. . . . . . . . . . . . MOBILITY, DEATH AND INJURY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Let’s see what John Whitelegg has to say about this.)

This posting is intended for informal peer review and comment  here on World Streets in the context of a new international collaborative program of New Mobility Master Classes in the making for 2018. The text that follows is taken directly from Chapter 3 of John Whiteleggs well-received 2015 book Mobility A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future.  We thank Professor Whitelegg for making these valuable materials available to our readers. Let’s have a look.


  1. Mobility, Death and Injury  (Chapter 3.)
  2. Conclusions 
  3. Selected references
  4. About the authors
  5. Mobility: Table of Contents
  6. How to obtain the book
  7. Supporting materials from World Streets
  8. Supporting pages from FaceBook
  9. Reader comments 

Mobility, Death and Injury

Death and Injury: Ch. 3 from Mobility: A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future.  By John Whitelegg Straw Barnes Press.


One of the most obvious, pervasive and unacceptable consequences of motorised mobility is death and injury in the road traffic environment. It is over 60 years since John Dean addressed the problem in his book “Murder most foul” (Dean, 1947):

“It is common ground that the motor slaughter ought to be stopped; it is also common ground that it can be stopped, or at least greatly reduced. It is realised that the killing or maiming every year of about a quarter of a million persons ..are not items that any country can afford to ignore. It is also realised, if less clearly, that the motor slaughter leaves behind it an ever widening trail of private misery-bereavement, poverty resulting from the death of the breadwinner, crippledom and the rest and that this, too, ought to be stopped.

Finally, it is realised, if again it is less clearly, that the motor slaughter is bad in itself: that it is bad that human beings should kill and maim other human beings.in this cold blooded way: worst of all that as happens in a very large proportion of the cases, vigorous adults should kill or maim children and elderly and infirm persons and then criminally and meanly put the blame on their victims: that in short, it is not only the lives and well-being of about a quarter of a million persons and the material loss every year that are at stake, but to a high degree, the standards of decency and the moral health of the nation.

Never before in the history of civilisation has it been so easy to kill and maim without incurring punishment or even censure. Never before in all history has it been common custom to kill and maim people because they get in your way when you are in a hurry, or even when you are not in a hurry but merely wish to feel you are. It is a fantastic and unprecedented situation; a fit prelude to race extermination and Belsen.  Murder indeed most foul, strange and unnatural.” Dean (1947, page 5).

These words will sound harsh and maybe unreasonable to those used to a more sedate and unchallenging discussion of road safety but no matter how harsh and unreasonable they may sound to modern ears accustomed to anodyne words and an inability to face up to serious moral responsibilities they are as nothing compared to the harshness and total unacceptability of death and injury on an industrial scale that is inextricably linked to the mobility paradigm. The overwhelming and unbearable suffering and misery associated with 3,400 deaths every day is “murder most foul” and a stunning condemnation of the amoral and unethical environment in which the growth of mobility thrives.

Indeed, the growth of mobility absolutely depends on this amoral, unethical and inhuman approach to road safety. For the growth of mobility to take deep root in all our thinking, planning and funding it is necessary to delete the horror, misery and tragedy of road traffic deaths and injuries from our consciousness. For the avoidance of doubt let me be very clear.

The growth of motorised mobility exposes an ever increasing proportion of the world’s population to road traffic danger. The number of vehicles on the street, their weight, mass, kinetic energy and speed all produce a direct effect on the numbers killed and the severity of the injuries. The pursuit of growth in motorised mobility is the pursuit of higher levels of death and injury to vulnerable road users especially the poor, the old, those who cannot run very fast and those who for a few critical moments might misjudge the space-time trajectory of a tonne of metal driven by someone using a mobile phone, lighting a cigarette or simply enjoying the “high” of fast driving.

The death of a 10 year old girl walking home from school crossing a road in the circumstances described by Roberts (2010, page 34) where it is known that the time available to cross the road is 4 seconds is a tragedy of enormous proportions. The tragedy is a direct result of the pursuit of the mobility paradigm, a paradigm that cannot envisage reducing the speed and volume of traffic to assist a child in these circumstances. The tragedy is then magnified and compounded by blaming the child. The coroner’s verdict on this death was “I find that [name] died at [place] accidentally, sustained when she ran out into the path of an approaching vehicle without checking that the road was clear of traffic.” Mayer Hillman (Hillman et al, 1990) found that children are blamed for 90% of child pedestrian deaths.

