Memorandum by the Road Danger Reduction
Forum (IT 62)
The RDRF is a network of road safety professionals
(road safety officers, traffic engineers, transport planners,
public health doctors and others) who wish to develop a new approach
to road safety, based on danger reduction at source. Since its
inception in November 1993 some 40 local authorities have signed
or supported the RDRF's Road Danger Reduction Charter. In 1996
the House of Commons Transport Committee published a report on
"Risk Reduction for Vulnerable Road Users" where
the organisation whose submission obtained the largest number
of favourable comments was the RDRF.
The approach of the RDRF, often referred to
as the "New Agenda", the "road danger reduction
approach", or the "movement for real road safety",
are now expressed by other organisations such as Transport 2000,
RoadPeace, the Environmental Transport Association, and those
bodies concerned with the rights and well being of people travelling
outside cars, particularly cyclists and pedestrians. In October
1996 the Chairman of Edinburgh City Council's Transport Committee
stated that the RDRF's "Is It Safe: A guide to road danger
reduction" "should be compulsory reading for everybody
concerned with road transport".
The Vision of the RDRF
1. All road users being able to travel where
they choose with a minimum of threat from other road users.
2. All road users taking full responsibility
for the effects their transport choices have on others.
3. An environmentally sustainable transport
system which provides equity and accessibility for all road users,
permitting no disadvantage for those who choose not to own a car.
THE RDRF RESPONSE
The RDRF has already made its views on sustainable
transport and transport safety known to the Government in the
consultation process preceding the publication of the White Paper.
Below we confine ourselves to commenting on the principal elements
of the White Paper, and in particular on road safety.
The White Paper marks a welcome and necessary
change away from previous transport strategies in that it recognises
the impossibility of supporting unlimited car use. It commends
many of the necessary elements of a sustainable integrated transport
strategy. Insofar as the detailed items of transport policy are
not immediately apparent, it must be remembered that further elaboration
is pending, for example through the road safety strategy due to
be published this autumn.
Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned that the
necessary mechanisms to achieve a sustainable integrated transport
system are not present in the White Paper. In order to realise
the vision of a civilised transport system it will be necessary
to have far more robust elements available. It will also be necessary
for all concerned to take full advantage of advocating progressive
change in those items, such as the Traffic Reduction Act, which
are not yet complete.
1. Decision making at local and regional
levels: We welcome the moves to have decisions on transport
made at local and regional levels. This is a vital component of
any sustainable transport policy. However, we are concerned that
inadequate resources and expertise will be made to the local authorities
charged with making these decisions. At present it appears that
inadequate finance will be available, and that the tools for restraint
will primarily be available to congested urban areas, and not
the rural ones. It will furthermore be necessary for initiatives
from central government, such as on fuel prices, to support these
local initiatives. It is vital that the devolution of decision
making is seen as empowering and enabling, rather than an avoidance
of central government responsibility.
2. Land use planning: We welcome the
understanding shown by government that land use planning is a
central element of transport strategy. We are, however, concerned
by the prospects of forms of development, such as greenfield housing,
which could generate traffic and militate against the good moves
stemming from other areas of the White Paper. We are concerned
about other problems which may arise from the loss of local amenities
such as hospitals and the excessive dependence on car based retail
3. Integration between modes: We welcome
the attempts to integrate different modes.
4. Fiscal proposals: It is a major step
forward in government thinking to allow local authorities to spend
income derived from the new transport charges on local transport.
It is vital that legislation to implement this process has priority
in order to deal with the transport crisis and not lose the momentum
set up to do so. We believe that there is great benefit to be
had from informing the motoring public that they have not paid
for the disbenefits of motoring by the amounts of taxation they
currently pay. It is of great importance to the road safety effort
that the notion of motorists having "paid for the road"
is dealt with, as it exacerbates the potential danger posed by
motorists to other road users. This would involve making it clear
that hypothecationwhile a useful way of raising revenueis
flawed insofar as it backs up the idea that motorists are "paying
5. Retail outlets: The Government should
extend the potential for private non-residential (PNR) parking
chargesa very useful and necessary form of revenue gathering
and restriction on car useto superstores and large car
dependent retail outlets. Revenue gained can be directed into
supporting home delivery schemes and local shopping projects.
6. Freight: The Sustainable Freight strategy
awaits publication. We hope that there will be efforts to support
appropriate restrictions on driver hours and other safety measures,
as well as the creation of a lorry route network and restriction
on access to non-trunk roads.
7. Car Ownership: We feel that the aim
of supporting the extension of car ownership is misconceived.
