Potentially large economic and environmental benefits from improving pedestrian safety

I’m pleased to see the Queensland Government will install flashing lights at schools with a view to improving pedestrian safety, as reported by the Sunshine Coast Daily earlier today:

WALKING to and from school will be safer for children and parents as the Newman Government announced the next 33 schools to benefit from flashing traffic lights.

It is possible there will be significant benefits to the community from a reduction in injuries caused by cars to school children or their parents. Also there will be additional economic and environmental benefits. This is because the safer we can make walking to school the more likely it is that children will walk to school, reducing kilometres travelled in cars.

A Department of Infrastructure and Transport Discussion Paper on Active Travel released toward the end of last year notes there is strong evidence to suggest there are substantial economic (e.g. avoided health costs, avoided road infrastructure costs) and environmental benefits (e.g. reduced greenhouse gas emissions) from reducing kilometres travelled in cars and shifting people to walking, riding or catching public transport instead. The Discussion paper summarises the significant economic benefits per kilometre travelled by active means (walking or cycling) as follows (p. 13):

Economic analysis suggests that the benefits of a typical walking or riding infrastructure project include decongestion (20.7 cents per kilometre), health (up to 168 cents per kilometre), vehicle operating costs (35.0 cents per kilometre), infrastructure savings (6.8 cents per kilometre) and environment (5.9 cents per kilometre).

Given these potential benefits, which are very large when one considers the potential reduction in vehicle kilometres travelled by greater walking or cycling, it may be sensible to consider wider investments in pedestrian (and cyclist) safety, as well as improving walking and cycling routes to make walking and cycling less of a hassle.

There are lots of places in Queensland cities, particularly in Brisbane’s inner western suburbs, that could be made much safer for pedestrians through greater use of traffic calming devices and building proper-sized roundabouts – ideally, roundabouts should deflect the path of vehicles enough to significantly slow them down. For any readers in Brisbane City Council, I’m thinking in particular about the roundabout at the intersection of Patrick Lane and Dixon Street at Toowong. It is very dangerous for pedestrians to cross near here, and I wonder if this discourages some residents of Land St and Sylvan Rd apartment towers from walking to and from Auchenflower train station?

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