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Transportation plays a very pivotal role in the socio-economic development of our country. What then is transportation? Transportation is simply the movement of people and goods from an origin to a destination. Cycling a form of transportation is not alien to us as it's predominantly used in the north and other districts in the country. Nevertheless, in the south cycling is on the low side. Partly, because most motorists see cyclists as a nuisance and hence the danger involved when using the road is often enough to dissuade many commuters from cycling. In view of this, we should encourage greater tolerance and understanding between all road users.
Cycling is definitely healthier, often easier, frequently faster, undoubtedly better for the environment and saves time and cost. These benefits cannot be over emphasized as in summary it promotes the liveable city concept in built up areas. Cycling is a fantastic way of getting around the city, for what ever reason one chooses to use bicycle. Making it safer multiplies the benefits for individuals and for the community. Safer cycling encourages more people to get on their bikes, and the more cyclists there are, the safer cycling becomes. So, why then don't people commute by cycling?
THE CYCLING SITUATION
With the state of our road networks, cyclists cannot but ride on our roads with other road users. This is so, because, it is only a limited number of the roads that have cycling lanes or segregated cycling lanes and even those ones are of shorter lengths.
In the early 90's, Accra, the capital of Ghana under the urban transport project sponsored by the World Bank, saw a facelift in the central business district (CBD) and some parts of the capital. Under this project approximately 50km of cycle track (NMV routes) was constructed. At present cyclists hardly use these tracks for a number of reasons some of which are stated below.
Absence of Non-Motorised Vehicle (NMV) provision in transport policy and road traffic regulation
Lack of knowledge of cycle provision
Cycle track lack coherence and leads to nowhere
A violent attitude by motorized traffic towards non- motorised traffic
Obstruction on cycle tracks by hawkers and advertising boards
Inadequate provision of traffic signaling at intersections for NMV.
Inadequate safety provisions for cyclist
THE PREVALENCE OF ROAD ACCIDENTS
Globally, road traffic injuries are the second leading cause of death for young people aged 5-25 years. In Ghana, recent Provisional Road Traffic Accident Statistics available at the National Road Safety Commission indicates that a total of 4,343 vehicles were involved in motor accidents throughout the country during the first quarter of the year as compared to 4,782 accidents recorded at the same period in 2006. About 372 people were killed as against 406 people who were killed during the same time last year. This means that, though the spate of traffic accidents on our roads seems to be declining, it's still a cause for concern.
The Percentage Distribution of Annual Road Traffic Deaths in Ghana showed that, 7.21 % of the deaths in 2002 were cyclists. In 2003, 8.38% and in 2004, 9.20 % respectively were cyclists. This is an indication of a progressive increase in Road Traffic Deaths of cyclists over the years.
SHARING THE ROAD WITH CYCLISTS
Of course, one of the most important human factors that influence driving is the personality and the psychology of the driver. The main accident causes are human errors and maladaptive behaviors. Drivers are the major factors contributing towards accidents and in particular, accidents with cyclists. Overtaking on the inside, pulling out dangerously close to another vehicle, speeding, overtaking queue of traffic on the road shoulder, driving under the influence of alcohol, ignoring pedestrians and cyclists, particularly at pedestrian crossings. All of these examples of bad driving are evident every time one goes on the road, and all help to continue towards serious, often fatal, accidents. Many drivers think that roads are for the sole use of vehicles and that cyclists and pedestrians do not belong on the road. Drivers must be made to understand that it is in their best interest to encourage cycling as this would in turn reduce congestion and decrease their own travel time. Current studies revealed that by the time an individual is 70 years, he would have spent almost 6 years in traffic and this is about 9% of his whole life in traffic.
It is therefore apparent that other mode of transports are encouraged to help reduce the long hours of waiting in traffic.
A cycling policy is not only an inexpensive way of helping to achieve environmental objectives-it can also produce considerable cost saving in health care and in measures to combat the other negative effects of environmental pollution.
Over the past few years, the Ministry of Transportation has prepared a draft white paper on sustainable transport policy. Government therefore needs to expedite action on the draft white paper on sustainable national transport policy to incorporate non-motorised transport. This would require a comprehensive study of non-motorised transport in the country and a preparation of a strategic document, which includes policy formulation, infrastructure provision and implementation procedures and safety provisions.
We shouldn't forget that a good transportation system must provide for both mobility and accessibility. Also, it must ensure both safety and efficiency.
Sharing the road with cyclists by giving them space and respecting them as fellow road users would help to improve not only the safety on our roads, but also indirectly lead to the sustainability of non-motorized transport and as a result lesson traffic congestion and pollution.