Friday, 21 December 2012

Tunataka tuta

Children in Dar negotiate roads on the way to school
photo copyright: Amend
Our NGO partner Amend has written a powerful op-ed for the Guardian development website on the impact of rising traffic and badly planned roads in Tanzania's capital Dar es Salaam. Tom Bishop, Amend's Africa Director, writes about riots after communities suffer road casualties, with people urging 'tunataka tuta' - we want speed bumps. He writes:

"Narrow dirt roads, which wind through sprawling unplanned residential areas, are being paved – the tarmac squeezing out pedestrians and leaving no room for footpaths. People have little choice other than to walk on the roads, with cars flying past on one side, and deep, dangerous storm drains on the other. These new roads are deathtraps, especially after dark when the congestion has eased, the traffic police have gone home and the drink-drivers treat the streets as their own.

Elsewhere in the city, roads are being widened with no traffic management systems, parked cars block footpaths, traffic lights function intermittently due to frequent power cuts, and an increasing number of motorcycle taxis are being driven by unlicensed, untrained young men.

People in Dar want safe roads. The dirt road outside my house was upgraded last week, transforming it from potholes and craters, where cars could barely go faster than 5mph, to a smooth, compacted surface used as a rat-run by speeding taxis, 4x4s and cheap Chinese motorbikes. Within a day, the local community had dug up parts of the road to create informal speed bumps, and had scattered rocks and disused tyres to slow the movement of traffic in an attempt to keep themselves and their children safe.

I have seen riots at schools after a pupil has been killed or injured. It is becoming increasingly common for children to lie down in the roads, forcing traffic to stop until the police and local MP arrive, promising speed bumps. But doing this after the event is too late".

The Road Safety Fund is supporting Amend's community safety programme in Dar, a pilot project working with schools and local communities to improve road infrastructure for pedestrians and to encourage local people to advocate for greater safety measures, like lower speed limits, pavements and safe crossing points. This is an important agenda for child injury prevention and pedestrian safety, and one which will be a priority in 2013 as the UN Global Road Safety Week focuses on pedestrians, and we lead the Long Short Walk campaign with our partner organisations.

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