IFRTD OPINIONS FAIR 2007 - FEBRUARY WINNER:
Intermediate Means of Transport, the Extent of their Use and Lack of Safety in Rural West Cameroon
Intermediate Means of Transport (IMTs) are commonly used amongst the Bamilekes in Western Cameroon. They are used in both urban and rural areas, but the usage, requirements and risks are not the same in each case. For vulnerable social groups they are the main, indeed the only, means of mobility and transport. It is obvious why. They are accessible in terms of purchase cost, maintenance and infrastructure. All that is available to these social groups are portage (headloading), rickshaws, wheelbarrows, bicycles and small motorcycles. The extent to which these, rickshaws in particular, are used in society is common knowledge. However they are subject to many risks in terms of road safety.
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Mobility in rural transport in developing countries largely involves walking and the use of intermediate means of transport (IMTs) in the form of bicycles, animal drawn carts and boats. In all these modes of travel there are both safety and security risks. Safety risks are usually seen in terms of accidents resulting in injuries, death or damage to IMTs or vehicles. Security risks can include cases of criminality in transport for example piracy on waterways. This article will focus on safety rather than security in rural transport.
There is little that is reported about accidents in rural transport compared to urban transport. There are arguments that since rural transport involves relatively slower speeds safety is not an important issue. However rural development can be seen to depend significantly on rural transport safety. For example in Uganda health workers and teachers are reluctant to work in the islands of Lake Victoria due to unsafe water vessels, compromising the quality of basic services that can be delivered to local communities.
One reason for the lack of interest in rural transport issues is that there is no formalised method of data collection. Currently data is collected by the Police, Insurance and Health Centers, whose surveillence in rural areas is low leading to under-reporting. There are also concerns about the kind of data collected by these institutions which can be subjective to their institutional needs. For example in the case of a local health centre an accident victim may be classified as an injury rather than specifying a water or road accident. The data also fails to adequately capture issues such as community perceptions of safety, changes in quality of life following accidents, and the communities own responses to safety problems. Without which data planners are unlikely to develop effective accident eduction programmes.
Another concern is insurance, rural people are too poor to insure themselves and their IMTs, and their vehicles and vessels are in any case in too poor condition to qualify for insurance cover. In addition few people know what insurance is and are unaware of victim compensation procedures when accidents do occur.
Rural transport safety issues need to be seen in a much wider perspective, including not only vehicular collision but also ongoing unsafe transport conditions which can lead to injury or death. For example although walking is regarded as a safe mode of travel it includes the risk of stumbling, falling, injury from thorns, or attack by animals. Similarly cyclists risk falling due to slippery surfaces or loss of balance.
To an extent rural transport safety hinges on rural infrastructure, this is particularly seen in the provision of facilities such as bridges, or enlarged pavements for IMT use. The improved condition of infrastructure therefore contributes to the safety of users.
As is seen with urban transport there is a need to improve both the surveillance and enforcement of safety regulations. Often local authorities/police are concerned that regulations do not effectively cover IMTs and therefore it is difficult to prosecute offenders. The consequence of this is a reluctance to enforce regulations. There are also cases of political interference with regard to the enforcement of regulations which are seen as harassing poor people rather than improving their safety.
Awareness of rural safety issues is required at user, planning and policy levels. Improved data collection on transport safety issues should be developed, promoted and anchored within rural development programmes across different sectors eg. health or fishing. More research is needed and institutions and universities should be supported to initiate this.
Overview contributed by Paul Kwamusi of the Uganda Transport Forum Group, December 2005.
For more information on Rual Transport Safety please visit the gTKP website:
Rural Transport Safety in Colombia - Utopia or an invisible reality?
by Néstor Sáenz Saavedra
In order to put the reality of the problem into context, one should think of the geographical location where the activities connected with “rural transport” in Latin America take place. When one consults the statistics on rural accidents, our institutions refer to those which occur on primary and secondary roads in the national road network, where the proportion of accidents registered is around 10% in relation to the whole country. In other words, “the problem is an urban one”. Because of this, organisations give priority to the study, analysis and proposals for dealing with the problem in urban areas and only afterwards turn their attention to the problem on the inter-municipal road network. Although these actions have demonstrated their ineffectiveness, at least they are somewhat visible, owing principally to the fact that they are recorded by public institutions and some private ones. But what happens on the truly rural roads? There is no recorded information. Furthermore, nobody is interested in collecting information: it’s a “little” problem. The distances are huge, nobody knows the victims, etc. If there is no information, there is no action and the victims remain invisible.
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