Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (WTC 07)

WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES

INTRODUCTION

  1.  PACTS welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the debate on walking safely in towns and cities. PACTS is an associate all-party group and registered charity advising and informing Members of Parliament on road, rail and air safety issues. It brings together technical expertise from the public, private, academic and professional sectors to promote research based solutions to identified transport safety problems. Its objective is to promote transport safety legislation to protect human life.

  2.  PACTS welcomes the Government document Encouraging Walking (DETR, 2000 a), and acknowledges that walking is indeed good for people, good for communities, environmentally sound, and also a very common mode of transport for shorter journeys. PACTS is delighted that the Government wishes to make walking easier, more pleasant and above all, safer.

  3.  However it is important to reiterate the point made by the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee (1999) that, "any efforts to encourage walking must be accompanied by measures to improve the standards of safety. The Government must insist that local authorities ensure that the needs of the more vulnerable road users are taken fully into account by their designs for new layouts."

  4.  In towns and cities pedestrians may certainly be classed as "vulnerable road users". Of the 3,423 people killed in road incidents in 1999 in Great Britain, 870 (25 per cent) were pedestrians. Pedestrians comprised 8,955 (23 per cent) of the total 39,122 people seriously injured in the same year (DETR, 2000 b). The overwhelming majority of these deaths and serious injuries occurred in urban areas.

  5.  In the Road Safety Strategy the Government set targets to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by 40 per cent by 2010, and by 50 per cent for children. They also aim for a 10 per cent reduction in the slight casualty rate, expressed as the number of people slightly injured per 100 million vehicle kilometres (DETR, 2000c). If these targets are not to be undermined by pedestrians being exposed in increasing numbers to the risks of traffic related injury, then effective road safety measures must be implemented.

  6.  Whilst Britain's overall road safety record is said to compare favourably with other European records—with just under 10 people killed and 110 people seriously injured everyday—the number of child pedestrians killed is particularly high: 107 people under the age 15 died in 1999 (DETR, 2000 b).

  7.  Risk of injury is not equally distributed amongst pedestrians. Children, the young and the elderly are most at risk of injury (ETSC, 1999). Furthermore children from poorer families are five times more likely to be killed in road accidents when out walking than children from other families. Children from minority ethnic groups also suffer disproportionately from road crash injuries (DETR, 2000 d).

  8.  According to a DETR study, children in Britain spend substantially more time on main roads than in the Netherlands and France, and half of Britain's inflated accident rate can be explained in terms of this greater exposure to busier roads. Busier roads are characterised by higher speed limits and large volumes of traffic (DETR, 1999).

SPECIFIC INTERVENTIONS WITH IDENTIFIED BENEFITS

Planning

  9.  It is encouraging to note the DETR's conviction that, "good planning and design can help to reduce the deterrent effect that traffic has on walking" (DETR, 2000 a). The current traffic system has been designed predominantly from a car-user perspective. In its report ETSC is therefore able to argue that the system lacks coherent planning of route networks for pedestrians.

  10.  Urban transport strategies should include the development and maintenance of a comprehensive, safe, well-signed and well-lit network of pedestrian routes, providing easy access to all major developments (ETSC, 1999). Detailed improvements would include: direct paths, good numbers of pedestrians, safe play areas, adequate pavement width, and restricted pavement parking. There would be adequate crossings at street level and guard-rails and distanced stop lines that become facilities that people will choose to use.

  11.  However infrastructure alone will not adequately reduce pedestrian casualties whilst the sheer volume and speed of traffic remain a threat. Indeed, ETSC recognises that heavy traffic is a major deterrent to cycling and walking, while the DETR Comparative Study identified that main through roads are associated with a risk for pedestrians more than three times that for local roads.

  12.  The Institute of Highways and Transportation (IHT, 1996) in their hierarchy of measures cite traffic reduction as the first priority, followed by speed reduction. The IHT contend that implementing measures further up the hierarchy makes it easier to introduce the lower level measures (junction treatment; redistribution of road space; provision of special facilities).

  13.  This approach is supported by the DETR Comparative Study, the conclusions of which were outlined in paragraph 8. PACTS endorses their recommendation of the need to consider the spatial relation of major roads to housing and the speed limits in residential areas. The study suggests separating major traffic streams from pedestrians, and encouraging education and training to improve safety behaviour. Their study supports traffic calming and lower speed limits. Reducing vehicle speeds on busier roads with higher speed limits will benefit child pedestrians substantially.

  14.  Across Europe as a whole most child pedestrian accidents occur near the home and in light traffic (ETSC, 1999). To this end Home Zones may be an effective strategy for reducing conflict between vulnerable pedestrians and vehicles.

