Safety and Rural Transport

A water crossing in Sri Lanka (Photo by Granie Jayalath)The issue of rural transport safety has been simmering in the IFRTD network for quite some time, especially in Latin America. Until now safety issues in the transport sector have overwhelmingly concentrated on roads, highways and motorised traffic. With organisations such as Global Road Safety Partnership and World Health Organisation doing an excellent job in advocating for this major problem (it is estimated that in 2020, road accidents will be the third major cause of death in the world). For more information please access

However IFRTD members, such as Paul Kwamusi from the Uganda Transport Forum Group, have been advocating for more attention to rural transport safety issues, beyond roads. Particularly in relation to rural waterways and gender. In the issue pages of the IFRTD website Kwamusi has contributed a think-piece on rural transport safety.

Issue Page:
Safety and Rural Transport

Forum News:

Volume 13, issue 3
February 2007
Rural Transport Safety (Acrobat pdf 1MB)

Time to Broaden the Transport Safety Debate: A synthesis of 5 rural transport safety case studies carried out in Peru, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, Madagascar and India (January 2007)
(Word Doc 162kb)

IFRTD was invited to participate in the United Nations Economic Commission for African Road Safety Congress (Ghana, February 2007). IFRTD was asked to lead a panel on rural safety issues - a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of rural transport safety issues that look beyond roads. This opportunity helped to make these important issues more visible for policy and decision-makers. For more information on what happened at the congress, click here.

As there is little information available on rural transport safety outside of road safety and accidents, IFRTD is interested to explore other themes, for example:

  • Safety from harassment, particularly for women/girls, relating to the design of transport services and facilities.
  • Safety of poor peoples' property - eg. intermediate modes of transport.
  • Safety issues on community access roads.
  • Safety issues on other local infrastructure - footbridges, other water crossings, paths, tracks and water transport.

After circulating a call for proposals in September and October 2006 IFRTD selected 5 studies with a rural transport safety focus. Between November 2006 and January 2007 the 5 participating researchers have carried out small, mainly qualitative, assessments to explore whether and how safety in rural transport is an issue for people and/or communities. Perhaps it is not a priority – in extreme poverty-stricken areas safety may not be the first thing on people’s minds. IFRTD is also mindful of the question of enforcing strict safety regulations which may potentially exacerbate isolation. For example in a recent study, called Rural Transport Services led by a team of rural transport specialists, it was demonstrated that in Zambia 70-80% of the bicycles did not have brakes - a potential safety risk. Enforcing the installation of brakes through stricter regulations, would mean that poor people would be marginalised and isolated even more as they would no longer be able to use their bicycles or would have to pay fines, or even worse, bribes.

So the studies looked for the optimum balance between improving safety for poor people while still ensuring their access to critical lifelines and market opportunities.

The studies:

  1. In Cajamarca, rural Peru, Maria Gutierrez carried out a small study on safety issues on community access roads particularly for girls and women.
    Click here to download the full report (Word 1.6MB)
    The Better the Road the Greater the Risk.

  2. In rural Madagascar Didier Young looked at safety issues on community access roads and paths, with a special focus on various means of transport including walking.
    Click here to download the full report (Word 272kb)
    Evaluation des Problèmes majeurs de Sécurité des Transports en Milieu Rural sur les Hauts-Plateaux de Madagascar.

  3. In Sri Lanka Granie Jayalath assessed safety on rural waterway crossings.
    Click here to download the full report (Word 1.7MB)

  4. In Cameroon Vivien Meli carried out a small research on safety issues with female traders (“byam-salam”) on rural roads (rural-urban linkages).
    Click here to download the full report in English (Word 527kb)
    Click here to download the full report in french (Word 1MB)

  5. In Rajasthan, India, Ashoke Sarkar from the Birla Institute for Technology and Science is looking at the impact of PMGSY roads on the traffic safety of school going children in rural areas.
    Click here to download the full report (Word 1.1MB)

A full synthesis report of the studies is also available alongside a shorter overview provided by Forum News edition 13.3 (February 2007). Click on the links below to download these two resources:

- Time to Broaden the Transport Safety Debate (IFRTD Jan 2007) Download (Word 162kb)

- IFRTD Forum News, edition 13.3, February 2007, Rural Transport Safety. Download (Acrobat pdf 1MB)

For more information please contact: or

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