Sunday, April 14, 2013

Safety and Security Trade-Offs in Bogotá, Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia was a city in dire need of a re-vamp in order to curb the traffic fatalities and injuries that happened regularly in the city. According to “Road traffic injuries in Colombia,”[1] 68% of the traffic victims in urban areas of Colombia were pedestrians. As of the writing of the article, traffic crashes were the second leading cause of morbidity and mortality. It was outranked only by homicides.

Since the early 90’s, the Colombian government has been working on implementing programs and laws that work towards reducing the high level of traffic injuries and fatalities, not to mention curbing the increasing degree of traffic congestion as a by-product of their efforts. The Ministry of Transport created the Road Accident Prevention Fund in 1993, which manages a budget derived from a 3% levy on vehicle insurances. A 1995 law called the Traffic Accident Mandatory Insurance law requires insurance policies for all vehicles. While these actions are aimed towards alleviating the ill effects of traffic accidents, it is also a way of encouraging citizens to act more responsibly on the roads and with their vehicles in general.

When it comes to road safety in Bogotá, the impact of Transmilenio is an interesting topic. Transmilenio is well known for its successful bus rapid transit (BRT) service. It provides better mass mobility to the city with relatively low investment and operation cost.

The introduction of Transmilenio provides positive impacts on road safety. The improvement of road safety is well discussed in “Impact of BRT system on Road Safety: Lessons from Bogota.”[2] According to their analysis, between 1998 and 2008, serious accidents including injuries and fatalities have dropped by 60% in the Av Caracas corridor and 48% in the NQS corridor. Both corridors have BRT bus lanes, and the reduced amounts among these corridors are greater than the reduced amount for the entire city. Citywide, serious crashes have fallen by 39%.

GIS analysis shows that the number of places having high crash frequency is reduced along both corridors, but there are some hotspots newly added around the busiest bus stations. Additionally, concerns regarding pedestrian safety around bus stations are addressed. Their analysis shows that pedestrian crashes hit highest at morning and afternoon peaks with traffics. Also, according to a New York Times article, armed robberies and violent protests have become more common occurrences on buses and at bus stations[3].  The article goes into detail describing how the new public transportation infrastructure has led to more crime activity, and therefore, more of a need for police and security services.

The improvement of road safety is mainly achieved by the re-organization of the public transit system and the investment on pedestrian infrastructure. Along with it, there were some investments on corridors for automobiles and bridges for pedestrians. It has influenced road safety by reducing the amount of crashes on roads. It also helps to reduce aggressive drivers on roads, and it turns out to be a major contributor to lower accident rates. However, while there are several improvements in certain areas, the city of Bogotá is possibly struggling with an added attraction for insecurity and crime.

[1] Rodríguez, Deysi Y, Francisco J. Fernández, and Hugo A. Velásquez. "Road Traffic Injuries in Colombia." Injury Control & Safety Promotion. 10 (2003): 1-2. Print.

[2] Bocarejo, JP., Velasquez, JM., Diaz, CA., Tafur, LE., Impact of BRT System on Road Safety: Lessons from Bogota; November 15, 2011, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá (Colombia)

[3] Romero, Simon, and Jenny C. Gonzalez. "Colombia's Resurgent Capital Backslides Amid Crime and Congestion." New York Times. (2011). Print.

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