Unprotected road users – a key concern of road safety

European Transport Safety Council
Publication date: 
April 2011

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This new Road Safety PIN Flash compares Member States’ progress in reducing deaths among pedestrians, cyclists and Powered Two-Wheelers (PTW). With this publication, ETSC is marking the launch of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. Many vulnerable road users are being killed worldwide and the situation in the EU is no exception.

At least 15,300 pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle riders were killed in the EU in 2009, and 169,000 since 2001. Deaths among this category of unprotected road users have been decreasing at a lower rate than for vehicle occupants. Deaths among pedestrians and cyclists decreased by 34% between 2001 and 2009 and those among PTW riders by only 18%, compared with 39 % for car drivers (Fig. 1). While the number of road deaths has declined considerably in the past decade in Europe, the number of PTW riders killed rose in 13 out of 26 countries. This rise can be attributed only partly to the increase in use of PTWs and should urgently receive special attention from policy makers at the national and European levels. The safety of walking and cycling also needs special attention if public health is to be improved by encouraging these forms of active travel.

Experiences from fast progressing and well performing countries show that affordable measures are known that can save the lives of many unprotected road users. The fastest reductions in pedestrian deaths have been recorded in Portugal, Sweden, Norway and Belgium and in cyclist deaths in Finland, Israel, Slovakia and Latvia. Best progress in reducing deaths among motorcyclists and moped riders has been achieved by Portugal, Latvia, and to a lesser extent by Ireland and France.

On the 11th of May, the UN will officially launch the Decade of Action for Road Safety. On this occasion, ETSC calls on all decision makers to adopt strong measures to cut road deaths among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Initiatives targeted at improving the safety of vulnerable road users will be crucial to reaching the new EU 2020 Road Safety Target and contribute to the UN Decade of
Action for Road Safety and the goals set out in the recently published EU Transport White Paper. About 50% of all car trips are shorter than 5km. It is important that shifting a substantial part of these short-distance car trips to walking, cycling and public transport should increase overall road safety as well as contributing to health and sustainability goals.