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Making cities safer

06 March 2017

Julie Fisher, editor of a new themed issue of Municipal Engineer on identifying urban safety solutions, explains how civil engineers are helping to make cities safer

Making cities safer
Image credit: Shutterstock

Our densely populated cities are increasingly dangerous places to be, with never-ending construction works, rising traffic levels and even falling trees. The responsibility for finding solutions often rests with civil engineers – which is the theme of this month's issue of the ICE Municipal Engineer journal.

Tariq Umar (2017) starts with a literature review to identify the key elements of safety leadership and offers a detailed definition of this as it applies to urban construction sites. Its importance is emphasised as a lack of clarity on what effective safety leadership looks like is seen to have a negative impact on rates of injury.

Urban road safety

The next three papers relate to aspects of road safety and avoiding traffic casualties. Das and Burger (2017) look at road safety improvement on suburban arterial roads, using a case study approach in Bloemfontein city, South Africa. Data collection involved different primary surveys – of households, traffic and road geometrics – combined with secondary traffic accident data.

Influential road-geometry-related parameters on traffic accidents include road width, number of lanes and median width. The paper concludes that the number of accessible roads linking residential and arterial rods is the major variable in the cause of road traffic accidents.

Abdi et al. (2017) offer an analysis of traffic-calming measures to reduce speed and improve road safety. Speed profiles and traffic modelling were undertaken on a particular one-way street with three passing lanes. Shortening the distance between speed humps was found to have a direct impact on speed reduction; however, street capacity was also reduced. It is therefore recommended that appropriately distanced speed humps be used to maintain the desired level of service.

Crossings and trees

Dündar (2017) discusses accidents involving pedestrians on street crossings. Individual pedestrian behaviour and their activities while crossing the street were analysed using video footage in combination with an examination of the significance of the different cross walk design features and environmental conditions such as the weather.

Significant variables for crossing time were found to be pedestrian sex and age, activities such as cell phone use, time of day, temperature and motor vehicle density. Again this leads to useful insights and planning recommendations.

Finally, Ko and Standing (2017) present two new risk methods to assess the likelihood of structural damage to buildings by trees, based on an assessment of likely physical damage to structures and ground settlement in shrinkable clay soils.

Risk rating systems comprise a hazard model, a consequence model and a risk model. Results lead to guidelines for planting different sized trees near man-made structures, suitable for use by laymen rather than those with specialist knowledge of trees.

Impact on people's lives

Common features of all the papers in this issue are that they identify specific safety concerns that directly impact on people's lives. They also all develop recommendations for planning interventions, however the target stakeholders vary.

The three transport papers cover a range of planning levels, from extensive road planning to specific aspects of services for use by drivers and pedestrians, in relation to speed humps and street crossings. The findings of Das and Burger (2017), Abdi et al. (2017) and Dündar (2017) have relevance at a policy and decision-making level for implementation by practising urban and transportation planners.

Results from Ko and Standing (2017) are also relevant to the general public, as well as professional tree specialists.

Although the papers vary in their level of technical focus, data and analysis, they all have clear implications for the interface between aspects of design and the user.

Equity and inclusion – call for papers

This concern about the impacts of infrastructure on the public comes more directly under the lens in a forthcoming themed issue of Municipal Engineer – 'Leave no one behind: equity and inclusion in engineering for sustainability' – for which abstracts are invited.

The impacts of civil engineering on a range of technical, social, cultural, economic, institutional or environmental factors are essential dimensions of sustainable development and are part of an integrated and balanced approach to the provision of infrastructure.

Papers are invited on equity and inclusion issues within the civil engineering profession; for example, representation and anti-discriminatory work policies and practices at all professional levels, policy, planning and practice including representation, consultation, design, construction and operation of inclusive and sustainable infrastructure, for example buildings, transport, urban planning and utilities.

Submit an astract or contact Claire Robinson on +44 (0)20 7665 2241, email [email protected].

For further information please contact the ICE Proceedings editor Simon Fullalove at [email protected] or on +44 (0)20 7665 2448.