Road safety week, sustainable or not?

It is UK Road Safety Week, 17-23 November. Newcycling.org, Newcastle’s cycling campaign, reacts to that tradition by calling for urgent change in thinking and doing.

Katja Leyendecker, chair of newcycling.org, says “UK Road Safety Week is not welcome in its current format. It’s degrading and counterproductive in many ways. It is tackling a serious problem from a wrong angle and can be very hurtful to victims of traffic and road danger. Hiviz, ‘been seen’ and ‘looking out for each other’ have been messages we’ve heard for years, yet motor dominance has increased. If left untackled, it makes those patronising messages useless and redundant – in urgent need for reassessment of where road safety stands in the UK.

“It’s time we tackle the root causes. Head on. This is why we have adopted sustainable safety as our first campaign policy. It is a vital part of putting humanity and sense back into our cities’ streets and roads. The transport system has to be designed around people, not cars, and cities have to be designed at a human scale to encourage social interaction and an engaged civic society.

“Sustainable safety works on the principle of planning and engineering a city with a clear road system, taking into account user behaviour and making designs recognisable so that all the interactions that take place are clear and no-one is left in doubt as to what to do. It would also control speed, a real killer on our roads, by design not just signs. The Dutch, Danes and Germans have done it – so can we.

“I come from an engineering background. Engineers take health and safety very seriously. Any risk assessment starts with a simple question ‘Can we manage the danger by elimination, reduction, isolation or control?’ and in exactly that order. Yet we do not assess our roads like that at all. Real road danger management would be to build protected cycleways. Real road safety would start by asking what’s wrong with the system and how can we fix it, rather than slapping a hiviz tabard on people, only to then abandon them to dangerous roads.

“We have a long way to go in re-engineering and re-thinking our cities. But we must start the journey now without delay. We owe it to our children. Road crashes remain the most likely single cause of death for older children and young adults in the UK.”

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