To pursue the growth of motorised mobility in the absence of an absolute, deliverable, overriding commitment to reduce death and injury in the road traffic environment to zero is fundamentally flawed, fundamentally wrong and fundamentally unethical.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that approximately 3400 people die every day as a result of being hit by a motorised vehicle or being an occupant of a motorised vehicle involved in crash. This is 1.24 million deaths pa. Between 20 and 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries and 59% of all deaths are amongst young adults (15-44 years old). I will not refer to these events as “accidents.” The word “accident” carries a message of unpredictability and a suggestion of inevitability. The opposite is the case. Deaths and injuries are predictable and preventable (WHO, 2013).

The WHO (2004) is very clear about how we should deal with deaths and injury in the road traffic environment:

“Every day thousands of people are killed and injured on our roads. Men, women or children walking, biking or riding to school or work, playing in the streets or setting out on long trips will never return home, leaving behind shattered families and communities. Millions of people each year will spend long weeks in hospital after severe crashes and many will never be able to live, work or play as they used to. Current efforts to address road safety are minimal in comparison to growing human suffering.”

“The time to act is now. Road safety is no accident. It requires strong political will and concerted, sustained efforts across a range of sectors. Acting now will save lives. We urge governments as well as other sectors of society to embrace and implement the key recommendations of this report” WHO (2004).

Clearly a body count cannot convey the enormity of the impact of death, injury and distress on parents, families and friends. A more discursive, ethnographic and narrative assessment is needed to capture the full extent of impacts on people and relationships. We need to find a way to give a much stronger voice to the victims in shaping road safety policy if we are to build a way out of the accepted parameters of the road safety debate and chart a course towards a “Vision Zero.” Vision Zero is the name given to the Swedish road safety policy adopted by Parliament in 1997 which established a target of zero deaths and zero serious injuries in the road traffic environment (Haq and Whitelegg, 2014).

Notwithstanding the strong caveat on the inability of numbers to convey the enormity of the impact of death and injury and the fact that the numbers are almost certainly underestimates the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2004) uses them to good effect:

  • Worldwide an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes every year and approximately 50 million are injured.
  • This annual total approximates to 3000 deaths every day.
  • These figures will increase by 65% over the next 20 years unless there is “a new commitment to prevention.”
  • Road traffic deaths will increase in the period 1990-2020 from 0.99 million to 2.34 million.
  • Low income and middle income countries account for 85% of the deaths and 90% of the annual disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost because of road traffic injury.
  • Without appropriate action by 2020, road traffic injuries are predicted to be the third leading contributor to the global burden of disease and injury.
  • A large proportion of the road crash victims in low and middle income countries are vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
  • In the period 1975-1998 road traffic fatality rates rose by 44% in Malaysia and by 243% in China.

The WHO (2013) report updates the 2004 report and gives a detailed account of the global variation in road traffic deaths and deaths by users group (Figure 3.1).

The report identifies the main characteristics of the road deaths epidemic:

  • 24 million deaths in 2010.
  • 87 countries saw an increase in the number of fatalities in the period 2007-2010.
  • Africa has the highest road traffic fatality rate.
  • 23% of all deaths are amongst motorcyclists, 22% are pedestrians (but this rises to 38% in Africa), 5% are cyclists, 31% are car occupants and 19% are unspecified.
  • Almost 60% of road traffic deaths are aged between 15 and 44.
  • For every fatality there are 20 non-fatal injuries.

The road death epidemic is very severe indeed in Africa, China and India and I return to a more detailed discussion of the relationships between the mobility paradigm and its strongly negative consequences in Chapter 13. India and China illustrate the pervasiveness of the mobility paradigm and the way it shapes the totality of public policy to worsen the road deaths outcomes and exclude those policies that reduce and eliminate road traffic danger.

The mobility paradigm is deeply embedded in China and India but started its life in Europe and North America. The degree to which it is hard-wired into the world view and thinking of politicians, businesses, decision-takers and journalists is difficult to convey but is assisted by a series of linguistic and conceptual distortions that have been exposed by Roberts (2010). These include:

The use of the word “accident.”

  • The flawed interpretation of statistics to promote the idea that deaths and injuries are declining as a result of road safety interventions.
  • The avoidance of social justice and ethics as a legitimate framework for looking at deaths.


