May is the month of the 6th UN Global Road Safety Week.

This is a bi-annual event is organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It aims to improve road safety worldwide by reducing speeds, but also by encouraging better use of transport options.

Reducing speed, cutting danger

This year he organisers are looking to lower speeds in urban areas. This will not only improve the air quality and fuel economy, but also improve the lives of vulnerable people in particular. It is seen as a key to unlock a virtuous cycle of zero carbon active travel, shifting from car dependence, enabling thriving public transportation, cleaner air and lower CO2 emissions.

Making walking and cycling safer and more accessible, enabling and encouraging healthy lifestyles, is an essential part of the process: “Liveable streets are more crucial than ever as we respond to COVID-19”.

It is also essential for social and racial equity. Lower income and minority communities are most exposed to high-speed traffic, and the road danger, environmental hazard and social exclusion it causes.

Children and young people are most at risk on the streets where they live, play and travel to school. Every day 3000 children and young people are killed or seriously injured on the world’s roads. A child hit by a car at 30 km/h (20 mph) can survive. Hit at 80 km/h (50 mph), most will die. Speed kills.

Liveable streets

The 2020 Stockholm Declaration, adopted by governments worldwide, calls for a focus on liveable streets. This is  in line with available evidence, stipulating 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’.

The WHO say now is the time to urgently deliver on this call to action by reducing, designing and enforcing traffic speeds. These improve safety for everyone, everywhere. Prioritising low speed streets in all residential areas and near schools must be the default action worldwide.

The week

The UN Global Road Safety Week runs between 17-23 May, under the theme #Love20.

It aims to promote 20mph speed limits as the norm in places where people mix with traffic, by garnering policy commitments at national and local levels and generating local support.

WHO says 20mph speed limits create safe, healthy, green and liveable cities – and ahead of the event is calling on people to sign an open letter and add their voice to the “growing global movement” demanding 20mph streets.

The letter reads: “Low speed streets save lives and are the heart of any community. 30km/h (20mph) speed limits where people and traffic mix make for streets that are healthy, green and liveable, in other words, streets for life.

“We’re calling on policymakers to act for low speed streets worldwide, limiting speeds to 30km/h (20mph) where people walk, live and play.

“Join the #Love30 campaign to call for 30km/h speed limits to be the norm for cities, towns and villages worldwide.”

Sign up

WHO has also published a campaign toolkit, which includes social media templates and infographics, a poster campaign and a factsheet.