Memorandum by Sustrans (RTS 18)
ROAD TRAFFIC SPEED
Sustrans is a practical charity which seeks
to promote travel choice and lessen the adverse impacts of car
dependency. We are responsible for co-ordination of the UK National
Cycle Network, and have pioneered the concepts of Safe Routes
to School, and to Stations. We do other work on Walking, HomeZones,
journey-planning, travel information and Individualised Marketing.
Since November 2000 Sustrans also has a partnership
with the New Opportunities Fund. In return for a grant of £7.4
million we are actively working in over 80 sites to improve accessibility
for disadvantaged communities. In many instances this work is
to ameliorate the adverse effects of speeding traffic. We are
also founder members of the Slower Speeds Initiative and commend
their published work, notably "Killing Speed: A Good Practice
Guide to Speed Management".
It is worth stating at the outset why appropriate
speed is so important. As Government figures correctly emphasise,
when pedestrians are struck by a moving car at 20 mph only 5 per
cent are killed. At 40 mph, 85 per cent are killed. A vehicle
travelling at 20 mph has a six metres "thinking" distance
and a six metres "braking" distance, 12 metres (40 feet)
in total. For 40 mph the overall stopping distance is 120 feet.
At 70 mph, it is 315 feet.
It is for these reasons that speed is a significant
factor in almost all road crashes. Although the much-quoted TRL
report 323 puts "excessive speed" as a definite factor
in only 6 per cent of occasions, the full list of incidents given
shows that speed greatly contributes to the number and severity
of almost all accidents, and certainly more than the one-third
often asserted. This is borne out by the frequently confirmed
figures that even an average 1 mph reduction will lead to a 5
per cent fall in accident frequency. (cf TRL report 421).
Sustrans strongly supports recent Government
moves towards more sustainable travel. These include:
1996 National Cycle Strategy (with
aim of quadrupling cycle journeys by 2012).
1998 Transport White Paper.
"Tomorrow's Roads: Safer for
However, the general public are unlikely to
walk or cycle more unless they believe conditions to be safe.
At the moment they do not. That is whyin its recent report
on European best practicethe Commission for Integrated
Transport has found that (by distance travelled) British cyclists
and pedestrians were more than twice at risk than those in Sweden
and nearly three times as much as their Danish counterparts.
It is also why CfIT spoke of the much higher
levels of non-motorised use over much of western Europe. "The
one critical success factor underpinning best practice in all
case study areas was the introduction of area-wide 20 mph zones.
. .it has been fundamental in prompting strong growth in walking
By contrast the National Cycling Forum leaflet
"A Safety Framework for Cycling" (April 1999) admitted
that cycling in the UK has been in decline, mostly because of
a lack of safety. "Reducing speed" was highlighted as
one of four main areas for action.
This same publication showed that adult Danes
cycle by distance nearly twelve times as much as their British
counterparts. It quoted the experience of Denmark, Holland and
of York to show that increased levels of cycling do not mean proportionate
rises in casualties. Beyond a certain critical mass level, drivers
perceive cyclists more readily and modify their speed and behaviour
accordingly. But hostile road conditions and speeding have mostly
stopped this increased level of use being achieved in the UK.
Particularly distressing is the impact of this
on children of the poor. The Government's 1996 publication on
Child Pedestrian Safety found that "children in the lowest
socio-economic group are four times more likely to be killed as
pedestrians than their higher group counterparts". But research
in 2000 for the Scottish Executive found that the children of
the least wealthy 15 per cent had a pedestrian rate eight times
that of the most affluent.
From this we can see that illegal and inappropriate
speed is a major threat to non-motorised travellers and to the
achievement of agreed Government targets.
Paragraph 56 of "New Directions in Speed
Management" states that:
"Long streams of fast traffic contribute
to the severance of communities . . . In most severe form this
can cause inequalities and cause social exclusion in communities."
It must be recognised that a similar effect applies to residential
roads. Parents will not allow children independent mobility where
fast, local or commuting traffic dominates. Many people are unwilling
to walk or cycle. Highways become roads for cars, rather than
streets for people.
Multiplied across a city, this impact can have
devastating consequences. People will not visit, shop in or live
in an unattractive environment. Much of the urban decay and "doughnut-effect"
of city centres is caused by dangerous, speeding traffic. Those
who can, leave.