Home Zones and 20 mph Zones

  15.  PACTS welcomes the use of Home Zones in the nine pilot areas, and their effective monitoring. A key feature of the home zones is their pedestrian-sensitive speed limits. The DETR have recognised that the most important problem in encouraging walking is inappropriate vehicle speed (DETR, 2000 a). In June 1999 the Government gave local authorities delegated powers to introduce 20 mph speed zones. This reflects the conclusions of research that has shown that a one mile per hour reduction in the 85th percentile speed produces a 6-7 per cent change in the number of accidents per year (Stark, 1995).

  16.  Research by TRL found that with 20 mph zones the average annual accident frequency fell by 60 per cent. This is a statistically significant reduction. Child pedestrian accidents fell by 70 per cent and the overall mean speed reduced from 25 mph to 16 mph. The same report concludes that successful schemes consult the community at an early stage, recognising that local support is essential to the success of any scheme. Also crucial is the implementation of engineering measures to enforce the speed limit: measures must be under 100m apart to achieve target speeds. A typical cost for a scheme is about £100,000 to £200,000 (TRL, 1996).

  17.  The DETR assert that Home Zones require planning and acceptance of personal responsibility, along with traffic calming, enforcement cameras, education and publicity.

  18.  The DETR assert that it is "ultimately, the responsibility of the driver to be aware of pedestrians and to drive at a speed within the limit and appropriate to the conditions" (DETR, 2000 a). However research has indicated that risk in the presence of special measures is much higher in Britain than in France and the Netherlands (DETR, 1999). PACTS therefore recommends that schemes are evaluated and that levels of effectiveness be collated centrally, and at the European level, in order that guidelines for best practice are then passed to local authorities.

  19.  Research carried out on behalf of the DETR by consultants Allot & Lomax (1999) in six UK 20 mph zones, found the zones had little effect in encouraging walking. They contend that measures did not go far enough to give parents confidence in their children's safety. Allot & Lomax recommends significant changes to the function of the street through more stringent measures (including road closure, 10 mph limit). They consider that Home Zones may be more appropriate in securing changes to the function of the street (Home Zone News, 2000).

  20.  PACTS encourages the Government to honour its pledge to legislate in due course if traffic calming measures do not prove adequate (DETR, 2000 a). Central Government also has a role in ensuring that local authorities follow guidance on consulting widely on proposed schemes at an early stage, monitoring them once in place, and being prepared to modify them if problems arise (DETR, 2000 a).

  21.  Of the local authorities implementing 20 mph zones, 60 per cent quote accident reduction as the main justification and 80 per cent are in residential areas (TRL, 1996). PACTS recommends that the zones are created in those areas with highest casualty rates, as prescribed by the local authority safety audits, required in the Ten Year Plan (DETR, 2000 e). Given the higher vulnerability of children from families in lower socio-economic groups, children from minority ethnic groups, and the elderly, we expect traffic calming schemes to take place in areas with high population of these road users. Decisions regarding designation of 20 mph zones should be transparent and monitored.

Vehicle Design

  22.  PACTS supports the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's previous recommendation; "We recommend that the government take the necessary measures to ensure manufacturers are required to design cars in ways which minimise the harm caused to pedestrians and cyclists in the event of a collision", (Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, 1999).

  23.  The Government should encourage vehicle improvements which prevent accidents happening and improvements which protect pedestrians in the event of a collision. In Tomorrow's Roads: Safer for Everyone, the Government reaffirmed its commitment to "proposals for the European Commission to bring forward a Directive in early 2000 to make car fronts safer. This should be a challenging initiative which could ultimately reduce fatalities and serious injuries to pedestrians by up to 20 per cent" (DETR 2000 c). PACTS urges the Committee to repeat its earlier recommendation in this report on walking, as this would reflect the importance of progress in this area.

  24.  Other design proposals could also have a positive effect on pedestrian casualties. The UK is supporting a European Commission directive to make front underrun guards compulsory for HGVs, which could be implemented by 2003. There is potential also for more sophisticated braking systems and collision avoidance systems at affordable cost, compulsory daytime running lamps, and improved rubber compounds and tyre construction, which lead to increased reliability and road surface adhesion.

  25.  "In the next few years we expect to see vehicles that are "intelligent" in their own right, helping to avoid accidents and protect road users". (DETR, 2000 c). PACTS supports this sentiment and welcomes in particular research into the potential of Intelligent Speed Adaptation. This could lead to a significant reduction in fatal road crashes involving all classes of road users (University of Leeds and Motor Industry Research Association, 2000). As speed is a contributing factor in as many as one in three road crashes and 70 per cent of drivers currently break the 30 mph speed limit, pedestrians will benefit substantially from technological approaches to speed reduction.

