At SXSW, Austin Mayor joins call to action for safe & healthy streets for youth
At the world’s leading conference of creative professionals, SXSW, Austin Mayor Steve Adler called for cities around the world to adopt policies that protect youth and other vulnerable road users, signing up to the This is My Street campaign. Speaking alongside FIA Foundation North America Director & UN Representative Natalie Draisin, Mayor Adler echoed the campaign calling for action on the leading killers of young people globally, including road traffic injury.
At the #ThisIsMyStreet campaign signing, Mayor Adler said: “Even one traffic-related death is too many. We need to remain focused on traffic safety, especially for our youth.” Austin has an extensive Vision Zero programme, but it has not always been popular in the city. Starting with youth and creating a safe routes to school programme overcame opposition to streets that prioritize people. Focusing on of children and youth instigated a crucial shift away from car culture.
As mobility leaders descended on Austin for SXSW, the FIA Foundation brought a focus on the world’s youth to the discussion, presenting international programmes that put the rights of young people at the heart of the debate on safe and sustainable cities.
Presenting at two key sessions at SXSW, Natalie Draisin highlighted the significant and devasting impact vehicles have on the health of young people. Attendees at both “Kids Before Cars: Safe, Sustainable Urbanization” and “The Intersection of Old and New Mobility – For Kids’ Sake,” heard that globally, road traffic injury is the leading cause of death for those aged five to 29, killing more people than war, drugs, and suicide. The U.S is not immune from this preventable public health crisis plaguing youth, as more five to 24-year-olds die on its roads than from any other cause.
The full-scale impact of vehicles on youth costs an estimated 500,000 young lives every year due to injury or toxic air from vehicle emissions, which has long-term health consequences such as asthma and lung cancer. Congested streets add to health burdens caused by road traffic. Lack of safe spaces that promote physical activity contribute to a cocktail of non-communicable diseases such as obesity.
The audience of policymakers, planners, and innovators at SXSW learned about the life-saving programmes of FIA Foundation partners that promote infrastructure interventions and policy recommendations to reduce these devasting health impacts.
In Brazil, the Global Designing Cities Initiative used tactical urbanism to transform streets in a matter of hours, using paint, planters, and benches to create a car-free space for the community to enjoy. In Mexico, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy worked with school children to identify unsafe infrastructure and change the school environment to make it safer, building not only safe school zones but also a Vision Zero for Youth movement in Mexico City. “Vision Zero for youth isn’t just building infrastructure, it’s building a bridge from empowerment, to change, to zero,” said Natalie Draisin.
From Austin to Fortaleza, to Mexico City, programmes were able to change mindsets, and influence policy, by harnessing the transformative power of youth.
For the first time, the SXSW audience heard the FIA Foundation’s call for a UN Summit on Adolescent Health, aimed at leveraging political action and scaling up solutions to combat road traffic injury, and other neglected health issues impacting the lives of young people.
Natalie Draisin said: “It’s time for road crashes and other health threats to young people, like mental health and obesity, to follow in the footsteps of traditional diseases and get the funding and attention they deserve. These issues are core to the health of our cities. UN Summits have worked in the past. It’s time they worked for our future - our youth.”
Joining Mayor Adler at the Smart Mobility Summit, Natalie Draisin also presented the full range of work supported by the FIA Foundation to ensure both safe and healthy streets. From Global NCAP to The Real Urban Emissions Initiative, consumer-facing programmes work in concert with infrastructure and schools focused projects to support policy recommendations for healthy cities, ultimately benefiting youth.
Representing voices from a multitude of sectors, SXSW attendees continued to sign up to #ThisIsMyStreet campaign, adding their voices to the FIA Foundation’s call for a dedicated UN Summit.