Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Eric Dumbaugh, Associate Professor in the FAU School of Urban and Regional Planning, wears many hats. In addition to his full-time teaching role, he is also the Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Planning Association and the Associate Director of the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety, headquartered at the University of North Carolina.

He also works with the World Health Organization and the Swedish Ministry of Transport to include traffic safety into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are projected to be adopted in 2020 and will guide United Nations programs and investments. He also does ongoing work with the World Resources Institute (WRI) on global road safety, where he also served as a technical advisor to the manual titled “Cities Safer by Design”. Dr. Dumbaugh most recently led a two-week long, WRI-sponsored educational program for transportation professionals in Fortaleza and Sao Paulo, Brazil in Summer 2019. We sat down with him to talk about the program.

Q: How long have you been working with WRI?

A: Since 2012, I have provided training and technical services to the World Resource Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities (WRI Ross Center) as part of the Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (Bloomberg Initiative). This effort is focused on reducing the global incidence of traffic-related death and injury, which currently results in 1.3 million deaths and 50 million serious injuries each year. The majority of these deaths and injuries are the result of the rapid urbanization of the developing world and involve vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.

In 2010, the WRI Ross Center was sponsored by the Bloomberg Initiative to develop an evidence base for the prevention of traffic-related deaths and injuries. My efforts as part of this effort have including training WRI personnel in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, and Washington DC on the relationship between urban design and road safety, providing technical assistance for the development of the manual Cities Safer by Design, and discussing emerging road safety challenges at the World Bank.

The summer program was part of Phase 2 of the Bloomberg Initiative, which is focused on advancing road safety practice by provided focused training to transportation personnel in 10 select cities (Accra, Addis Ababa, Bandung, Bangkok, Bogota, Fortaleza, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai). My role in this effort is to participate in the development and delivery of week-long training sessions that detail policies and practices for addressing the safety challenges faced by cities undergoing rapid urbanization.

Q: What were your teaching goals for the two-week course in Brazil?

A: The rapid urbanization of the developing world has resulted in the rapid increase of U.S.-style patterns of automobile use and traffic congestion. Nonetheless, this growing affluence has been accompanied by increasing economic disparity, placing lower-income populations at disproportionate risk of being injured or killed in a traffic crash. The course detailed the problems associated with the rapid increase in automobile use, and provides local planners, engineers, and elected officials with guidance on how to mitigate and prevent traffic-related death and injury. The course also detailed the costs of traffic crashes on society, details how to integrate safety considerations into transportation planning and project development processes and engaged participants in the development of safety solutions for high-crash locations in their jurisdictions.

Q: Why is WRI’s work so relevant and important right now?

A: Their efforts are at the forefront of moving our cities to a post-automobile future. The present narrative is that automated vehicles (AVs) will liberate society from not only the burdens of driving, but also from the incidence of traffic-related deaths and injuries. The reality is that these technologies are incapable of safely adapting to urban environments (which is increasingly being demonstrated by my colleagues that are conducting safety testing on AVs). Moreover, the costs of these technologies make them largely inapplicable to the needs of the developing world.

The growing problems with the expanding use of automobiles in the developing world are going to force a fundamental rethinking of the nature of urban development, one which I expect will echo back into the development patterns in the United States. Indeed, the US is unique among developed countries in its continued prioritization of personal automobiles as a primary means of urban transportation. This approach is unsustainable, as evidenced by the declining state of our nation’s transportation infrastructure and the growing deficit of the Highway Trust Fund. A major goal of this program is to empower developing countries to move beyond the 20th century’s reliance on personal automobiles, and to begin to develop 21st urban transportation solutions.