Enforcement

  26.  PACTS supports the DETR's ambition of rigorous enforcement of existing speed limits, through greater use of digital cameras and new technology, including speed-activated warning systems. We therefore wish to see adequate provision of resources to local authorities for enforcement as well as traffic calming measures. Income raised from the existing penalty fines should be hypothecated to pay for the administrative costs and more cameras. This should be implemented immediately (Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, 1999).

  27.  Where hypothecation has happened on a trial basis, the number of people killed and seriously injured in road accidents has fallen by up to 50 per cent. On roads in Northamptonshire 38 people were killed or seriously injured during August 2000, compared to 76 people in the same month last year (Webster, 2000). This has been achieved in part by the fact that more than twice as many tickets have been issued in Northamptonshire this year compared to last year. The combination of tough enforcement and wide publicity has brought a 13 per cent reduction in the average speed of motorists in Northamptonshire.

  28.  We support the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee 9th Report where it advises that there "must be comprehensive analysis of the costs and benefits of increasing spending on traffic policing in relation to the growing costs of congestion and the costs of injuries to the National Health Service."

Resources and Evaluation

  29.  The DETR's 10 Year Plan focuses more on spending to improve the security of car parks and stations with CCTV than it does on road policing to protect the moving pedestrian. However, in Our Towns and Cities, the DETR indicates that "Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan" will fund schemes to improve pedestrian environment including safe routes to schools and stations. The plan also requires funding of Home Zones in residential areas, with traffic calming schemes, and the implementation of pilot "Clear Zones" in towns and city centres (DETR, 2000 d).

  30.  Practical guidance has been published for local authorities on measures they should include in the Local Transport Plans (LTPs) to promote pedestrian safety (DETR, 2000 c). PACTS hopes that this guidance is able to be realised in practice through provision of adequate resources. Government must monitor and evaluate effectiveness of LTPs and of the measures implemented by local authorities.

CONCLUSIONS

  31.  Fear of speeding traffic, accidents and injury is one of the main reasons people give for not walking or letting their children walk more. To encourage walking safety and convenience must be combined. Convenient and safe pedestrian provision must therefore be an integral and properly funded aspect of our traffic systems. To promote inclusion, a senior local authority officer must be responsible for including pedestrian provision in the design process. In addition, the Government should give consideration to the establishment of a Walking forum, similar to those for motorists and motorcycling.

  32.  In order for planning to be most effective, Central Government needs to raise awareness of the problems encountered by pedestrians amongst other road users (DETR, 2000 a). Accompanying this, vulnerable road users themselves need to be better advised in order to encourage them to protect themselves, as far as is possible. Road safety training schemes should be tailored for various audiences, for example the elderly, for maximum impact (ETSC, 1999).

  33.  Walking is an activity undertaken by almost all road users at some point. To encourage walking on a greater scale, the road hierarchy must be re-allocated to allow a higher priority for vulnerable road users. PACTS recommends there is an annual report to Parliament on progress made towards the targets of improved pedestrian safety and increased levels of walking in towns and cities.

  34.  This memorandum has highlighted the importance of reducing both vehicle speeds and the volume of traffic as part of a comprehensive traffic management strategy, in order to improve safety for vulnerable users. Fewer vehicles and slower speeds will result in lower casualties and community perceptions of lower risk. PACTS urges the Committee to ensure that its final report and recommendations incorporate this perspective.

REFERENCES

  Allot & Lomax (1999) Urban street activity in 20 mph zones: emerging findings, Babtie, Manchester.

  DETR (1999) Comparative Study of European Child Pedestrian Exposure and Accidents, MVA Ltd, Surrey.

  DETR (2000 a) Encouraging Walking, DETR, London.

  DETR (2000 b) Road Accidents Great Britain: 1999. The Casualty Report, The Stationery Office, London.

  DETR (2000 c) Tomorrows Roads—Safer for Everyone, DETR, London.

  DETR (2000 d) Our towns and cities: the future, DETR, London.

  DETR (2000 e) Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan, DETR, London.

  Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, House of Commons: (1999) Ninth Report, Integrated White Paper, Vol 1, The Stationery Office, London.

  European Transport Safety Council (1999) Safety of Pedestrians and Cyclists in Urban Areas. ETSC, Brussels.

  Home Zone News, (December 2000) Issue 1, National Children's Bureau Enterprises, London.

  Institution of Highways and Transportation (1996) Cycle-friendly infrastructure, London.

  Stark, D (1995) Speeding is an important urban problem. Paper presented to the PTRC Annual Meeting, TRL.

  Transport Research Laboratory (1996) Review of Traffic Calming Schemes in 20 mph Zones, TRL, Berkshire.

  University of Leeds and Motor Industry Research Association (2000) External Vehicle Speed Control. Institute for Transport Studies, Leeds.

  Webster, B (2000) Deaths fall as speed camera penalties soar, The Times (20 November 2000), London.

December 2000


 
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Prepared 2 February 2001