That is why it is vital that the proven success
of 20 mph zones be expanded rapidly, through the policy and funding
process. TRL Report 215 shows average speed reductions of 9 mph,
falls in average accident frequency of 60 per cent and a 67 per
cent cut in child casualties. Hull has by now 80 of these schemes
and has transformed itself within five years. Sustrans believes
the next step is to make 20 mph the norm for all local roads in
We wish to stress that inappropriate speed is
not just a blight in urban areas. Travel by foot, horse and cycle
in the countryside is often subject to intimidation from fast
traffic. There is a high priority to control speed in villages,
together with an urgent need to expand the "Quiet Lanes"
concept both in number and in size of area.
The time has also now come to tackle the issue
of excessive speed on inter-urban roads. "Environmentally
Adapted Through Routes" in Denmark offer plenty of suggestions
Finally the ongoing work in developing a Rural
Speed Hierarchy by DTLR and others must ensure that rural communities
are given a much greater say in designing local solutions to local
problems. We urge the Committee to give a boost to this work and
to strongly encourage local authorities to set up pilot projects
on the new hierarchy.
Sustrans is an organisation devoted to practical
solutions. Our first railway path conversion was to create a safe
route between Bristol and Bath, mainly to avoid speeding traffic
on the main road. Much of the success of the National Cycle Network
is due to similar provision. Use here is increasing quicker than
elsewhere, and the Network is proving to be the "spine"
for other regional and local cycle networks.
This success has been replicated in our Safe
Routes to School programme, whose principles have now been widely
adopted. This involves creating priority for pupils on foot or
by cycle, together with traffic calming and other speed controlling
measures. It should be noted that tackling speed and improving
safety can result in major modal shift on the "school run",
greatly lessening congestion at peak hours.
We believe exactly the same principles can be
applied to our Safe Routes to Stations work. In Denmark 40 per
cent of rail travellers arrive at their station by cycle: here
the figure is under 1 per cent. We have a partnership with DTLR
and RailTrack to produce 30 pilot projects a year for three years.
It is essential that such "Safe Routes" are made an
integral part of work by the Strategic Rail Authority, the new
RailTrack and within refranchising of TOCs.
With regard to HomeZones, we are a member of
the DTLR working party, the IHIE design group and the Joseph Rowntree
Foundation handbook project. Sustrans believes it is vital to
"design out speed" and we are establishing links with
major housing developers to establish this concept. It is extremely
important to link lower speed zones with safe and accessible links
to shops, schools, green spaces, public transport facilities and
But we should also be looking ahead. Continental
best practice now suggests that "traffic space" should
be replaced by "social space". Low speed streets can
encourage children's play, avoid the need for severe traffic-calming,
be more aesthetically pleasing and encourage community decision-making.
Full details of this can be found in Sustrans "Home Zones
Government research has been relatively detailed
on speed. The original "Kill Your Speed" document of
1992 contains much useful information. Further references are
contained in "New Directions in Speed Management" (DTLR
March 2000). Though welcome, Sustrans believes this publication
was overly cautious on a number of issues, notably:
Lack of emphasis on the safety and
cost-effectiveness of 20 mph zones
Insufficient consideration of driver-operated
Unnecessary concerns about "slowing
down the economy" with lower speed limits
We commend the critique by the Slower Speeds
Initiative (Policy Briefing No 2) of the Speed Management Review.
The two reports we have found most helpful are
"What Limits Speed?" by Ross Silcock Ltd and Social
Research Associates for AA Foundation for Road Safety, and "Speed:
Whose Business is it?", PACTS Conference, 10 February 1999.
The former emphasises that it is important that
speed limits "feel right" to a driver. There must be
strong messages given about the purpose of the road environment
and perceived risks of detection. It is important to link these
issues to wider ones of community ownership and speed management.
The second source reinforces that people who
significantly break speed limits tend to be high mileage drivers,
male, and young. There are clearly cultural issues to be tackled
here (cf comments about "media" below), some linked
to ways of lessening dangerous and intimidating behaviour.
On a final point, speeding reinforces existing
failures by drivers to see road situations properly. Roadside
checks done by police forces regularly show 10-12 per cent of
all drivers who fail sight tests, and it is worrying that this
situation is allowed to persist.