We believe that this will inevitably conflict with the aim of
slowing traffic growth, let alone of traffic reduction, unless
far stronger restrictive measures are taken. We would like to
see support for car-free housing and other developments, promotion
of car clubs/streets fleets as a practical alternative to private
8. Traffic reduction: There is a vital
need to reduce private motor vehicle traffic. This would have
major benefits in terms of reducing danger on the road, noxious
emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, noise and other forms of
environmental destruction. It would make the alternative forms
of travel and land-use more viable, and is indeed necessary for
this to occur. The White Paper can be read to simply aim at making
traffic growth occur less rapidly than it would do otherwise.
We believe that this can be changed by Government making a commitment
through the Traffic Reduction Act to a national traffic reduction
target and a target for reduction in CO2 emissions from the transport
9. Rural areas: The principal thrust
on restricting car use is in congested urban areas where traffic
growth is unlikely to increase much further simply because of
the pressure of traffic. The principal problems as far as creating
a society less dependent on cars, and in terms of reducing greenhouse
gas emissions, are likely to occur in suburban and rural areas.
Problems of safety in rural areas, and the difficulty of creating
an inclusivist society for those who are unable or unwilling to
own and use cars in rural areas have not been fully addressed
in the White Paper.
Our view can be illustrated through just one
example of policy in the White Paper: the case of the National
Cycling Strategy (NCS). The White Paper clearly endorses the targets
for modal share by cycling in the NCS. The RDRF warmly welcomes
this endorsement as a vital component of an integrated sustainable
transport policy. However, we must point out that unless there
are significant additions and/or amendments to the White Paper,
these targets are highly unlikely to be achieved.
In order to achieve the NCS targets of modal
share, which are quite modest compared to the existing levels
of cycle use in a number of European countries, it will be necessary
to give far more support to cycling, and less support for private
This can include:
Allocating specific ringfenced funding
of approximately £500 million over a five year period to
cycle schemes throughout Britain. Also, clear incentives to pursue
good practice can be made by ensuring that failure to progress
towards implementing the necessary facilities will be considered
in settlements awarded to Local Transport Plans.
Increasing levels of law enforcement
with deterrent sentencing for motorists endangering cyclists through
careless or dangerous driving.
Commitment to reduction in levels
of private motor vehicle use through setting of traffic reduction
targets with support for the appropriate fiscal and legal measures
to make them realisable.
Traffic reduction is a necessary commitment
as levels of motor traffic are a deterrence to cycling, and because
support for cycling is not in itself likely to create sufficient
new cyclists to achieve the targets.
The RDRF plays a role in the National Cycling
Strategy's Cyclists and HGVs Working Party. This addresses the
serious problems involved with collisions between cyclists and
lorries, particularly in urban areas. These problems will be significantly
affected by policies in the forthcoming Sustainable Freight Strategy
if these are able to reduce the types of danger which HGVs can
pose to cyclists, as well as the perceived intimidation form their
presence which can act as a deterrent to cycling.
A number of positive features of the White Paper
point in the right direction. The proposed review of speed limits
could, if linked to reduced speeds, significantly reduce danger
to cyclists as well as all road users, and create a less threatening
environment for cyclists. A commitment to provide integration
between different modes of transport could assist low cost but
necessary measures required to, for example, assist cycling provision
at rail stations and on trains. Such measures are typically low
cost but useful.
In addition, the Government's decision to allow
local authorities to spend income derived from new transport charges
on local transport allows for the expenditure on much needed cycle
schemes according to local needs. The emphasis on looking at transport
strategy on a local and regional basis is a necessary element
of any sustainable transport policy.
However, the useful pointers will ultimately
fail to assist the realisation of the necessary changes because
there is insufficient support for a shift to cycling, and above
all, inadequate restriction and restraint on the way the lorry
and the private car are used. We regret that there are inadequate
mechanisms to assist and support those local authorities willing
to provide the requirement infrastructure and associated measures,
or to require a commitment from those reluctant to pursue a sustainable
"We do not want to make roads safer (sic)
by simply discouraging vulnerable groups from venturing on to
roads" Paragraph 3.220
The numbers issue
Where falling casualty figures have been achieved
by migration of vulnerable road users, often precisely because
of increased danger, it is quite wrong to suggest that the road
environment has become safer. The Road Danger Reduction Forum
has been the foremost body in Britain arguing this point, and
we are glad to see that the White Paper accepts this argument.
Nevertheless, it appears from Paragraph 3.220 that this point
is still not fully understood, and results in a self-contradictory
and meaningless statement.
The RDRF has consistently argued that aggregating
reported personal injury statistics of various kinds is not a
true measure of the level of danger on the roads, partly for the
reason stated above. Throughout Britain local residents restrict
their children or themselves from using the more benign forms
of transport because of danger from motorised traffic, while reported
casualty figures create a picture of a "good road safety
record". The civilised response to this state of affairs
is to seek and then use alternative measures of danger on the
road, such as casualty rates for different types of road user
per distance or journey travelled. Other measures are indicated
in the enclosed Appendix A.