Road traffic “accidents” are predictable and preventable. The main determinants of injury risks are the volume and speed of traffic (Roberts, 2010, page 35). Children living in the busiest streets were fifteen times more likely to be injured than children living in the quietest streets. Roberts is very clear about cause and effect:

“Traffic and not erratic jaywalking children is the cause of child pedestrian injury. Children get hit by cars because the cars are there. There is one street and it is either a place for children or a place for cars. Mixing the two at least at average urban speeds does not work without bloodshed. A vehicle driving down a residential street at 40 mph packs more destructive energy than a bullet.”

Roberts provides evidence that in circumstances where traffic volumes fell e.g. in the Middle East oil crises of 1974 and 1979 child pedestrian deaths fell. In New Zealand between 1975 and 1980 child pedestrian deaths fell by 46% in response to car free days and a weekend ban on petrol sales “but when the oil started flowing and traffic volume resumed its upward trajectory, the number of children killed and injured on the roads increased along with it…when petrol prices rise fewer children die; when they fall, more children die.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO, 2004, page 7) recommends against the use of the word “accident.” Road deaths and injuries are predictable and preventable:

“While the risk of a crash is relatively low for most individual journeys, people travel many times each day, every week and every year. The sum of these small risks is considerable. The term “accident”, which is widely used, can give the impression, probably unintended, of inevitability and unpredictability- an event that cannot be managed. This document prefers to use the term “crash” instead, to denote something that is an event, or series of events, amenable to rational analysis and remedial action.”


The road safety literature is often self-congratulatory. Apparently we are reducing death and injury and can take comfort from the fact that in the 1930s road traffic deaths in the UK were running at 6-7,000 pa (Dean, 1947) and in 2012 this has been reduced to 1,754. This is a very convenient story that is used to promote the mobility paradigm and to make sure that inconvenient truths are excluded from the discussion.

Hillman et al (1990) produce hard evidence to show that over the period 1970-1990 there has been a progressive withdrawal of children from the street environment. In statistical terms the denominator has shrunk and the number of people exposed to the risk of death and injury has declined. This produces a decline in the numbers of deaths and injuries but the reason is the abandonment of streets and public space and it is not a road safety gain. Roberts is characteristically blunt:

“As the volume of road traffic increased and the streets became rivers of lethal kinetic energy, the pedestrians got out of the way. Parents kept their children indoors and those who could afford a car started driving rather than walking, even for short distances. The body counters at the ministries of transport of course claimed that death rates were falling because the traffic planners and police were doing a great job…no one bothered to count how many live people there were on the streets.”

The decline in road traffic deaths and injuries does not represent a decline in road traffic danger and simply reflects the abandonment of streets and public space by people.


It is a general assumption that in an advanced, sophisticated, rational, democracy like the UK there should be an assumption of fairness across all aspects of public policy, spending and health outcomes. I show in chapter 5 that this is not true in transport spending. The UK spends disproportionately more of its increasingly scarce budget on things that benefit richer people. It is certainly not the case in road safety where the risk of death for a child in the lowest social group was five times that of a child in the highest social class (Roberts, 2010, page 39). This is another dimension of the denominator problem referred to above. Poor people will spend more time on the street, walking, not in car and not in a well equipped garden. This means they are exposed to more risk and so will exhibit a higher death and injury rate.

The social class variability and its significance for public policy has been summarised by IPPR (Grayling, 2002):

“We are able to show that the higher injury rate in deprived areas does not appear to be simply because the environment is inherently more dangerous, for example because deprived areas tend to be dense urban areas with more roads and traffic. Environmental factors are important but there appears to be a deprivation effect over and above the effect of the built environment. We estimate that the likelihood of a child pedestrian injury is four times higher in the most deprived ward in England compared to the least deprived ward, independent of factors such as population and employment density and the characteristics of the road network.

“A reasonable explanation is that the higher rates of child pedestrian casualties in more deprived areas are the consequence of more dangerous environments combined with higher exposure rates. Children in more deprived areas are likely to make more journeys on foot because their parents are less likely to have a car and more likely to play on the street unsupervised because they are less likely to have access to gardens and other safe play areas.”

The data are clear.