We are glad that the Committee has recognised
motorcyclists' behaviour as an issue. As they will be aware, motorcycle
casualties are out of all proportion to their use. Road Accidents
Great Britain 2000 reported PTW fatalities in that year were 605,
an 11 per cent rise in the casualty rate by distance within 12
A significant section of the motor cycling community
still promotes speeding as a "thrill" and an enjoyment
in its own right. This is reflected in national media stories
during summer 2001: "Motorcycle Menace in National Parks",
Sunday Telegraph 8 July; "Death Wish Bikers Terrorise Holidaymakers",
Independent on Sunday, 26 August.
In view of the above Sustrans regards possible
measures of official support for motorcyclists with alarm. We
are opposed to PTW use of cycle lanes, bus lanes and advanced
stop lines, partly because of the threat of speeding motorised
traffic this entails.
The "pedestrian-friendly car" seems
to have been discussed for decades. Perhaps the Committee could
enquire why so little progress has been made.
However, the real "pedestrian-friendly
car" is one driven capably and at appropriate speed. Work
on Intelligent Speed Adaptation is now well under way, with vehicle
speed being governed to suit the circumstances. Sustrans believes
this is the ultimate way forward in speed control. If past events
on road safetyeg drink/drive, safety camerasgive
any guidance, there will be substantial misinformed opposition
to this proposal. Sustrans urges the Committee to strongly make
the case for ISA, and to subsequently monitor progress on this
Ultimately, the fitting of black box recorders
into all vehicles would be a major aid to road safety.
There are a number of serious institutional
problems which help perpetuate inappropriate levels of speed.
Probably most fundamental is the concept of "time saving"
in transport appraisal. The more drivers' time can be "saved",
the more "valuable" a scheme becomes. Thus there is
a huge in-built bias which favours fast, long-distance driving
against modes such as walking and cycling.
Secondly, many safety schemes actually aim to
slow traffic down, as well as improve the road environment for
all users. Yet these are always considered to be "minor"
rather than "major" schemes by DTLR Guidance on Local
Transport Plans. Despite this, they are usually much more cost-effective.
The new TRL report on this (No 512) says that local road safety
schemes generate first year average rates of return of 500 per
Thirdly, speed as a factor is almost certainly
under-recorded in the current STATS 19 procedure.
Fourthly, much fast traffic is encouraged by
highway design manuals. Roundabouts are notoriously dangerous
for cyclists and pedestrians. The traditional British roundaboutunlike
its Continental counterpartis large, with "flared"
entrances and exits which encourage high-speed driving, with adverse
results for all road users. Similarly, many side road crossings
have high inappropriate speed. This feature, and the thinking
that lies behind it, is one major reason why drivers fail to give
way to those on foot or cycle, in clear contrast with many European
Lastly, conventional road safety techniques
employing purely accident reduction criteria still require deaths
and serious injuries before roads can be altered and speed reduced.
We urge the Committee to press for the adoption of wider "Environmental
Traffic Calming Assessment" (and other ways to ensure that
roads can be made safer without residents having to die to achieve
There has undoubtedly been a sea change in police
attitudes towards speeding recently, and this is most welcome.
The enthusiasm of most forces for safety cameras is useful, though
we draw attention to the ongoing lack of interest by the Metropolitan
Police. There may be a disturbing link here with the continuous
poor road safety record in London, notably for pedestrians.
We are, however, concerned about the lack of
a coherent approach towards Crime and Disorder Strategies. In
the 1998 round of these ACPO issued encouraging guidance about
including speeding. However, at community level many forces did
not offer this as an option. Where it was offered, speeding often
overtake drugs, burglary and other crime as the top concern. With
the second round of Strategies being developed there seems even
less clarity. We would ask the Committee to clarify this with
the police and to make the case for the inclusion of speeding.
This is a large and complex area. We refer to
the work of Stradling on traffic offences in general. We find
his categories of "lapses", "errors" and "violations"
to be helpful. He and others have also noted how people who break
motoring laws also tend to violate society's other norms. Amongst
other issues, the extent to which there are sufficient police
offers to enforce traffic laws is an issue.
Health & Safety Executive
This body conducted a consultation during Spring
2001 on "Preventing At-Work Road Traffic Incidents".
Its Safety Task Group concluded that between a quarter and a third
of all fatal and serious traffic incidents involve someone at
work. It is clear that lack of adequate driver training and fleet
supervisioncoupled with over-demanding work schedulescan
make speeding endemic in the work system.
