Claudia Adriazola is the Health & Road Safety Program Director for EMBARQ, the Center for Sustainable Transport and Urban Development at the World Resources Institute, which is a regular contributor to this website [this is a link to their posts].

Claudia focuses on reducing public health impacts arising from urban transportation and urban development, such as ways to improve traffic safety, air quality, physical activity, and quality of life through sustainable mobility and urban design in cities.

In this interview with David Thorpe she describes how she became involved with this work and her approach to persuading cities around the world to advance sustainable transport.

Claudia discusses how cities are persuaded of the value of implementing sustainable transport policies, which include reducing the length of time it takes to commute. She is a passionate advocate of Bus Rapid Transit services (BRT).

"Mexico City has four BLT lanes and they are building a fifth. BRT is expanding to further cities in Mexico and around the world, with many representatives from other cities coming to Mexico City to see what is happening there," she says. "It's not an expensive solution." BRT is being embraced more and more by cities. Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Bangalore are cities that Claudia cites amongst the 160 that have already implemented BRT systems.

Another persuasive factor is that "with sustainable transport you can save lives. You can also move more people. For example in a lane that can carry 1000 people you can carry many more thousands using buses for the same amount of road. This will cut congestion and increase mobility as well as traffic safety.

"50 million people are seriously injured every year in traffic accidents, 1.3 million die. People who don't use private transport will also be more physically active, cutting health costs and cutting pollution."

City planning is a key factor. "Making places available that you can reach from your home by walking and cycling is important and so is cycling," she says. Cycling is also in the planning of many cities.

Speed is big factor in traffic safety, of course. "If you allow cars to go as fast as they can and if you have cyclists and pedestrians in the same area you will have more accidents," Claudia observes. So a key tactic in reducing the number of accidents is both planning for pedestrians and other road users, and slowing traffic. "If you cut down the speed people are allowed to travel at they become more aware of other road users. Unfortunately, some cities – when they develop roads – do not think clearly about how pedestrians are going to use the area." She gives the example of Rio de Janeiro. "You have to take care of the most vulnerable road users in any situation."

You and I might believe that some countries have a culture of aggressive driving that must make them harder to tackle. Claudia sees it differently. "If you have a city like Lima you can be stuck in traffic for two or three hours, which makes you reluctant to stop at a traffic light or a stop sign because you are in despair. Maybe the city is not functioning any more. To solve this you must think how people live in the city and find ways to move facilities such as hospitals closer to where people need them to cut down the need for long journeys. You need to look at the entire system."

She believes the same approach is valid for tackling dangerous motorbiking. "It's very sad that in countries like Brazil and India you get a lot of young men who die in traffic accidents or suffer severe injuries that leave them disabled for life because they are riding a motorcycle," she says. "Again, we need to look at what is happening behind all this. If distances are too big to bike or walk then they must take their motorbike. A lot of countries are making a mistake in providing subsidies for motorcycles. They are too cheap. The disadvantages of motorbikes are huge and these are not factored into these decisions."

The WRI is in the process of collecting or helping cities to finance the collection of information on the number journeys taken by different transport modes as a vital tool to advance sustainable transport.

"We need to look at it in terms not just of traffic safety but of physical activity," Claudia adds. "4 million people around the world die every year due to lack of physical activity. Sustainable transport can help with this. Mobility is very important but not at the cost of health and your life and the quality-of-life. For cyclists we need to provide infrastructure, cycle lanes, segregated in certain circumstances. Cyclists bring to cities a lot of benefits, because cyclists are happier, will make fewer hospital visits and take fewer days off work."