Saturday, 25 February 2012
The #cyclesafe hashtag has generated a bit of Twitter discussion about the need for #walksafe as well as #cyclesafe. Carlton Reid has suggested that #peoplesafe might get more long term traction than either #walksafe or #cyclesafe and Joe Dunkley suggested yesterday that we need "Cities Fit For People", which is of course exactly what we all need.
The Times campaign for Cities Fit For Cycling has been admirable in its dogged determination to galvanise debate about safety on our roads following the horrific collision suffered by their reporter Mary Bowers. The London cycling community led in particular by Danny Williams of Cyclists in the City and Mark Ames of i-bike London have brilliantly helped the Times take that debate all the way to parliament.
Last year sixteen cyclists and seventy seven pedestrians lost their lives on London's roads, but if you ask most Londoners they assume that many more people lose their lives cycling than walking. This is probably because most people don't identify specifically as pedestrians. There's no gear to buy for urban utility walking, no shops to act as hubs for engagement around walking issues and people don't tend to think of walking as transport. Cycling by contrast has many tribes and generates inspiring levels of enthusiasm for change.
In the last week, two pedestrians have suffered terrible deaths in collision with Heavy Goods Vehicles while crossing the road in London. On 21st February the Walthamstow Guardian carried the headline "Elderly woman killed by lorry" and just a few days earlier on 17th February the Surrey Comet carried the unbearable headline "Man decapitated after being run over by a lorry" following a crash in Tooting. These two deaths merited no national coverage despite the death of a passenger on a coach crash being national headline news for a couple of days and despite the intense focus on road danger in London generated by the Times Campaign.
The excellent See Me Save Me Campaign, dedicated to reducing lorry danger and saving lives, run by Roadpeace presents worrying statistics showing that over sixty-fives are particularly vulnerable in collisions. "One in eight pedestrians hit by a lorry died, and the figure rises to one in four for those over sixty five who account for almost half (46%) of pedestrian deaths." Further, "Pedestrian deaths mainly occur at junctions (74%)." This suggests there are two issues requiring urgent examination:
- Why are so many older people being killed when crossing the road?
- Why are so many people on foot killed at junctions?
And a series of junction related queries to be answered:
- How many pedestrian deaths were on green man crossings?
- Is there a correlation between the length of "solid" green man times and pedestrian deaths?
- Did vehicles involved move forward on flashing amber?
- How many of the collisions involved lorries?
- Of the lorries involved, were they fitted with front and side sensors, sideguards and mirrors?
The Times eight point manifesto has much in it to improve the safety of people on foot as well as those on bikes, particularly in terms of blind spot issues, the need for mirrors, sensors and side guards. We just need our MPs and those running our local authorities to be made aware that there's an issue around walking safety too.
The call for 20mph should be beefed up though. The deaths are happening at junctions on main roads not on quiet residential roads. While I'm delighted that 20mph is gaining traction in residential areas, what people in cities need is 20 mph limits on all roads where "people live, work and shop". Holloway Road near me in Islington may be the A1 going all the way to Edinburgh but it is also a road where many people live, work and shop with a tragic history of road deaths. Most thinking people understand that urban journey times are controlled by through-put at junctions and not by the speed at which the ground is covered between traffic lights. A default 20mph urban speed limit could be implemented quickly at relatively low cost and would immediately reduce the severity of any collisions.
We need to show politicians they can change some things quickly. Local authorities could ensure that all planning permission comes with a condition that all construction vehicles are signed up with the Freight Operator Recognition System (FORS) or an equivalent and put rigorous checks in place to ensure compliance. Any HGV on the road in the service of a local authority should be compliant with FORS or similar and driver training on pedestrian and cyclist awareness mandatory. In any urban area where there is a large construction project, there should be regular changing places training aimed at both pedestrians and cyclists. These measures will cost peanuts compared with the huge infrastructure investment that is also being called for. It is more about raising awareness of the danger posed by very big lorries and introducing reasonable measures to mitigate the risk. There is no reason to delay.