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


Memorandum by Sustrans (RTS 18)

ROAD TRAFFIC SPEED

INTRODUCTION

  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).

POLICY CONTEXT

  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.

    —  Transport Act 2000.

    —  "Tomorrow's Roads: Safer for All"

  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 why—in its recent report on European best practice—the 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 and cycling".

  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.

URBAN AREAS

  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 residential areas.

RURAL AREAS

  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 here.

  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' SOLUTIONS

  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 workplaces.

  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 News".

RESEARCH

  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 speed limiters

    —  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.

PROBLEMS

DRIVER BEHAVIOUR

  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.

MOTORCYCLISTS

  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 months.

  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.

TECHNOLOGY

  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 safety—eg drink/drive, safety cameras—give 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 vital topic.

  Ultimately, the fitting of black box recorders into all vehicles would be a major aid to road safety.

INSTITUTIONAL PROBLEMS

  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 cent.

  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 roundabout—unlike its Continental counterpart—is 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 situations.

  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 this).

RELEVANT BODIES

The Police

  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.

Sentencing

  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 supervision—coupled with over-demanding work schedules—can 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 to sub-contractors.

  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 for progress.

  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.

Home Office

  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.

Media Attitudes

  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 motoring—as typified by presenters such as Jeremy Clarkson—these 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.

ROLE OF SPEED MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

  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.

CONCLUSION

  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.



 
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