Making Mobility Safe: The Infrastructure Toolkit for Non-Motorised User Safety in African Cities

13 April 2021

Amend’s mission is to apply science, evidence, and experience into forming practical, affordable, and accessible ways to save lives. Our just-released Infrastructure Toolkit for Non-Motorised User Safety in African Cities: Challenges and Solutions, produced with the support of the High Volume Transport program (funded by UK Aid), is a new milestone in that mission. It consolidates decades of work into a straightforward guide on how to prioritize safety in the design and improvement of roads in urban environments in Africa.

The Infrastructure Toolkit has been developed to be accessible, handy and, above all, practical to the people who make the decisions about where and how roads are built and maintained in African towns and cities—engineers, governments, and contractors in small towns and large cities alike. The toolkit’s focus is Africa and the unique issues that affect healthy journeys across the continent. It was developed with information and learning gathered in Africa and, while the principles of road safety are the same everywhere in the world, the toolkit’s focus is on realistic, readily available solutions for the African context.

From Africa to the world

As many of you reading might know, Africa’s roads are the most dangerous in the world. Even though the majority of people in Africa get around by foot, roads  are designed for motor vehicles, even though only a tiny minority of road users own vehicles. And as urbanization and the youth population increase, the numbers grow disproportionately on both sides: ever more pedestrians yet more space created for vehicles.

In our work over the years, we have recognized what is lately referred to as a “last mile” issue: engineers often don’t have the training or tools required to help design and build roads in Africa safely for African road users. The Infrastructure Toolkit takes us a little further toward finishing that last mile.

Our work in Africa has allowed us to understand how road hazards occur at every level and in every corner of urban development. This work also reconfirms one of our underlying principles: roads that are safe for children are safe for everyone. “We found that the conditions in African cities where we have worked and implemented safe infrastructure for nonmotorized users—particularly the vulnerable ones, including schoolchildren and persons with disabilities—were very similar,” explains Amend engineer, Juliet Adu, based in Ghana. “In putting the toolkit together, we thought that Africa would be one place where you would find solutions that have been tried and tested in both developing and developed countries but customized to meet our particular needs.”

The steps

The toolkit segments road development and improvement into 12 challenges with corresponding solutions. They range from designing footpaths/sidewalks to street vendor accommodations, accessibility for disabled persons, and choosing the right paint for zebra stripes / crosswalks. Some of the simplest details can save the most lives. Or as Juliet says, “This toolkit is meant to show that making roads safe for the nonmotorized road user is really not rocket science.”

The toolkit considers practical applications on numerous, granular levels. For instance, we recommend bollards in part because they are easy to install, affordable, and have “little resale value, minimizing the risk of theft.” We consider the placement of advertisement and direction signs, as they prompt pedestrians “to step into the roadway to pass the obstructions, putting them at risk of being hit by a vehicle.” The goal is to not just instigate or install fixes but to foster simply maintained, lasting changes that will help generations to come. And all our recommendations are grounded in evidence.

Access

We invite you take a look at the toolkit (you can download it here): it is made for engineers and planners but offers easy insight to anyone who uses roads—everyone in the world—on how the details matter and even small fixes can create profound and lasting change. It specifically addresses the African experience and what we’ve learned from our School Area Road Safety Assessments and Improvements (SARSAI) program, along with research and evidence gathered from around the globe.

We give deep thanks to the help of the High Volume Transport Applied Research Programme funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office for their support of the development of this toolkit. The Infrastructure Toolkit for Non-Motorised User Safety in African Cities: Challenges and Solutions has been published with our longtime partners, the FIA Foundation. Thanks also to our friends and collaborators at ITDP, NACTO, UNEP and WRI for the images and ongoing partnership to make Africa’s roads safe.