We meet with the Road Safety team of Newcastle City Council

Road Safety team (Newcastle City Council) and Newcastle Cycling Campaign meeting
Friday 28th October 2011, 12:30 to 14:00
Civic Centre

In attendance:
David Embleton (Head of service, Highways, Network and Traffic Management),
Cheryl Ford (Manager, Road Safety Team),
Peter Ward (Newcastle Cycling Campaign, Member),
Claire Prospert (Newcastle Cycling Campaign, Secretary)
Apologies from Tom Bailey (Newcastle Cycling Campaign, Member)

Discussion was structured around the ‘spine’ of a presentation by Cheryl about the work of the Road Safety department of the council (presentation to be emailed to Claire/Peter).

Topics were discussed as they arose. We were informed of the wide range of activities carried out by the dept and Cheryl’s enthusiasm for the diversity and quality of work delivered by the road safety team. We went on to discuss
– 20 mph zones and their enforcement
– councils’ longer term plans for the city centre and for city-wide speed limit changes
– the Ghost Streets road safety campaign delivered in secondary schools
– the councils policy of helmet compulsion for Bikeability training
– the expected introduction of a camera van to enforce parking violations near schools and inconsiderate vehicle parking on pavements (FEAT project funded by LSTF, key component).

The road safety team unit is part of the “Highway, Network and Traffic Management” department which approach is centred around the “3 Es”: Education, Engineering and Enforcement.

We made clear our concerns that the Ghost Streets film may be counter productive to the cause of road safety, that the Newcastle Cycling Campaign (the Campaign) would like to see resources targeted instead at the source of road danger, namely motorised vehicles. We are concerned initiatives that aim to shock and scare pedestrians and cyclists may discourage people from doing them. We feel barriers to walking and cycling need taking away and pointed out the widespread acceptance of the ‘Safety in Numbers’ effect, predicting cycling and walking casualty rates fall as more people do them. We drew attention to the DfT’s recent adoption of rate based casualty figures, rather than just absolute numbers and adoption of perception based indicators for road safety. We observed that scare initiatives might worsen the latter, even when actual conditions had not deteriorated. Cheryl and David stressed that the Ghost Streets film has won national and international acclaim and awards. Cheryl and other road safety professionals across the country delivering this training present the film in context and have a good response from audiences. Feedback from participants is positive and pupils have not made any comments that would suggest that they were put off either walking or cycling. This will be monitored through the school census data to see if there are any negatively changing trends however it may be difficult to attribute it to one factor. We pointed out it is impossible to evaluate it in terms of its’ affect on walking and cycling or on casualties. We all viewed the 11-minute film together towards the end of the meeting. Peter challenged the department’s current helmet compulsion stance for Bikeability training and Cheryl agreed to discuss it further and look at available evidence, inviting Peter, to give a presentation and take part in a discussion on the matter to be arranged later.

Claire reiterated the need to develop education/awareness raising initiatives targeted at tackling the cause of road crashes and danger and the perpetrators likely to create more damage (motorised vehicles). Cheryl confirmed that this was an area of work that she was currently already involved in and would be seeking to develop it further. The Road users’ debate approach developed by the Campaign was mentioned as well as the initiative from the London Cycling Campaign targeted at bus drivers (Claire to send more details). A copy of the European Cyclists Federation’s recent road safety charter (October 2011) was given to Cheryl as an example of road safety initiative/campaign which supports the “3 Es”:
– education: targeted at all road users, not just the cyclists
– engineering: (more resources invested into the cycling infrastructure
– enforcement: (for the benefits of cyclists and other vulnerable road users