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02.09.2017 Feature Article

Road Safety: Incentivizing Pedestrianism In Ghana

Road Safety: Incentivizing Pedestrianism In Ghana

Someone once remarked, Not being able to walk is not being able to enjoy good health.” That may be a truism, but there is research evidence to show that governments (including Ghana, knowingly or unknowingly, inflict harm on citizens by not ensuring that there is adequate space and infrastructure to encourage safe walking on our roads.

The Lancet, a medical journal, reported that urban areas in developing countries were witnessing a higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes. The Ghana Medical Journal also published a review of population-based studies on hypertension in Ghana and the data showed that the prevalence of hypertension among urban population is pegged at 54.6 percent as against rural prevalence of 19.3 percent. This data explicitly indicates that the prevalence of hypertension is higher in urban than rural areas.

According to the Ghana Medical Journal, the researchers found out that hypertension was associated with high blood pressure which included increasing body mass index, increasing salt consumption and excessive alcohol consumption. The research actually concluded that prevention and control of hypertension in Ghana is, thus, imperative and any delays in INSTITUTING PREVENTIVE MEASURES would most likely pose a greater challenge on the already overburdened health system.

The Ghana Diabetes Association (GDA) has disclosed that about four million Ghanaians are living with diabetes and this result was from a screening conducted by the GDA in selected urban areas in the country. In 2016 when Ghana was observing the world Diabetes Day, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, a health expert, advised that Ghanaians should embark on regular exercises (walking, jogging etc.) to lower their blood sugar levels.

If that is the problem, the most important part of the solution (or preventive measures) is to help people increase physical activity, starting with walking. Ghanas 1992 constitution clearly stipulates that every person has the right to free movement and quite simply, walking is part of movement and the right to good health is linked to the right to walk, and subsequently maintaining quality of life in the country. After all what road safety action is looking to achieve is to saving lives and thus, having a safe walk means eliminating all the that come with lack of walking or exercising.

However, the unwalkable’ state of most pedestrian walkways in urban Ghana is much a worry and it indicates that public health concerns are not central to either urban planning or expenditure budgets. To compound pedestrians woes, the central government and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) have shown feeble fists to ensuring that pedestrian walkways in the countrys urban areas are clear to make walking safe to pedestrians.

In an interview, a pedestrian in Koforidua expressed worry to me that he didnt understand what informed road contractors to construct roads and streets without demarcating lanes for pedestrians to walk… away from the main road.

Now see, authorities are looking on unconcern as humans are sharing the same road with cars. What boils me more is the sideways that we the pedestrians can manage have all been used as car parks while traders have also taken over some portions of the road. We are unable to walk freely becuae of this, Samuel Addo said.

Meanwhile, in 2015, the New Juaben Municipal Assembly passed a bylaw directing all drivers to stop parking their vehicles on the sides of the road and thus directed them to park their cars at the Koforidua Jackson Park for a fee of 50p. A regular visit to the Jackson Park and a stroll on Koforidua streets however showed that drivers do not heed to the Assemblys directive. Law enforcement officers are seen on the streets everyday yet there are many vehicles that continue to park on the road sides, a situation that compels pedestrians to share the road with vehicles and posing danger to their lives (thus dis-incentivizing pedestrianism).

Over the years, the nation has recorded fragments of pedestrian knockdowns. Pedestrian knock-down is on the rise and remaining a threat to road safety in Ghana. According to the World Health Organisation, pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users on the world roads and in Ghana it is accounting to over 40 percent of all road traffic related deaths and injuries according to the National Road safety Commission.

This is a serious impediment to public health. It also imposes disease and the resulting high financial costs on a significant section of the population that is forced to use vehicles even for the shortest of distance (because they fear to be knocked-down). The government seems to be largely responsible for subjecting its pedestrians to diseases, rising vehicular traffic, noise, pollution and gridlock.

But is there evidence that improving walking facilities also improves health, and potentially reduces health costs? The answer is yes. A study done a few years ago in Britain reported that the National Health Service could reduce its expenditure on a range of diseases linked to physical inactivity, including diabetes and hypertension complications, dementia, cancer and depression, by £17 billion over a 20-year period, by helping people walk more. These funds could therefore technically be used to meet other public health challenges under the welfare system operating in the UK.

In Ghana, in spite of the National Health Insurance Scheme that should have helped reduced cost burden on them, Knock-down victims health expenditure is mostly met out-of-pocket. Due to lack of political will and for fear of losing elections, governments and law enforcement agencies are afraid to implement (by)laws that abhor motorists from parking on pedestrian lanes and traders turning pedestrian lanes into markets.

Fortunately, this is a problem that can be solved primarily with political will, since the funds necessary for improving walkability on the roads can be collected through road tolls. To the Eastern Regional Director of the NRSC, law enforcement agencies must strictly crack the whip; clump vehicles, arrest and prosecute all recalcitrant drivers as well as drive all traders from pedestrian walkways.

Most pedestrians wish to walk but are afraid to because there is no safety measures put in place for them. Pedestrianism should be incentivized to enhance walking among Ghanaians.

McAnthony Dagyenga
Journalist/Communication Specialist
Cell: 0208792950/ 0541672888
Twitter: @mctonydag
Facebook: Mark-anthony Dagyenga

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McAnthony Dagyenga
McAnthony Dagyenga, © 2017

The author has 11 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: McAnthonyDagyenga

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