Sunday, 7 March 2010

Article published in Local Transport Today

The recent DfT report on "Pedestrian casualties in reported road accidents:2008", which was referred to in LTT 539, misses a worrying trend that since 2004 road fatalities in the UK have become increasingly skewed towards pedestrians. From pedestrians being 20.8% of road deaths in 2004 we have seen this increase this every year. (2005 - 21%, 2006 - 21.3%, 2007 - 21.9%, 2008 - 22.5%).

The report identifies that for pedestrian safety the UK does less well than other EU countries based on pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people. In fact, it puts us 8th out of the EU 19. However when comparing the %age road fatalities that are pedestrians then United Kingdom comes 17th out of 19. Only Hungary and Poland are worse. (European Road Safety Observatory)

Whilst absolute pedestrian casualties have been reducing, this has been at a far lower rate than that experienced by other forms of transport. Hence in the UK a road death is more likely to be a pedestrian than any time since 2001. Our road danger reduction is simply not working for pedestrians.

With 96% of pedestrian casualties on built-up roads, then now is the time for radical action to create a "paradigm shift" in the way we share roads with pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle users.

Whilst the DfT has recently made steps to encourage the use of lower speed limits for all residential roads through the use of "Total 20" schemes as in Portsmouth, it needs to relax its signage requirements and enable local authorities to make 20 mph the default speed limit (without repeaters) unless otherwise signed.

By providing clear "gateways" to 20 mph limited areas then no additional 20 mph signage should be required. In order to enable progressive local authorities to move forward with "Total 20" then the government should commit to underwrite any current signage erection and removal costs in the event of them retrospectively changing the default signage requirements on a national basis.

Such a move would overcome one of the major factors inhibiting local authorities from implementing this civic and life enhancing initiative. It would also enable them to meet many LPT3 targets at a far lower cost and greater value for money.

Note: Local Transport Today is the publication read by transport planners and officers in the UK.