The IPPR report provides an excellent evidence base for highlighting the impact of death and injury on so-called “lower socio-economic” groups and adds weight to the need to end this strongly discriminatory impact. It is unacceptable that children from poorer backgrounds should experience a higher probability of death and injury than those from “higher” socio-economic groups (SEGs) and the existence of the discriminatory effect tells us far more about road traffic danger and road safety measures than statistical tabulations showing a decline in numbers of those killed and seriously injured (known as KSI in the road safety literature).

Sadly the IPPR report misses the main point that needs to be made:

The main point that is missed is that traffic volume and traffic speed kills and injures children. Traffic volumes are on an upward trajectory, fuelled by the mobility paradigm and by the thousands of daily planning and funding decisions that pander to this increase. This increase in volume may well be associated with a reduction in KSIs as more human beings abandon the unequal competitive struggle for the right to use street and footpaths and retreat to the car, or just stay indoors and tweet.

The car is perceived as inherently safer than the world outside of the car, and more fun. It has serious entertainment systems, airbags, ABS, computer control technology, reinforced impact resistance, and the prospect of GPS assisted automated driving and parking. As the new world of no involvement in human interaction on the street takes hold so the number exposed to risk goes down (children are not crossing roads) and the KSI number goes down and roads safety professional can congratulate each other on the success of their professional efforts.

A genuinely human-centred, community rich, ethical road safety policy would delete the mobility paradigm, reduce vehicle numbers drastically, reduce vkms drastically, ban cars from the majority of residential streets and have an absolute, non-diluted commitment to zero deaths and zero injuries in the road traffic environment. Zero KSIs will eliminate the social class bias and give everyone an equal chance of not being squashed by a tonne of metal as they struggle to cross a road with only 4 second gaps between vehicles available for that crossing.


The responsibility for road safety has traditionally been placed on the individual road user rather than on the designers of the system. Road safety has tended to focus on encouraging good behaviour by road users via licensing, testing, education, training and publicity. Sweden is among those countries with the lowest number of traffic fatalities in relation to its population. However, in spite of this excellent record, in 1997 the Swedish Parliament introduced a new approach to road safety called “Vision Zero” (Whitelegg and Haq, 2006).

Vision Zero is based on a refusal to accept human deaths or lifelong suffering as a result of road traffic accidents (Elvik, 1999 and Elvik and Amundsen, 2000). It requires moving the emphasis away from reducing the number of deaths to eliminating the risk of chronic health impairment caused by crashes. Vision Zero in Sweden requires fatalities and serious injuries to be reduced to zero by 2020.  Vision Zero has had a mixed reception in the academic and professional literature and is by no means immune from criticism (Elvik, 1999 and Elvik, 2008, Elvebakk and Steiro, 2009). The policy has stimulated fundamental thinking around the nature of policy itself including whether or not it is “rational” (Rosencrantz, Edvardsson, and Hansson, 2007) and including explicit discussions of the role of ethics in road safety policy (Hokstad and Vatn, 2008) and including a useful discussion of “backward and forward responsibility” in Fahlquist (2006).

The 1990 Swedish National Traffic Safety Programme set a target of less than 600 fatalities by 2000. In 1993, the Road Safety Office merged and became the Swedish National Road Administration (SNRA). In 1994 the SNRA, now responsible for national traffic safety work, presented a National Traffic Safety Programme for the period 1995–2000. A new target of 400 fatalities for the year 2000 was adopted. This original target was achieved in 1994. The intentions of the National Traffic Safety Programme, with ten sub-targets for traffic behaviour, were not reached but abandoned with the discussion of the Vision Zero concept. An interim target of reducing the number of road accident fatalities from 600 in 2000 to 270 in 2007 was adopted as a move towards the Vision Zero target. The annual number of fatalities has been constant during the period 1994 to 2001. In 2000, there were 591 deaths and 4,103 serious injuries in traffic in Sweden (Koornstra et al., 2002). The number of fatalities in 2010 was 266 (European Commission, 2012).

Swedish fatalities in 2010 were 28 per million inhabitants, the lowest in the EU (European Commission, 2012). The EU-27 average is 62 fatalities per million inhabitants. The decline in fatalities in Sweden, 54.4% in the period 2001-2010 was higher than the two countries normally regarded as good performers in road safety (Netherlands and the UK).

Vision Zero requires a paradigm shift in addressing the issue of road safety (Rechnitzer and Grzebieta, 1999). It requires abandoning the traditional economic model where road safety is provided at reasonable cost and the traditional transport model in which safety must be balanced against mobility. At the core of the Vision Zero is the biomechanical tolerance of human beings.

