A charter for sensible road safety

A community group has released a plea to local authorities and responsible agencies to make road safety relevant to our modern times.


We want to see construction of a good quality cycle network in Newcastle and Tyne and Wear. So it is in the woeful absence of sensible cycling and walking infrastructure, that we ask the council to adopt a much stronger position in the interim. Drivers, by simple laws of physics, hold the (horse) power on the road. In a just system it is only logical that the one who holds the power and can cause the greatest harm must be the first target for safety initiatives and regulations. We all know, that when motor traffic is not adequately managed it will dominate neighbourhoods, leading to a decline in community interaction, wellbeing, health, environment and local economies. Road safety authorities must inform drivers of their responsibility on the road, especially in built-up areas where interactions between road users can be very complex in particular in the absence of clear infrastructure.

We ask the road safety divisions in local authorities and road-safety bodies:

  1. To acknowledge the immense power differential (in kinetic energy) that exists between motorised and non-motorised traffic participants, ie people walking and cycling
  2. To act in accordance with simple physical principles and hence re-design roads and streets to manage all traffic interactions safely and sustainably
  3. Prioritise walking and cycling over driving movements to stimulate local economies and create healthy life choices and interactive communities

In the meantime, before safe, convenient and comfortable walking and cycling alternatives have been built into our city and towns, we ask:

  1. Any road safety initiative to be aimed squarely at drivers
  2. Telling drivers about what cyclists are expected to do on the road, such as
    1. Cyclists should cycle away from parked cars (as doors can open)
    2. Cyclists should position in mid-lane, at least 1 metre away from the kerb or parked cars, for better visibility (cyclists are NOT asked to cycle in the gutter)
  3. Above all we ask road-safety authorities to have a strong stance on bad driving and send clear messages about unacceptable driving behaviours: tackling impatience to reduce risks from close passes, left-hooking and dooring

A recent study shows just how prevalent “near miss” incidents are: “Near miss and other non-injury incidents are widespread in the UK and may have a substantial impact on cycling experience and uptake”, full access to the study here. Near misses have their origin in risk-management. Risk management takes a whole-system approach to locate and then to treat the root cause. Near misses are warning signs. Near misses are these “little things” that over time, if not amply attended to, add up to harm, injury and can tragically lead to road death too. A pre-emptive approach to road safety is needed. These are the big and the small realities on our roads that we feel must be duly acted upon by road safety initiatives without delay.

Katja Leyendecker, chair of newcycling.org, says “It’s high time road safety catches up with reality and is pulled into the 21 Century. We can no longer ignore the inherent road dangers posed by driving and the discriminatory road designs causing it. We ask the relevant authorities to take decisive action.

“Journalists can perhaps have a look too at the focus they take on reporting road incidents. It might also be useful to know about the question and answer website, Cycling Fallacies http://cyclingfallacies.com/en/ which helps to inform.”