Road safety campaigns are pointless if we are not prepared to rethink road designs

Changing people and their behaviour is one aspect of road safety campaigns, but the real key to reducing death and injury is in understanding why this behaviour occurs in the first instance, and tackling these tragedies by removing flaws in the road design.

Newcycling congratulates Northumbria Police on Operation Dragoon, see 1), taking care of Education and Enforcement, albeit temporarily as a time-limited project. Yet, the group advises that the Engineering element – the third big E of a holistic road safety approach – is missing. A Freedom of Information request showed that Newcastle is not taking sufficient action on responsibilities under RTA 1988 S.39(3), see 2).

Katja Leyendecker, chair, says: “Councils such as Newcastle City Council have highway authority responsibility for nearly all of their city’s roads – and rightly so. But they are not taking this seriously enough. They are lackadaisical when it comes to investigating and learning from collisions to avoid repeats. It’s a tragedy in itself that they are seemingly totally unable to show a serious intent to fulfil their legal obligation of making our urban roads safe to use.

“The Dutch call this sustainable road safety – we learnt this when they came over last year and talked to us about it, see 3). The journey towards sustainable safety actually starts with categorising the road network into their function – movement or place. Most of Newcastle’s streets are unnecessarily in the movement category still. This leaves people with neighbourhood rat runs and scary streets, and little space for walking, and even less space for cycling on main roads.

“The Dutch are also keen to look at human behaviour. As an example, rather than the accusatory ‘cyclists run red lights’ they would ask the question “why?”, and then design this in through providing head starts for cyclists, physical route protection at junctions, or complete time-separation of traffic streams through traffic light settings – thereby making it physically safe by design, and putting cycling before driving. Many cycle collisions happen on or near junctions.

“We have much to learn in the UK. And, to say the least, Newcastle is not taking the lead.”

1) http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/road-safety-campaign-launched-bid-7241123
2) https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/obligations_under_section_39_3_r
3) http://newcycling.org/news/20131110/lcgd-workshops-slides

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