The new bike lane in San José is the beginning of a fight against what some are calling a “disease” – traffic accidents.
Crashes kill 1.3 million people every year, and Costa Rica plans to play a major role in the battle to end road deaths, according to the International Federation of Automobiles (FIA).
Last Thursday, San José unveiled its first stretch of bike lane along the Circunvalación (Belt Route
) on the city’s southwest side, with some celebrities being the first to ride it. The capital plans to add more bike lanes in the next couple years thanks to a $1 million donation by FIA.
Costa Rica was awarded the grant because the country has adopted Make Roads Safe, an international traffic safety campaign, and could serve as an international example of what a developing country can do to reduce deadly traffic accidents.
On hand for the Make Roads Safe campaign in San José were Michael Schumacher, seven-time Formula One world champion and new member of FIA’s board, and Michelle Yeoh, actress and a Make Roads Safe ambassador.
The campaign, which aims to reduce the number of road-related deaths worldwide by 50 percent by 2020, has successfully lobbied for the first ever United Nations Ministerial Conference on global road safety, to be held in Moscow in November.
Karla González, minister of Costa Rica’s Public Works and Transport Ministry, said celebrities are important in the campaign.
“If we speak to our younger generation in boring terms, they won’t listen,” said González.
Yeoh said the world cannot afford to lose any more children from this human-caused epidemic. “Road safety is something we have solutions for. We would love for Costa Rica to be a shining example that we can advertise around the world of how to put things right on the road.”
According to Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, a chair of the Make Roads Safe Campaign, road crashes are now the leading global cause of death for children and youths 10 to 24. Annually, 1.3 million are killed and at least 50 million are injured. Accidents cost the developing world up to $100 billion a year – money that could be spent on schools, hospitals and economic development.
“For all other diseases, they have clear guidelines,” said Schumacher. “And in road safety, we need to implement those as well.”
Schumacher also said that it’s particularly important for Third World countries, as there are so many roads being built.
“Good road design can prevent crashes in the first place. For example, when deciding whether or not to build a roundabout or a stoplight, it’s smarter to go with the roundabout,” said Schumacher.
Both Yeoh and Schumacher feel their fame and success will help raise more awareness of the campaigns and foundations.