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Safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists will boost Ethiopia’s sustainable recovery, through joint action supported by UN Road Safety Fund

Safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists will boost Ethiopia’s sustainable recovery, through joint action supported by UN Road Safety Fund

UNRSF_ cyclists in Ethiopia

Habtamu Zerihun is a 38-year old father to three daughters, aged 4, 6 and 12 years. Habtamu used to be a construction worker in and around Addis Ababa, until he was hit by a pickup on his walk to work. The pickup driver was under the influence of stimulant drugs and there were no adequate protective barriers around the curbs.

This tragic crash left Habtamu with disabilities that prevent him from returning to work, with severe economic and social consequences for his family, for which his wife must now provide the sole income after having to take up part-time work as a maid. The biggest pain for Habtamu is that his three children stopped going to school because the family can no longer afford their school fees, books and uniforms.   

Like many low-and middle-income countries, Ethiopia is confronted with a very high road-related fatality rate, with 26.7 road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants recorded each year, according to WHO data. In comparison, high-income countries have an average of 8.3 road traffic deaths per 100,000 people. Death rates from traffic crashes are higher in Africa than anywhere else.   

In Addis Ababa, pedestrians and cyclists represent more than half of road users and about 80% of all road victims. Building safe and inclusive walking and cycling infrastructure is crucial to reduce road injuries and mortality.  

Joint action for safer streets 

Since May 2019, UN-Habitat, supported by the United Nations Road Safety Fund and in partnership with the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), the Ethiopian Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction, the Federal Transport Authority and the Addis Ababa Transport Bureau, with support from other national, international and local agencies, have partnered on the ‘Scaling Up Safe Street Designs in Ethiopia’ project to help the authorities tackle this key road safety challenge. 

The project has now reached its completion, delivering results and impact which have exceeded all its initial goals. The project provided technical support to local and national government officials in their ongoing efforts to design, install and upgrade footpaths and bicycle lanes and corridors, supported by the harmonization of street design guidelines. Based on this expertise, the project partners provided technical review assistance to the design of ongoing infrastructure projects, and promoted and co-organized street-level activities to raise awareness around the importance of walking and cycling for all, and road safety issues. 

The project resulted in the adoption of a Non-Motorised Transport Strategy for Ethiopia and Addis Ababa, and a five-year implementation plan for 69 cities and towns with harmonised street design guidelines guiding investments in safer facilities for walking and cycling. The Strategy emphasises the need to consider all residents in the plans and budgets, including women, children, and persons with disabilities. 

Championed by Ethiopia’s Minister of Transport, H.E. Dagmawit Moges, walking and cycling days and ‘placemaking’ events helped to build public support by closing streets for motorised transport, promoting a shift to sustainable mobility focusing on the needs of vulnerable road users like Habtamu and so many other men, women, girls and boys. Ms. Moges’ determination and efforts were also strengthened by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting a unique momentum for walking and cycling in cities: “We learned during the pandemic that having non-motorised transport alternatives and provision of good public transport is not only a matter of demand and supply. It is a tool to shape our health practices.” 

The Ethiopian Government is moving to promote safe and sustainable mobility in adopting a plan of more than 3,000 km of walking, cycling lanes, integrated with public transport, to help tackle congestion and air pollution.  With the project, more than 7km of cycle lanes have already been built in Addis Ababa, with a further 17km under construction across the city. 

Among other results of the project is the development of 2 online platforms for inclusive citizen participation in future urban mobility planning processes, providing: an online bike-sharing platform for Addis Ababa, which allows all stakeholders and community members to suggest cycling corridors and bike-sharing stations; and an overview of best-practice street design. 

UNRSF_Habtamu Zerihun and family

Bringing together local and national government, the public, and the private sector, the project paved the way for safe, accessible and inclusive non-motorised transport that will allow all Ethiopians to reach their destinations in a climate-friendly, safe and healthy way. 

The commitment of Ethiopia for road safety is a step towards the dream of Habtamu Zerihun to achieve accident-free and safe mobility "through behavioural change of drivers, an efficient system of penalty, and adequate and fitting infrastructure with barriers around curbs". 

Scaling up efforts for safe and sustainable mobility 

“Road crashes continue to devastate millions of families and communities and cost developing countries 3-5% of GDP, jeopardizing sustainable development prospects”, stressed UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova. “As we enter a new Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, we must seize the momentum towards safe and sustainable mobility in countries’ efforts to recover better. This project clearly demonstrates how the UN Road Safety Fund can support joint action with real impact and I encourage governments, the private sector and all stakeholders to support its work". 

The completion of the project was celebrated by a High-Level Closing Event in the presence of the Minister of Transport, and a public outreach event in Addis Ababa. A regional follow-up project, “Reclaiming Streets for Pedestrians and Cyclists in Africa – Building on the global momentum to enhance road safety during and after COVID- 19”, is set to be launched in September, building on the lessons learned and exchanging the knowledge built in five African countries. Aside from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique and Guinea will benefit from the continued support of the UN Road Safety Fund, UN-Habitat, ITDP and partners. 

 Today, the UN Road Safety Fund, which was established in 2018, is currently financing 15 projects, covering 4 regions, in 19 countries, ranging from improving infrastructure for active mobility, capacity building, policy and law enforcement, to strengthening data collection systems. The UNRSF currently receives contributions from the public sector, including the Russian Federation, France, the European Commission, The Kingdom of Bahrain, Monaco, Hungary, Slovakia, Cyprus and Mauritius, and donors such as FIA Foundation, Total Foundation, Michelin, Pirelli, 3M, Essilor and the Keep Fighting Foundation.   

The geographical and programmatic footprint of the Fund is set to grow with 10 new projects to be launched in September 2021. The Fund will disburse USD 4 million to support projects with significant and sustainable impact in low- and middle-income countries, where over 90% of road victims are. It will encourage complementarity between road safety partners, promote interconnection with other sustainable development challenges, and will be partially connected with COVID-19 response and recovery measures.   


Note to editors  

About the UN Road Safety Fund  

The United Nations Road Safety Fund (UNRSF) was launched in April 2018 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, pursuant to the General Assembly resolution 70/260. The Fund aims to help low- and middle-income countries put in place effective national road safety systems in order to (a) substantially curb the number of fatalities and injuries from road crashes, and (b) reduce economic losses resulting from them.     

In August 2020, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/74/299 proclaimed a new Decade of Action for Road Safety, with a target to halve the number of road deaths and injuries by 2030. Among comprehensive action to support this objective, the resolution invites Member States to support the activities of United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Road Safety, Mr. Jean Todt, and the United Nations Road Safety Fund.    

As a unique financing instrument, bringing together UN organizations under one umbrella, and supported by governments, the private sector, academia and civil society, the Fund supports concrete actions helping to achieve the road safety related targets (target 3.6 and target 11.2) of the Sustainable Development Goals.   

Hosted by UNECE in Geneva, under the direct supervision of the Executive Secretary, the secretariat provides substantive, operational and logistical support to the Advisory Board and the Steering Committee.   

For more information:   

UN-HABITAT video "Scaling Up Safe Street Designs in Ethiopia’  

UNRSF Annual report  

UNRSF Video "Save lives with the UNRSF" 


Credit for photos: UN-Habitat

Countries: Ethiopia

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