Eternal City hosts forum for safe and sustainable cities of the future

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FIA President Jean Todt joined the Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, at a Smart Cities Forum.
FIA President Jean Todt joined the Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, at a Smart Cities Forum.
Linda Meleo, Deputy Mayor of Rome, at the opening session of Safer City Streets.
Linda Meleo, Deputy Mayor of Rome, at the opening session of Safer City Streets.
Rita Cuypers, FIA Foundation, presented the ODI/WRI ‘Politics of Change’ report on the political economy of urban road safety.
Rita Cuypers, FIA Foundation, presented the ODI/WRI ‘Politics of Change’ report on the political economy of urban road safety.
ODI & WRI report researchers Priyanka Vasudevan (Mumbai) and Natalia Lleras (Bogota) also spoke about the ‘politics of change’ report.
ODI & WRI report researchers Priyanka Vasudevan (Mumbai) and Natalia Lleras (Bogota) also spoke about the ‘politics of change’ report.
A Formula E electric car race was held in Rome to coincide with the three mobility meetings, showcasing technology that will play a role in ensuring sustainable cities.
A Formula E electric car race was held in Rome to coincide with the three mobility meetings, showcasing technology that will play a role in ensuring sustainable cities.

More than half of the planet’s population currently live in cities and this is estimated to rise to 6.5 billion people by 2050, with close to 90% of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa which already bear the burden of road traffic injuries and pollution.

Earlier this month Rome was host to three urban networking events held to explore how cities of the future can be better places to live, whether it be in the developed world or emerging countries, coinciding with a stage of the Formula E electric racing championship. FIA Foundation Partnerships Director Rita Cuypers was there, and provides this report:

The third meeting of the global Safer City Streets network, which was established at the UN Habitat III Conference in Quito in 2016 and has grown to 45 city members, was organised by the International Transport Forum in partnership with the Municipality of Rome and the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI). The Safer City Streets network, which is a collaboration between the FIA and the International Transport Forum, is supported by the FIA Foundation under the FIA Road Safety Grant Programme.

Rome joined the cities network in 2017 and is committed to achieving vision zero. Although road fatalities went down with 19% in 2016, one person still dies every two and a half days and 47 people get injured every day. The fatality rate has gone down from an encouraging 6 to 4.9 per 100,000, but cities such as London (1.6) and Paris (1.7) are still far ahead. Rome organised a public consultation for better urban planning to let the people speak. Over 1,600 citizens signed up to and sent in 4,000 proposals. Seventeen of the 101 shortlisted proposals made it to the Urban Sustainable Mobility Plan.

But Rome also has competition from smaller cities in Italy. Lucia Pennisi of the Automobile Club d’Italia showed that the eternal city only comes 28th in the safety benchmarking of Italian cities. With a population of 18 million, the capital cities of the provinces in Italy account for 30% of the total population, 24.7% of road deaths and 43.8% of injuries. Typical of cities is the large share of vulnerable road users in the crash statistics: more than 75% of deaths and 54% of the injured on urban roads.

At the meeting I presented the new report “Securing Safe Roads, the Politics of Change” undertaken by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), and supported by the Foundation, which explores the underlying challenges to road safety reforms and opportunities in low and middle-income countries. I summarised the report’s key finding, that too often policymakers are still focusing on catering for the car without any real consideration of pedestrians, even when – as in some cities – they form the majority of road users. “Pedestrians must be at the heart of road safety interventions”, I told the meeting. “They are often the ones least heard especially when they come from a poorer background. The top priority should be children who are the most vulnerable”. WRI staff Priyanka Vasudevan and Natalia Lleras spoke about their groundwork for the report in two of the city case studies, Mumbai and Bogota.

Bogota also discussed the challenge of merging police crash data, the forensic system and hospital injury records. But even a city in a high-income country may have to deal with under-reporting issues. Werner Brucks, Head of Road Safety at the city of Zurich explained how a lot of bicycle accidents are not reported. Since 2015, the police have to report all crashes, even if there is only property damage, because they may provide valid information about infrastructure issues. A new road safety challenge in Zurich is the popularity of e-bikes that can reach 45km/h, which makes them faster than cars in the city centre.

“What is not measured is not seen as important, and what is not seen as important is not measured”. Bronwen Thornton of Walk21 introduced the International Walking Data standard that aims at raising the profile of walking in transport and urban planning, and making walking data of countries and cities comparable. Transport for London has adopted the Standard in their ninth “Travel in London” report that measures mobility patterns.

