A Tale of Two Cities – Blog by John Stewart

John Stewart (who is a key campaigner for the Stop Heathrow’s 3rd runway campaign) became RoadPeace Chair in late 1996. He has written a thought piece.  He’s a fantastic campaigner, and now an advisor – his input is immensely valuable to RoadPeace.  Many thanks John for writing this piece.

Children cycling to school. Protected; versus shocking exposure to traffic in Nairobi. Statistics show the consequences of this. In most European countries road deaths have been falling. Not so in the low and middle income countries of the world. There has been no reduction in the number of road deaths in any low-income country since 2013, with Africa having, by far, the highest rate of road deaths of any region.


Worldwide there are 1.35 million road deaths every year. 93% of these deaths are in low or middle income countries. In Britain road deaths, while still far too high, have fallen significantly over the last 30 years, down from 6,352 in 1979 to 1752 in 2019. In Kenya in 2019 there were 12,000 deaths. It has a population of 52 million, compared to the UK’s 66 million, and of course far fewer cars than this country.


Despite the work of global organizations attached to the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, progress in poorer countries has been slow. Substandard road safety laws, lax rules on speed limits, child restraints and drunk driving as well as bad governance have been cited as reasons. And surely poverty itself is a major underlying factor.  A rich country is much more likely to be able to afford a fancy, dedicated cycle lane than a poor country.


There is, though, a new factor which will help accelerate change. The world-wide Internet. I took the pictures above from the twitter feed of somebody in Nairobi. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and more will enable ordinary citizens to share experiences and get a glimpse of what is possible. They could act as an important catalyst for real change.