead to falls. When it rains, the pedestrian strip is unusable due to the mud and stagnant water, forcing pedestrians to walk on the car lanes and compete for space in this congested area. The pedestrians are therefore in close proximity and contact with the cars, a fertile ground for injuring pedestrians.
Pedestrian safety has long posed and continues to be a major challenge to road safety authorities. However means to improve the safety of pedestrians include:
- Providing additional shared paths, walk bridges and crossovers for pedestrians;
- Building highways and busy roads far from residential, market and other social amenities;
- Reducing speed limits in areas of high pedestrian activity such as strip shopping precincts;
- Educating the community on the rights and responsibilities of all road users especially as regards movement on the road and paying attention without distractions from mobile phones;
- Including shared paths and upgraded pedestrian facilities in major infrastructure projects;
- Nominating pedestrian infrastructure for upgrades through the Black Spot program;
- Promoting the manufacture and purchase of more pedestrian-friendly vehicles.