The meeting featured two dedicated sessions to cycling and walking safety, which shows the importance of those two mobility modes. It is in the interest of cities to promote walking, cycling and public transport because those will make citizens fitter, healthier and more productive and this will lead to significant economic benefits. This was illustrated by the 4-year research project P.A.S.T.A (Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches) in Rome and six other European cities.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) that focuses on road safety in ten cities in low and middle-income countries met early in the week to discuss city-level strategies that embrace a safe system approach. BIGRS helps the cities (Accra, Addis Ababa, Bandung, Bangkok, Bogota, Fortaleza, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Shanghai), put in place a data surveillance system and benchmarks road safety sustainability on the basis of 31 indicators.

Ben Welle of the World Resources Institute explained how countries and cities that had adopted the Safe System approach to road safety had not only managed to reduce serious injuries and fatalities faster than others, but had been able to sustain this. A transport system safe for all road users also has a beneficial effect on development: men and women can get to work, boys and girls have access to education and businesses thrive. WRI provides Cities Safer by Design capacity building based on the Safe System approach to engineers and system designers in cities, some of which such as Sao Paulo and Fortaleza received support from the FIA Foundation.

Suzanne Andersson of the Urban Transport Administration of Gothenburg explained that speed reduction and 30km zones have been the city’s trump card to achieving a 75% road safety improvement and making the city centre a pleasant urban environment where parents let their children play on the streets again. There are now plans to extend the 30km zone to the entire centre of the city.

BIGRS Coordinator Daniel Molla presented Addis Ababa’s ambitious road safety strategy for the next thirty years (2017-2030), aiming for a city free from road trauma by 2030 and an intermediate target of 50% road fatality reduction by 2023. The strategy focuses on pedestrians who account for 88% of road deaths, by targeting commercial vehicle drivers prone to traffic violations and improving the road infrastructure responsible for 60% of pedestrian deaths. The International Road Assessment Programme’s assessment and star rating of 114 km of corridor roads, revealed that only 14% were safe enough for pedestrians. WRI has made interventions on the Bole corridor and eight intersections and NACTO has improved the safety of the Legare intersection. This has led to demonstration projects with lower speed limits, speed reduction platforms and speed humps, safe crossings and footpaths and drink driving and speed enforcement with hard-hitting campaigns in 2017 and 2018.

Bogota’s Secretary of Mobility Juan Pablo Bocarejo presented his city’s Vision Zero plan for 2017-2026. In the ten years from 1996-2006, Bogota managed to reduce road traffic fatalities by 60% by focusing on the main risk factors such as seat belt wearing, but this levelled off since. The Bogota Cero plan is addressing road infrastructure, enforcement and speed. It also focuses on motorcycles that have exponentially grown from 40,000 to 1 million in ten years’ time, resulting in a 50% increase death rate.

The final event of the week was the FIA Smart Cities Forum and the fully electric Formula E in the EUR District of Rome. The FIA Smart Cities initiative was launched in 2017 to explore innovative technology solutions to address urban mobility problems such as congestion, pollution and road traffic injuries.

The tone of the Forum was set by Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose “Copenhagen Wheel” that can turn any bike into an e-bike was included in the Time Magazine list of best inventions of the year. “The four numbers that define our cities are 2, 50, 75 and 80. Cities take up 2% of the world’s surface; they have 50% of the world population; and are responsible for 75% of the world energy consumption and 80% of CO2 emissions. The cities of the future should be better and more efficiently designed with the help of technology but they should be people-friendly and fairer to all as well.

The vision that a business as usual model is not an option and that energy efficiency and clean mobility should be embraced was shared by Olivier Wenden, Executive Director of the Prince Albert II Foundation, which focuses on environmental protection and sustainable development.

The panel on transforming a city into a smart city through policy and advocacy featured Linda Meleo and Miguel Gaspar, Deputy Mayors of Rome and Lisbon. Rome adopted both a bottom up approach starting from the community with the public consultation for the new Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan and a top down approach with for instance the ban on diesel cars in the centre of Rome scheduled for 2024. Lisbon has been transformed with an investment of €3.2 million in pedestrian safety and is making public transport more attractive. Both said that politicians should have the courage to look beyond their short-term political term and implement measures to overcome urban challenges and leading behavioural change, not only among the public but also the public administration.

A high level panel including FIA President Jean Todt and Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi concluded that the adoption of the New Urban Agenda gives cities the mandate to overcome urban mobility challenges and find long-lasting solutions for safe, sustainable and accessible transport. It is their role to advance the implementation of the Agenda and its targets. Mayor Raggi added that “we are designing the city of the future, favouring interconnected mobility with a reduced impact on the environment. Rome must be competitive and is ready to take up the challenge”. The ACI Club President Angelo Sticchi Damiani said that the citizens were ready for change and should be encouraged to go down the route of sustainable transport and new technologies such as electric vehicles. This was exactly the purpose of the Formula E race, which was held the following day at the EUR district in Rome. Judging from the enthusiastic cheers of the audience when the electric race cars passed with that whooshing sound of the future, the time seems to be right.