On the occasion of the 6th annual UN Global Road Safety Week, WRI has joined leaders and organizations around the world in signing an open letter that calls for an urgent transition to low-speed, livable streets. This year’s Road Safety Week theme is “Streets for life,” focused on the importance of limiting speeds to 30 kilometers per hour on streets where people and vehicles mix.

The call is urgent for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because low speeds save lives. Speed is one of the main risk factors in road crashes and a leading contributor to death and serious injury. Higher speeds are associated with a significantly higher crash risk. Even small increases in speed significantly increase the probability of death or injury. This is particularly the case for the most vulnerable road users, including people with disabilities, the elderly and children. Every day, 3,000 children and young people are killed or seriously injured on the world’s roads. A child hit by a car traveling at 30 km/h (20 mph) can survive, but the odds are much lower at 80 km/h (50 mph).

Reducing speeds is also urgent for public health and sustainability goals. Low speeds make walking and cycling safer and more accessible, enabling and encouraging healthy lifestyles and use of active, low-carbon, zero-emission mobility.

Speed management is also an issue of social and racial equity, as it is lower-income and minority communities who tend to live in areas most exposed to high-speed traffic, road dangers, environmental hazards, and lack of access to opportunities and key services .

During COVID-19 response and recovery, livable streets are more crucial than ever. As the pandemic has significantly altered urban landscapes around the world, there is increased urgency for improved road safety. Many cities are now tasked with protecting more vulnerable users in addition to creating safe public spaces that will enable economic recovery and allow residents to enjoy the outdoors.

The 2020 Stockholm Declaration, adopted by governments worldwide, calls for a focus on livable streets and, in line with available evidence, a maximum road travel speed of 30 km/h where vulnerable road users and vehicles mix. Commitment to this approach must be at the forefront of the new Decade of Action for Road Safety to achieve the Global Goals.

“Establishing lower speeds helps achieve not only road safety goals, but climate and social equity goals,” said Claudia Adriazola-Steil, Acting Director of Urban Mobility and Director of Health & Road Safety at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. “Lower speeds create safer streets, more livable neighborhoods and healthier, more sustainable environments – environments that encourage walking and cycling over car dependency.”

In support of this call, WRI is launching a new Low-Speed Zone Guide this week with the World Bank that helps empower communities and decision-makers with the knowledge and tools they need to design, plan and implement low-speed zones. The guide aims to support cities in making their streets and neighborhoods safer, healthier and more sustainable for all residents and users.

Join WRI and the World Bank for a webinar on May 20 at 9am EDT to officially launch the Low-Speed Zone Guide and discuss an upcoming comprehensive Global Speed Management Guide for policymakers. Register here.