Vision Zero promotes a road system where crash energy cannot exceed human tolerance. While it is accepted that crashes in the transport system occur due to human error, Vision Zero requires no crash should be more severe than the tolerance of humans. The blame for fatalities in the road system is assigned to the failure of the road system rather that the road user (Wadhwa, 2001).

Vision Zero is based on the ethical imperative that (Tingvall and Haworth, 1999):

  • “It can never be ethically acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road system.”

Crashes have to be prevented from leading to fatalities and serious injuries by designing roads, vehicles and transport services in a way that someone can tolerate the violence of a crash without being killed or seriously injured. Common long-term disabling injuries and non-injury accidents are outside the scope of the Vision. Vision Zero is estimated to achieve a possible reduction in the number of fatalities by a quarter to one third over a ten-year period (SNRA, 2003).

Vision Zero strategic principles are:

The traffic system has to adapt to take better account of the needs, mistakes and vulnerabilities of road users.  The level of violence that the human body can tolerate without being killed or seriously injured forms the basic parameter in the design of the road transport system.  Vehicle speed is the most important regulating factor for safe road traffic. It should be determined by the technical standard of both roads and vehicle so as not to exceed the level of violence that the human body can tolerate.  The approach is:

  • To create a road environment that minimises the risk of road users making mistakes and that prevents serious human injury when designing, operating and maintaining the state road network.
  • To analyse crashes that have resulted in death or serious injury in traffic and, where feasible, initiate suitable measures so as to avoid the repetition of such crashes.
  • To stimulate all players within the road transport system to work resolutely towards achieving mutually targeted objectives conduct the work on road safety in close co-operation with all players within the road transport system.
  • To take advantage of and further develop the commitment of the general public to safer traffic.

Vision Zero emphasizes what the optimum state of the road should be rather than possible ways of reducing current problems. The main change instigated by Vision Zero is a new way of dividing responsibilities for road safety. Rather than emphasising the responsibility of the road user alone, Vision Zero explicitly states that responsibility is shared both by the system designers and the road user:

  1. The designers of the system are always ultimately responsible for the design, operation and use of the road transport system and thereby responsible for the level of safety within the entire system.
  2. Road users are responsible for following the rules for using the road transport system set by the system designers.
  3. If road users fail to obey these rules due to lack of knowledge, acceptance or ability, or if injuries occur, the system designers are required to take necessary further steps to counteract people being killed or seriously injured.

In 1999, a short-term action plan was launched by the Swedish government, containing 11 points aimed at strengthening and stimulating traffic safety work in accordance with Vision Zero principles:

  1. A focus on the most dangerous roads (e.g. priority for installing centre-guardrails for eliminating head-on collisions, removing obstacles next to roads, etc.).
  2. Safer traffic in built-up areas (e.g. a safety analysis of street networks in 102 municipalities led to reconstruction of streets; the efforts are continuing).
  3. Emphasis on the responsibilities of road users (e.g. creating more respect for traffic rules in particular with regard to speed limits, seat belt use, and intoxicated driving).
  4. Safe bicycle traffic (e.g. campaign for using bicycle helmets, a voluntary bicycle safety standard).
  5. Quality assurance in transport work (e.g. public agencies with large transportation needs will receive traffic safety (and environmental impact) instructions on how to assure the quality of their own transportation services and those procured from outside firms).
  6. Winter tyre requirement (e.g. a new law mandating specific tyres under winter road conditions).
  7. Making better use of Swedish technology (e.g. promoting the introduction of technology – available or to be developed – that relatively soon can be applied, such as seat belt reminders, in-car speed adaptation systems (ISA), alcohol ignition interlocks for preventing drinking and driving, and electronic driver licences).
  8. Responsibilities of road transport system designers (e.g. establishment of an independent organisation for road traffic inspection is proposed by a commission of inquiry on the responsibilities of the public sector and the business community for safe road traffic).
  9. Public responses to traffic violations (e.g. a commission of inquiry is reviewing existing traffic violation rules in the light of the Vision Zero principles and of ensuring due process of law).
  10. The role of voluntary organisations (e.g. the government is evaluating the road safety work of the ‘Nationalföreningen för trafiksäkerhetens främjande’ (National Society for Road Safety (NTF)) and its use of state funds).
  11. Alternative forms of financing new roads (e.g. possibilities are studied for other forms of supplementing public financing of major road projects).


