Recent increases in road fatalities should be a wake-up call for Government to step up and provide stronger leadership on road safety, say MPs in a report examining the Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety.
The report was issued by the Transport Committee after evidence sessions given by CTC, the editor of The Times, and transport ministers in May. CTC president Jon Snow told the Committee: “There is no leadership in Government in cycling at all. It is a completely neglected area.” Misrepresenting a set of statistics, road safety minister Mike Penning had told the committee: "The Netherlands could learn from UK on cycle safety."
Launching the report Louise Ellman, chair of the Transport Committee said:
“We are very concerned that 2011 saw the first increase in road fatalities since 2003, with 1901 people killed on the roads. It is shocking that road accidents are the main cause of death amongst young adults aged 16-24 and that so many cyclists continue to be killed or injured."
The Committee also highlights the variability in road safety performance between local authorities.
“The evidence we gathered suggests the principal factor in improving road safety is robust political leadership. The Government’s strategy sets out to devolve decision making on road safety to local authorities but many authorities face a shortage of funding and the loss of many skilled road safety personnel," said Ellman.
The Committee urges the Government to seize the opportunity presented by a planned update for the Strategic Framework for Road Safety in September 2012 to reassess its road safety strategy. More attention should be given to engineering improvements in road design and technology and the Government should account for recent increases in the number of road fatalities.
Among a raft of measures, the MPs called for the Department for Transport to consider encouraging HGVs to fit sensors to improve cyclist safety and "look at cycling infrastructure, with the Department responding to the eight points of The Times cyclesafe campaign."
The cyclesafe manifesto from The Times includes mandatory sensors and turning alarms for lorries entering city centres; improvements to the 500 most dangerous road junctions; construction of world-class cycle lanes; 20mph speed limits on residential streets;and the appointment of cycling commissioners in every city.
The Committee’s report said: “We commend The Times campaign’s work to draw attention to the work needed to make cycling safer. We consider the points contained in its manifesto provide a road map for how cycle safety can be improved.
“Given the Prime Minister’s support for The Times cycle campaign, we recommend that the department issue a formal response to each of its eight points showing how they are being addressed and, if a point is not being acted on, what alternative action is being taken to address the matter.”
CTC welcomed the report, adding its voice to the demand for stronger leadership on road safety, and cycle safety in particular.
The 69,000-member cycle organisation has attributed the deterioration in road safety for all transport modes to a decline in road traffic policing and the consequence of the Government’s rhetoric of ‘ending the war on the motorist.’
CTC’s campaigns director Roger Geffen said: “With cycle casualties now increasing faster than cycle use and with worsening safety for other road users too, it is clear that the Government needs to show far stronger leadership on reducing danger on our roads. It is all very well asking local authorities to consider more 20mph limits, and providing the occasional spurt of funding for a few cycle-friendly junction improvements. What is really needed is a concerted, properly funded action plan to get councils, police forces and the freight industry pulling together to reduce traffic speeds, ensure cycle-friendly design for all roads and junctions and reduce the threats from lorries. Police forces must give the safety of pedestrians and cyclists the priority it deserves.”
Malcolm Shepherd, CEO of Sustrans, said: “The statistics on road safety released just a few weeks ago have shown an alarming rise in serious injuries among the most vulnerable people on our roads.
“If the Government is serious about making our roads safer it must show clear leadership. A great start would be to reduce our default residential speed limit from 30 to 20 miles per hour, which will make our communities safer for everyone.”