Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260-279)

MR CARLTON ROBERTS-JAMES, MS WENDY BROOME, MR STEPHEN PALMER AND MR TIM ASKEW

WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002

Chairman

  260. Mr Palmer, do you have a different view?
  (Mr Palmer) If I can just add to the point made earlier, you asked about cost, in my home county of Suffolk they were one of the first authorities to apply a blanket initiative of 30 mph limits in villages and monitoring has taken place so far and that has illustrated an approximate four to five mph reduction on average as a result of that initiative, clearly higher speeds resulting in higher drops of speed, and the yearly reduction in accidents is running at about 20 less of those killed and seriously injured as opposed to the situation before, which all attributes to monetary costs.

  261. You are almost saying that in some of these villages you would have somebody going along, they come up to the 30 mph limit, they go past it exceeding the speed limit so you set a set of traffic lights down the road which would go to red. Is that right?
  (Mr Palmer) Not in my experience, no. The 30 mph speed limit initiative in Suffolk has relied purely on the 30 mph signs.

  262. I think in your evidence you are looking at some mechanical way of enforcing the 30 mph limit?
  (Mr Askew) That is correct.

  263. Can you explain it to me, because I do not understand it?
  (Mr Askew) It is a system which is used in some places on the continent, in Spain in particular, when they put a set of traffic signals within a limit within what they consider to be a reasonable distance from where the speeds should conform to the limits they set. Those signals are linked to a speed sensor and if vehicles are not obeying the limit the signals will go to red and stop the traffic.

  264. Why will somebody obey a traffic light signal but not a sign to tell them what speed they should be travelling at?
  (Mr Askew) If we knew the answer to that one I do not think we would have a speeding problem out there.

Mr O'Brien

  265. Continuing with pedestrian management and the interests of safety, what sort of schemes do you expect to be funded from the local transport plans?
  (Mr Askew) The majority of local transport plans will be including, I would imagine, a fair number of pedestrian priority schemes in urban centres. Schemes tend to focus on where the majority of pedestrian movements happen, that is because that is where you find the clusters of problems and accidents that require dealing with.

  266. Are you suggesting that there should be more barriers and cattle-pen crossings or are they lost in safer city projects? Which would you favour?
  (Mr Askew) It depends on the situation you are in. Generally overall we would favour the Gloucester Safer City approach.

  267. Are you saying that barriers are used as a tool of first resort and there is not sufficient thinking given to the overall problem?
  (Mr Askew) I think that was probably true in the past, I do not think that is the case any longer.

  268. Ought we to suggest to those authorities that by using the barriers they are demonstrating failure, they have not given sufficient thought to other schemes?
  (Mr Askew) No, there will always be situations where that type of control is appropriate.

  269. Have we too many of these pens and barriers in our towns and cities?
  (Mr Roberts-James) Possibly, I think we have. The view that the IHT takes is that the barriers and pens, as you described them, which offer some positive protection from traffic to pedestrians, are not a measure of first resort and that they are appropriate in circumstances where it has not been possible to humanise the road environment to a satisfactory level, which means they can be removed. There will always be situations where it is best to give some form of positive security to pedestrians, that should be the case. I think that in doing so that should be seen more as a departure from normal practice rather than normal practice. The key issue really is to balance some of the urban design considerations against safety, and it is always a difficult balance.

  270. Is there an example where we could not build-in to this issue of road safety development the use of pedestrian crossings without barriers and pens?
  (Mr Roberts-James) In certain circumstances they are used where the traffic speeds and the traffic regime has been suitably controlled to make it appropriate, but in situations where speeds remain high or where particular manoeuvres are taking place there will be a very sensible reason to include barriers if other considerations, such as urban design, and such like, are not unduly compromised. It is a balance and it really depends on the specific circumstances. I would not want to get to a situation where there was a presumption against these, but I think they should remain a technique that can be employed, that they are more a last resort than a first resort.

Mr Stevenson

  271. Mr Roberts-James, you suggested or indicated in your memo that there is no accepted measure of risk associated with pedestrians, could you just clarify that, please?
  (Mr Roberts-James) Yes. What we meant there is that because, we do not have as accurate information about the amount of walking that takes place as we might like, and because of the nature of walking and how we record it, although there is information in the national travel survey, the important thing is to link the amount of walking done to the number of accidents that take place so that you can indicate a risk per million miles walked, or whatever, in the same way you can with traffic. We feel that it is difficult to do that in a way that is sufficiently robust at present.