Yet the persistence of the DETR in assessing
safety in terms of aggregated reported casualties means that lower
totals are still seen as being equivalent with safety, as expressed
in Paragraph 3.220. The implication is still that modes of transport
which are less dangerous to others than car use such as cycling
and walking tend to make roads less "safe". Those outside
cars are seen as a problem group because of their vulnerability,
despite their relative lack of threat to others, quite apart from
their health and environmental benefits.
The numbers issue is of particular relevance
as the new Road Safety Strategy is about to be published, and
targets and numerical issues of safety are central to the discussion.
Below we present a discussion of the issues in Appendix A.
The morality issue
The RDRF is insistent on pointing out the difference
between endangering or hurting others on the one hand, and being
endangered or hurt on the other. This issuethe who kills
whom issueis central to a correct understanding of road
safety. It needs to be pursued in all sections of the road safety
effort, whether education, road and vehicle engineering or law
enforcement and sentencing.
Roads for all
The White Paper shows a welcome interest in
supporting the right children to walk or cycle to school. However,
it must be understood that mobility for children can not be achieved
solely by the provision of segregated routes: people of all ages
will need to use the existing road network to walk and cycle.
Concentrating on segregated routes can lead to marginalisation
of important forms of transport, and is technically unfeasible
in many cases.
"Previous governments have, we believe,
done little to combat the idea that many road traffic offencesspeeding
in particulardo not really matter . . . we need to take
a radical look at enforcement." Paragraph 4.178
We warmly welcome the above paragraph. Whatever
the gains to be made through various types of road and vehicle
engineering, it remains the case that while there is the ability
to endanger others through rule and law breaking, law enforcement
and deterrent sentencing will be vital for the road safety effort.
We are a little concerned at the emphasis that
"Better enforcement does not necessarily require more
resources" in Paragraph 4.179.While it is undoubtedly
true that advances in technology are creating new scope in levels
of law enforcement, it should not be overlooked that technology
always needs a human resource back up. Law enforcement should
always be properly resourced.
There is a great deal of public concern at lenient
sentencing for criminally negligent motorists who kill or injure
others on the roads. We believe that it is now time to hold a
full scale re-assessment of road traffic law and its enforcement
in conjunction with the Home Office. Serious offences should be
highlighted, as well as matters such as bus lane infringement
"Safety should be an additional incentive
for action, not a reason for delaying priority measures for cyclists".
We strongly welcome this comment. We are, however,
concerned that this sentiment may be difficult to realise while
the problems outlined with regard to successful implementation
of the National Cycling Strategy above remain. We believe that
it should be possible to support the all too few schemes to educate
and train cyclists, such as those carried out by our member City
of York Council with additional central government funds.
General transport and safety education
The White Paper heralds a reversal of traditional
transport thinking based around the idea of the desirability of
continuing motor traffic growth. This new climate of thinking,
supporting an increase in the amount of cycling and walking, will
require a new consciousness on the part of Britain's travellers,
both present and future, if the transport system is to function
safely and effectively.
The private car has always been associated with
ideas of personal freedom. Despite the fact that there have always
been laws and rules against careless or dangerous driving, the
breaking of these laws and regulations has been widespread, with
culpable motorists believing that they have the right to decide
the manner of their driving, whether or not it is illegal. Similarly,
the decision to drive on roads where such a choice can never belong
to more than a minority (for example, on congested urban roads
at peak hours) is frequently seen as "right".
We believe it is absolutely paramount for such
ideas to be successfully challenged if the long term aims of the
White Paper are to be achieved. It will otherwise be too difficult
to get public consensus on necessary measures, whether they be
congestion charging, road space re-allocation, or law enforcement.
In particular, we believe that the idea that motorists have "paid
a tax for the road" is deeply harmful. It can, amongst other
things, lead to discriminatory and dangerous attitudes to cyclists
and pedestrians, as can the idea that motorists have earned a
special right to be on the road by passing a driving test or paying
third party insurance.
It is vital that central government supports
a widespread educational programme in order to raise awareness
about transport issues. The magnitude of this "hearts and
minds" task needs serious attention and investment. This
will ensure that planned physical changes to the road environment
and transport services meet with changes in travel behaviour rather
"We will therefore set up a review to
develop a speed policy that takes account of the contribution
of reduced speeds to environmental and social objectives as well
as to road safety". Paragraph 3.228
There is already substantial evidence about
the great safety and environmental advantages of reducing speeds.
We welcome any change in speed policy that leads to reduction
in speed of motor vehicles. To succeed, any such policy will require
the use of appropriate technologies, which themselves should be
developed in order to control other kinds of motorist behaviour
with the potential to endanger others. Telematics and "smart"
technologies should be investigated and promoted as means of controlling
danger at source.