Urban Form and Road Safety: Public and Active Transport Enable High Levels of Road Safety

  • Paul SchepersEmail author
  • Gord Lovegrove
  • Marco Helbich


In this chapter we explore literature on the relationship between road safety and urban form. The latter can be described by the “5Ds”: density, diversity, design, distance to transit, and destination accessibility. Dense and diverse land use and networks designed for active transport encourage walking and cycling. These conditions are also favourable for public transport, especially with public transport stops close to many origins and destinations. Dense and diverse land use, and development oriented towards public and active transport are associated with high levels of road safety. The relationship between urban form and road safety is indirect via mobility. The aforementioned urban form characteristics are likely to contribute by creating favourable preconditions for road safety (and public health in general). Increased volumes of walking and cycling are associated with reduced vehicular operating speeds as driver awareness of pedestrians and cyclists increases. Increased active transport volumes are also likely to increase public support for protected neighbourhood cores, area-wide traffic calming, and comprehensive pedestrian and cycling networks. Moreover, dense and diverse land uses enable more community finances to be invested in (sustainably) safer transport systems such as metro and rail. Achieving higher levels of road safety and public health requires a ‘bottom-up’ design process of development patterns that focus on the human-scale needs of pedestrians and cyclists first, supported with convenient, high quality public transport, services, and parks. Only in the last stages should motor traffic be carefully designed for, and then only as a ‘guest’ to this otherwise sustainability-oriented community.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Geosciences, Department of Human Geography and Spatial PlanningUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Faculty of Applied Science, School of Engineering, Sustainable Transport Safety Research LaboratoryUniversity of British ColumbiaKelownaCanada

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