  272. What needs to be done? It seems to me to be a pretty serious omission from the whole spectrum?
  (Mr Roberts-James) The first step I would suggest would be to determine, through a research programme, what would need to be done in this respect, how would you do it? How could you do it reliably? How could you collect this data in a cost-effective way over time? I am not sure I am able to answer that, but I do think it is a question that needs answering so we scope out how you could get to a situation where there is a robust indicator of pedestrian risk.

  273. In that case how do local authorities prioritise if there is not any accepted measure of risk associated with pedestrians? How in Heaven's name do local authorities prioritise in terms of their resources in the different areas involved?
  (Ms Broome) There are various criteria that are used, we look at the number of pedestrians and we also look at the volume of traffic as well. Those sorts of indicators, PV2, pedestrians times the amount of vehicle squared is a very broad indicator that we use to determine whether we would put pedestrian crossings in. Over the last few years there has been a significant move away from that mechanical approach to far more addressing the needs and the spoken needs of local communities where they feel they want those sort of safety issues to be applied.

  274. I think we all understand that, and that is perfectly legitimate. In the absence of this accepted measure and in the absence of research so that priorities can be identified, not only based on local circumstances and local need and a sort of broad brush, arithmetical approach to this I still, again, ask the question, how do local authorities prioritise? I think I am getting the feeling that they do not, they cannot.
  (Mr Askew) That is partially correct. Pedestrian movements are far more fluid and flexible than traffic movements. Pedestrians have far more freedom to alter their movements to fit the circumstances and they do not react in the same way the traffic does. The pens and the railings we referred to earlier were initial attempts—misguided attempts—to attempt to constrain pedestrians to conform in a way that people wanted, and that is not the right way ahead, which is why we need more research into this. I suspect at the moment there is an awful lot of planning on the basis of where people perceive that the majority of pedestrians movements are or where there are the highest number of reported pedestrian problems from users.

  275. Who should do that research?
  (Mr Roberts-James) The Department of Local Transport and Regions.

  276. This question is to the Institute of Highway Incorporated Engineers, I jotted down what

  Mr Roberts-James said about resourcing, staffing revenue and expertise, and so on, quite unusually we are not able to identify in either submission any reference to personnel shortages in the transport sector, was that a deliberate omission, if my information is correct, and what are your views about that?
  (Mr Askew) I do not know if it was a deliberate omission from ours because ours was a composite approach. We would certainly have a view on it. We certainly support the comments made by Carlton, there is a skills shortage and it is an acknowledged skills shortage on the delivery. The point that Carlton made is a very key one, which is the revenue implications of this. With the introduction of speed cameras, the traffic calming schemes and the general raising of public awareness in this type of work the pressures on local authorities have risen dramatically and the pressures on traffic engineers have risen accordingly. Traffic engineering is probably one of the Cinderella's of the engineering profession. Traffic engineers will normally have undertaken a course in civil engineering as their education but that does not include many of the people skills that are probably essential to the delivering of traffic engineering.

  277. We heard from earlier witnesses an expression of gratitude to the government for increasing resources through the Local Transport Plan over recent years, in your experience are local authorities spending all of the revenue, all of the resources that they can and are allocated for transportation, including road safety?
  (Mr Roberts-James) Our local authority members made it quite clear through our the various technical boards that there are obstacles to delivering the Ten Year Plan associated primarily with a lack of revenue support to enable that capital to be spent. That is manifest in terms of staff shortages, it is also manifest in terms of difficulties in developing schemes to a level at which that capital money can be spent and drawn down from government, there are two parts to that equation.

  278. What I am trying to identify is, is it a matter, simply a matter, seriously a matter of government not providing the resources or is it a matter of what resources are provided are not being spent because of demands on other services—do you see the point I am getting at—or is it a mixture of both?
  (Mr Roberts-James) It is probably a mixture and it is probably affected by how authorities are prioritising their activities to a certain extent.

Mr O'Brien

  279. This question is to the Institution of Highways and Transportation, I understand you had a conference yesterday on rural speed management?
  (Mr Roberts-James) That is correct.


 
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