Proponents of Vision Zero see human life as a basic human right to be protected from fatal injuries. While humans are fallible and make mistakes in using the road system, these mistakes should not carry the death penalty (Elvik, 1999). The ethical principle on which Vision Zero is based is that death is unacceptable means that there is a moral obligation to design cars, roads and the rules of the road to protect road users from being killed in traffic. Vision Zero explicitly rejects the trade of human life against other objectives. It also rejects the use of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to guide priority setting in road safety policy. Tingvall (1997:56) states:

“If a new road, new car design, new rule etc. is judged as having the potential to save human life, then the opportunity must always be taken, provided that no other more cost-effective action would produce the same benefit.”

Although Sweden has a comparatively good road safety record, Swedish policies are still considered to be ineffective in improving road safety. Elvik and Amundsen (2000) indicate that current policy priorities are inefficient in Sweden and concluded that road safety could be substantially improved if policy priorities were based more on CBA then they are today. They argue that cost-effective road safety measures can prevent more than 50 per cent of road fatalities in Sweden. However, current policies prevent approximately 10–15 per cent of the current number of road fatalities over the next 10 years. Many cost effective measures are not being implemented. By rejecting the use of CBA to set priorities, Elvik (2003) argues that advocates of Vision Zero are in effect rejecting a road safety policy that would give far better results than current road safety policies.

The main sources of inefficiency in current road safety in Sweden are (Elvik, 2003):

  • Lack of power to introduce new vehicle safety standards – this power now resides with the European Union.
  • The existence of social dilemmas that is situations in which measures that are cost-effective from a societal point of view are loss making from the point of view of individual road users.
  • Priority given to other policy objectives, which cannot be adequately assessed by CBA, primarily objectives related to regional development.

Elivk (2003) concludes that the amount of resources that are currently spent on road safety policy in Sweden are sufficient to cover all cost-effective road safety measures, provided the use of inefficient measures ceases.

Elvik (1999, 2003) is rather sceptical about Vision Zero and presents an economic argument against the concept. Other authors e.g. Rosencrantz, Edvardsson and Hansson (2007) conclude that the policy has strengthened Sweden’s efforts to eliminate death and serious injuries in road crashes, a view supported by Nihlen Fahlquist (2006) who argues that adopting Vision Zero as a national transport policy goal has signified an important shift of responsibility from individual road users to system designers.

Deaths and injuries in the road traffic environment very clearly point to serious problems associated with the mobility paradigm and the assumption that mobility growth is unavoidable, desirable and a key component of progress, economic development and quality of life. It cannot be acceptable that 3,400 people die every day in road crashes and it is not right that streets are colonised by vehicles and replace people.

The language and rhetoric of road safety plays a significant part in promoting motorised mobility. It downplays the progressive withdrawal of people from public space and it airbrushes out of the picture the social class discrimination that produces disproportionately larger numbers of deaths amongst the poor and disadvantaged. It is an important agent of legitimation and collaboration with a policing, judicial and urban planning system that blames victims and shapes the built environment in favour of the car and to the detriment of the pedestrian, cyclist and public transport user.

The Swedish Vision Zero policy is not without faults but it sets out a clear ambition that is so much better than the lack of a clear vision. Reducing deaths and serious injuries to zero is possible and leads inexorably to a fundamental re-engineering of the mobility paradigm. The key components of a Vision Zero strategy are the same as the key components of a new approach to traffic, transport, mobility and road safety that would bring about the much needed paradigm shift and the abandonment of the mobility paradigm.

It would be identifiable by promoting the following policies, targets and interventions:

  • A total, system-wide, default speed limit of 20mph/30kph on every street in every urban area and through every village on every road going through a settlement. This would be vigorously enforced.
  • An accessibility policy to produce the city of short distances (Holzapfel, 2014) and to maximise access by all groups in society to all daily destinations (education, health care, work, local shops, recreational facilities). Such a policy would impose a duty on providers of education and health care to deliver those services in accessible locations so well within walking, cycling and public transport range and to deliver a uniformly high quality of service. An accessibility paradigm rejects the notion that if we travel longer distances to a school or clinic or hospital we can find a “better” one.
  • A steady decommissioning of car parking spaces to produce a reduction in the number of spaces available in cities by 50%.
  • Highway space reallocation so that subject to local circumstances streets would be re-engineered laterally so that one third of the available width (from building line to building line) would be allocated equally (one third each) to pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.
  • Traditional approaches to planning would be abandoned in favour of mixed uses, car-free housing, zero tolerance for large traffic generators e.g. out of town shopping centres would be decommissioned.
  • Budgets currently spent on new roads, car parks and high speed rail would be reallocated to walking, cycling, trams, buses and local facilities.

