Is Boris’s pursuit of increased traffic speed killing and injuring Londoners?
The Mayoral debate is in full swing with the candidates making various promises, many of which they will be unable to deliver. One area, the road safety of Londoners, is under Mayoral control, as this article will demonstrate. In 2010 over 28,000 Londoners were killed or injured on London's streets. With different policies this number would be less.
It is no secret that Boris’s arrival at City Hall saw the needs of pedestrian safety relegated below that of increased traffic speed. Pedestrian crossings have been removed and the time allowed for pedestrians to cross at traffic lights reduced. This may well have increased traffic speeds, but it has been achieved at a great cost to pedestrians.
What happened in 2008?
Road casualties in Greater London were reducing strongly from 2000 levels. Why has this now stopped?
Using the year 2000 as a base of 100, Chart 1 reveals how road casualties fell steeply during the early to mid 2000s. In Greater London road casualties dropped by 30%, twice the rate for Great Britain as a whole. By 2007 the reduction was nearly 40%. Chart 1 shows how much better London was faring in comparison to the rest of Great Britain up to 2008. Since then the reduction has stalled and in 2010 road casualties increased for the first time since 2000.
At the same time as this increase was occurring in London, casualties continued to fall steadily in the rest of Great Britain.
So what happened in London in 2008? Read the rest here
This exchange was prompted by the publication of a report by Steer Davies Gleave on the road safety strategy of the City of London. This report is not available in electronic format
Ted Reilly review
There has been a welcome increase in interest in road safety at the Streets and Walkways sub committee (S&W), but the recent report by the consultants, Steer Davies Gleave (SDG), and the accompanying report by the City's officers suggests that there is little prospect of any early improvement in the City’s road safety performance.
The SDG report has some technical flaws (more on this later), but much more worrying is the attitude of officers, which seems to be that nothing can be done to halt the rise in casualties, and rather than seeking solutions to the problem, attempts to explain away the increase in casualty levels on factors outside the City's control.
The City is the worst performing borough in London on most measures of road casualty levels but the response of officers is "The most recent collision data clearly indicates that pedestrian and pedal cyclist injuries are increasing in the City. I believe that this trend will continue and that casualties will continue to rise." Given the urgent need for effective action the SDG report is a distraction. It appears to have been commissioned to confirm the existing road safety strategy, which is based on Education, Training and Promotion (ETP) rather than examining all the factors, which contribute to the upward trend in casualties.
Unsurprisingly, given the restricted terms of reference, the SDG report seems to support the status quo. It has some technical errors and some interesting omissions. However neither the report, nor its shortcomings are very significant. It is discussed in Appendix 2.
There is no doubt that the ETP work of the City’s road safety team is excellent. It compares very favourably with the work of similar teams in other London boroughs, and has been applauded by TfL. However it is not sufficient as a foundation for the City’s road safety strategy.
The City's current road safety strategy appears to be ad hoc. What is needed is an evidence based and targeted strategic approach to reducing casualties on the City's roads. The City needs to formulate a real strategy for reducing road casualties and the following sections outline how such a strategy might be developed. Ted's report continues.......
Peter Wynne Rees reply
Thank you once more for your continuing interest and advice. Following the presentation of the SDG report to the sub-committee the Chairman has requested the establishment of a joint working group with representatives of the Police Committee and officers to examine the City's road safety strategy and scope for recasting it to address current issues.
I would like to address a few of the specific issues which you raise. The Corporation is extremely challenged in allocating decreasing financial resources between many competing calls on its funds. This is as true for road safety initiatives as for the many other statutory functions carried out by our various departments. However, I have charged the road safety team and their managers with seeking external sponsorship for a number of their initiatives, especially the ETP activities, to allow our funds to be stretched as far as possible.
The engineered projects which you sight have been carried out principally to improve the convenience and appearance of the City rather than to address road safety issues. However, in their execution we have been careful to address safety concerns where these were present and to ensure that there were no negative safety effects from the schemes.
I am sorry if we come across as complacent, because our members and officers are anxious to do whatever we can, within our resources, to reduce road casualties in the City. The simplification of the Moorgate/ London Wall junction and the HGV wing mirrors initiative are examples where we can be seen to be leading the pack. Sadly, it is very difficult to identify other similar "quick wins". We know where the concentrations of accidents occur and that this relates to the concentration and mix of road users at certain key road junctions. This is the inevitable result of the intensity and patterns of City activity - dense rush-hour and lunch-time flows and preoccupied road users.
Enforcement and education can play a part in improving this situation but there is rarely scope for an engineered intervention which is practicable, acceptable and effective. There were proposals for removing pedestrians from the Bank Junction even in the days of horse-drawn vehicles but no one has ever achieved this.
We are not too proud to learn from the good practice of others and I know that the members will wish to study the approach of other central London authorities to similar problems.
I can assure you that we are not sitting back and will continue to search for ways to safeguard road users in the square mile