Thursday, June 30, 2011

Road Deaths at Record Low

The number of people killed annually on the roads in the UK has fallen for the seventh consecutive year. 2010 saw 1,857 deaths, 16% lower than the 2,222 in 2009.

It's not such a rosy picture if you're a cyclist though - the number of cyclists killed rose for a third consecutive year by 7%, to 111 up from 104 in 2009. The number of cyclists rose by just 0.5%, which means cycling is getting significantly more dangerous. Mike Penning, Road Safety Minister, commented that the Government is "looking at how we can improve cycle safety." Oh yeah? Let me take you to Blackfriars Bridge, Mike, and I'll give you a few ideas. You might want to stop taking down speed cameras as well.

Roger Geffen's take on it reflected the CTC's vehicular outlook. "We still have only a tiny fraction of our residential streets covered by 20mph while hostile roads, bad driving, and weak law enforcement remain serious barriers to getting more people cycling."
The trouble is, it's unclear how the CTC think we can create a Britain in which more people cycle. They seem to reject the experience of countries that do have high levels of cycling, which is that segregation from traffic is necessary to give your average person confidence to cycle. Without segregation, you have a problem. It only takes one or two inconsiderate or inattentive drivers to turn a cycle ride into a unpleasant experience; unpleasant enough that a new cyclist will quickly turn into an ex-cyclist with a story they'll tell to anyone who's thinking of taking up cycling. It only takes one or two inconsiderate or inattentive drivers out of the hundreds of drivers you're likely to interact with on even a relatively short journey. Today, the majority of drivers admit to breaking speed limits, and 27% of drivers admit to using a handheld mobile whilst driving. With that real-world starting point, how do the CTC propose we can create a world where all drivers are skillful, alert and attentive, they know, understand and respect the law, no-one is in a hurry, everyone is nice and considerate, says please and thank-you, and goes to church on a Sunday (though they have no sins to confess)? The fact is, people are not perfect. In or out of a car, from time to time they do stupid things; they lack skill and judgement; they get angry; they bend the rules for selfish gain. More law enforcement won't change that, neither will 20MPH limits. The point is vulnerable road users need to feel protected from inattentive, inconsiderate and otherwise delinquent motorized road users. That's why we have pavements. Cyclists feel just as vulnerable as pedestrians, so it follows they need a safe space that's guaranteed to be free from motor vehicles.

The other disturbing aspect of the 2010 road casualty figures is that the effect of the Coalition's road safety cuts and 'War on the Motorist' agenda won't yet have kicked in. So, as the RAC Foundation's Stephen Glaister put it, "there is a danger these figures could mark the bottom of the casualty curve."

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