All these policies, spending plans and interventions would be designed and tracked so that they produce zero deaths and injuries in the road traffic environment, zero air pollution from traffic, zero carbon transport, zero social discrimination and maximum human use of public space and streets.

All this is possible, desirable, fundable, ethical and a logical development as a necessary next step in a long line of “impossible” paradigm shift going back to the Magna Carta, the end of feudalism, the abolition of the slave trade, the end of child labour in factories and mines, clean drinking water and sanitation in our mid-19th century cities, votes for all and votes for women and the end of colonialism.

Of course there will be massive resistance just as there was to each of the previous paradigm shifts but those who front the resistance will be reminded of one thing: the current system is dirty, expensive, kills people and deprives hundreds of millions of people of basic human rights. We can carry on with the dirty, nasty system but we should not.


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Selected References

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a name=”authors”>

About the authors

  • john whitelegg

John Whitelegg is Visiting Professor, School of the Built Environment at Liverpool John Moores University.  For 10 years he was a research associate with the global science policy organisation, the Stockholm Environment Institute working on climate change and air quality.  He has authored 11 books on sustainable transport and related issues and his latest book “Mobility: A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future” was published in September2015.  He has worked on sustainable transport projects in India, China, Australia, Germany, Sweden and Slovenia and on the same subjects with the European Parliament and European Commission.

John is the technical author of the world’s first technical standard on reducing demand for private motorised transport and published by the British Standards Institution.  He is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate and Energy in Germany, the expert group on physical activity of the World Health Organisation in Geneva and an Associate of the Centre for Mobility in Kassel, Germany.  He is founding editor of the journal “World Transport Policy and Practice”,  now in its 23rd year of publication.

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About the editor: 

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | http://bit.ly/2Ti8LsX | #fekbritton | https://twitter.com/ericbritton | and | https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericbritton/ Contact: climate@newmobility.org) | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

View complete profile


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Mobility: Table of Contents


  1. How mobile are we and how did we get here?
  2. Consequences
  3. Death and injury
  4. Air Quality
  5. Fiscal Impacts
  6. Energy
  7. Climate Change
  8. Obesity
  9. Inequalities
  10. Community Disruption
  11. Freight
  12. Aviation
  13. China and India
  14. Conclusion
  15. References

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How to obtain the book Whitelegg book cover Mobility

(Thank you John for thinking about students, fund-strapped NGOs and readers in developing smaller cities with tight budgets.)

Mobility has been priced to  move. Available in both paper and eBook form for less than USD 10.00. See http://tinyurl.com/zxclcz

Mobility was published on 1st September 2015, by Amazon Press as a Kindle book. It  can be ordered by clicking the above link  and following the simple step by step instructions. The cost of the print edition, including delivery, is a healthy $ 9.84. A free app is available for your computer, tablet or smart phone for easy reading.


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Related articles from World Streets (2008-2018):

Related articles from World Streets (2008-2018):

  • New Mobility 2018 Master Classes:   https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/master-classes/
  • On Safety: https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/safety/
  • On Speed: https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/speed/
  • On Behavior and Choice:  https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/behavior-choice/
  • On Leadership: https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/leadership/
  • On Governance: https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/governance/
  • On Safe City 2018: https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/tag/safe-city-2018/

Related pages from FaceBook

FB SC speeding care mother child crossing


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2 thoughts on “. . . . . . . . . . . . MOBILITY, DEATH AND INJURY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Let’s see what John Whitelegg has to say about this.)

  1. Hello Eric,

    I have tried the “read more” and “all comments” links from the above post and both returned a “this is somewhat embarrassing…” page.

    It is too interesting to miss out,

    Many thanks,

    Nathalie LC

    On 25 February 2018 at 02:45, WORLD STREETS: The Politics of Transport

    • Thank you so much Nathalie. As you can see this is still very much in progress. I will try to weed out the worst of the failings and try to keep it interesting for people like you.


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