Map: Which European cities have the fewest traffic fatalities?

Gexto: a motorist’s paradise. Image: Gorkaazk at Wikimedia Commons.

Q: What do Parla, Getxo, Velbert and Redditch have in common, besides the fact you probably haven’t heard of them?

A: Fewer traffic fatalities than pretty much anywhere else in Europe.

The figures which demonstrate this come from DEKRA, a German vehicle inspection company, which compiled research on traffic fatalities across cities in 18 European countries between 2009 and 2012. This map shows the results for cities with populations over 80,000 with zero traffic fatalities for at least one year out of the four. (You can click here or on the map itself to see the interactive version.)

Orange denotes a city with one fatality-free years; yellow, two, pale green, three. The Dark green cities are those which did not record a single fatality in that four year period - which is where Redditch, Parla, and so on come in.

As this list shows, smaller, more obscure cities with populations of 100,000 or less are in with a better chance. The largest city to make the list at all is Nottingham, population 289,301, which had no fatalities in one out of the four years.  

Large cities, however, tend to have a far higher fatality rate. In 2010, Paris had 43, London 126, and Rome 182 – though this may also be the tricky matter of municipal definitions at work, as Paris’s official boundaries are much narrower than London’s.

This isn't just because more people means more traffic. Clemens Klinke, a member of DEKRA’s board, points to the wider range of vehicle types on busy city roads, too:

“In urban traffic, the strongest, that is trucks, buses and cars, come up against the weakest, namely pedestrians and cyclists. Tram and light rail systems are also part of the mix. All this leads to a wide range of traffic situations and very specific risks.”

Two notable exceptions to the small-city rule are Fuenlabrada and Alcalá de Henares; both are in central Spain, both have populations of over 200,000, and both recorded no fatalities between 2009 and 2012.

Of the nine cities with populations over 80,000 and four years of no fatalities, in fact, six are in Spain, and five are in the Madrid province. It is, of course, possible that the reporting procedure in this area isn’t effective, there’s been a hiccup in the data, or the official city boundaries are affecting the result – but there’s also the possibility that the residents of Madrid are just very, very safe drivers. In Spain as a whole, traffic fatalities fell by 50 per cent between 2001 and 2011, which is partly down to new toll motorways introduced to decongest the country’s major roads.

The map was compiled as part of the “Vision Zero” campaign, which aims for zero traffic fatalities across all European cities. Looks like London and Rome have some work to do. 


Here’s a fantasy metro network for Birmingham & the West Midlands

Birmingham New Street. Image: Getty.

Another reader writes in with their fantasy transport plans for their city. This week, we’re off to Birmingham…

I’ve read with interest CityMetric’s previous discussion on Birmingham’s poor commuter service frequency and desire for a “Crossrail” (here and here). So I thought I’d get involved, but from a different angle.

There’s a whole range of local issues to throw into the mix before getting the fantasy metro crayons out. Birmingham New Street is shooting up the passenger usage rankings, but sadly its performance isn’t, with nearly half of trains in the evening rush hour between 5pm and 8pm five minutes or more late or even cancelled. This makes connecting through New Street a hit and, mainly, miss affair, which anyone who values their commuting sanity will avoid completely. No wonder us Brummies drive everywhere.

There are seven local station reopening on the cards, which have been given a helping hand by a pro-rail mayor. But while these are super on their own, each one alone struggles to get enough traffic to justify a frequent service (which is key for commuters); or the wider investment needed elsewhere to free up more timetable slots, which is why the forgotten cousin of freight gets pushed even deeper into the night, in turn giving engineering work nowhere to go at all.

Suburban rail is the less exciting cousin of cross country rail. But at present there’s nobody to “mind the gap” between regional cross-country focussed rail strategy , and the bus/tram orientated planning of individual councils. (Incidentally, the next Midland Metro extension, from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, is expected to cost £450m for just 11km of tram. Ouch.)

So given all that, I decided to go down a less glamorous angle than a Birmingham Crossrail, and design a Birmingham  & Black Country Overground. Like the London Overground, I’ve tried to join up what we’ve already got into a more coherent service and make a distinct “line” out of it.

Click to expand. 

With our industrial heritage there are a selection of old alignments to run down, which would bring a suburban service right into the heart of the communities it needs to serve, rather than creating a whole string of “park & rides” on the periphery. Throw in another 24km of completely new line to close up the gaps and I’ve run a complete ring of railway all the way around Birmingham and the Black Country, joining up with HS2 & the airport for good measure – without too much carnage by the way of development to work around/through/over/under.

Click to expand. 

While going around with a big circle on the outside, I found a smaller circle inside the city where the tracks already exist, and by re-creating a number of old stations I managed to get within 800m of two major hospitals. The route also runs right under the Birmingham Arena (formerly the NIA), fixing the stunning late 1980s planning error of building a 16,000 capacity arena right in the heart of a city centre, over the railway line, but without a station. (It does have two big car parks instead: lovely at 10pm when a concert kicks out, gridlocks really nicely.)

From that redraw the local network map and ended up with...

Click to expand. 

Compare this with the current broadly hub-and-spoke network, and suddenly you’ve opened up a lot more local journey possibilities which you’d have otherwise have had to go through New Street to make. (Or, in reality, drive.) Yours for a mere snip at £3bn.

If you want to read more, there are detailed plans and discussion here (signup required).