The HSE suggested that the time had come to
consider extending Health & Safety Management systems to work-related
travel. In our response of 23 May 2001 Sustrans warmly supported
this proposal. We also said that such regulation should be extended
In our submission we stressed that company fleets
were an ideal area for the introduction of Intelligent Speed Adaptation.
We strongly commend this idea to the Committee, and urge that
the whole issue of inappropriate speed within work is made a priority
The HSE Safety Task Force has now come to a
considered opinion (December 2001), and believes that Safety regulations
should be extended to at-work activities on the road.
This Department is not renowned for the speed
or urgency with which it tackles road traffic offences. It made
a fundamental error about the difference between committing speeding
offences and being detected for them in its 2001 consultation
on Road Traffic Penalties, and at the time of writing no progress
has been made in publishing any conclusions.
Sustrans believes it is now time for a complete
re-think about danger on the road. This would involve such issues
as a new duty of care by drivers, parity of consideration concerning
dangerous and threatening behaviour elsewhere in society, and
a new look at concepts such as driver liability and danger reduction.
There are important elements about speed policy in each of these.
Press advertising of cars has improved in recent
years. Formerly expressions such as "The trigger is under
your right foot" (Toyota) and "From 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds"
(Renault) were commonplace. The motoring section in the Advertising
Standards Authority guidelines which stresses that "advertisers
should not make speed or acceleration claims the predominant message
of their advertisements" and "advertisers should not
portray speed in a way that might encourage motorists to drive
irresponsibly or to break the law" is welcome. However, in
the light of this we remain bemused as to why manufacturers continue
to produce models capable of travelling at least double the maximum
speed limit, and of advertising which allows them to say this.
TV advertising is more worrying, as it often
not only portrays cars invading the countryside but almost never
shows any other road users, and certainly not those on foot or
cycle. This contributes to the impression that speeding has no
consequences, as there is no-one else out there. We suggest that
the Committee asks for a six-month monitoring of this issue.
As for TV programmes about motoringas
typified by presenters such as Jeremy Clarksonthese would
appear to have a seriously negative effect. The consistent emphasis
is on speed and performance with the impression given that "safety
is for wimps" and that cyclists and pedestrians are a hindrance
in the way of busy (usually male) drivers.
This view finds worrying levels of support among
certain sections of the national press. Here anything which appears
to interfere with the "individual freedom of the driver"
is roundly condemned, even if it involves proven methods of road
safety such as traffic calming or safety cameras. Highly selective
facts or complete inaccuracies are often printed as true. We would
ask the Committee to devise some means of monitoring this issue
and ensuring that certain fallacies (eg "speed does not kill")
can no longer be perpetuated.
Sustrans believes that a partnership approach
to Speed Management is essential. Strategies which are perceived
as "imposed from above" are unlikely to work. We particularly
commend Lancashire's Partnership for Road Safety, a multi-agency
approach aiming at a fundamental change in public attitudes.
Other successful Strategies include:
a) Devon. Work here has achieved a great
deal in tackling attitudes among drivers, especially the young,
concerning speed and its adverse impact. Also work through community
safety audits and at parish council level has helped spread the
message through most sectors of society.
b) York. The Strategy here is notable for
being part of a danger reduction approach. The division of roads
into three categories of residential, mixed priority and traffic
route has helped problem solving. It should be noted that the
Strategy aims to put all of York's 12 secondary and 60 primary
schools within a 20 mph zone. This supports a key element of the
Strategy, which is the active involvement of residents.
Speed Management Strategies can be a key element
in new Social Inclusion policies. They offer a way of bringing
in the forgotten voices of the ethnic minorities, old, the poor
and children. A recent survey of Belfast's Shankill Road found
that the top local concern was actually speeding traffic. In recent
consultations on the development of Northern Ireland's transport
strategy, Safe Routes to School emerged as the most desired option.
Managing speed is a powerful factor in restoring feelings of neighbourhood.
Sustrans warmly welcomes this inquiry. We believe
that an unsafe road infrastructure and certain cultural attitudes
to do with driving unduly threaten individual freedom. Furthermore,
this background threatens key Government objectives in health,
social inclusion, transport and regeneration. There are serious
institutional problems to be addressed. But tackling speed is
highly cost effective, popular and yields quick results. Above
all, it is a central element in civilising our streets and making
them safe and attractive for all road users.