Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300-319)



  300. That is not the point of the question, the question is whether energy ought to be put into addressing the behaviour of pedestrians not because it is wrong because they are putting themselves in danger and education in that respect?
  (Dr Davis) There are education programmes designed to get pedestrians to adhere to road traffic regulations, perhaps there could be more done in that way, but it does not detract from the point I was trying to make that really we have to control the speed of vehicles because pedestrians should not have to bear the brunt even if they do make relatively minor misjudgments in their own calculations which could ultimately result in the loss of life because vehicle speeds are too high. I am not undervaluing the role of education but I do think it is the balance we have at the moment that is incorrect.

  301. Do you think concentration on pedestrian education could also produce a significant fall in casualties?
  (Dr Davis) Some more. Historically we have continued to have education programmes which aim at pedestrians as well as other road users but what we have not really had is very strong focus on tackling speed and driving speed down, bringing lower speeds down so that really the chance of the pedestrian being so severely injured is reduced.

Mr Stevenson

  302. On this pedestrian issue, you may have heard earlier witnesses respond to questions about no accepted measures to identify risks associated with pedestrians, this is not a widely acceptable measure, what is your reaction to that in the context of the questions and answers that you have just been talking about?
  (Ms Mitchell) I would like to respond to that. First of all it would useful to refer back to Don's starting point, we have to look at a wide spectrum of policies, what we want to do with the transport system, what we want to do with the health of people moving about as well as the casualty reduction issue. I am all in favour of abandoning predict and provide when it comes to road traffic but definitely applying it when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists, so I think we can say by how much do we want to increase pedestrian traffic along any given area, what kind of expected increase there might be after introducing schemes to attract pedestrians and what are the levels of flow of traffic and what is the speed of traffic and then we have some measure of the danger to which pedestrians might be exposed. The Dutch already use this with reference to cycling in terms of the width of the road, flow of traffic and the speed of traffic, so they can use that kind of combination to decide about intervention levels and types of intervention.

Mr O'Brien

  303. The philosophy of your organisation is to have danger reduction in the current situation. We have a situation in York where this has been applied, what lessons have we learned from the introduction of this scheme in York?
  (Mr Mathew) We have learned that it is successful. First of all I must commend this Committee on the acceptance of the road danger reduction approach and the report on walking in towns and cities, this Committee and it members were persuaded then. In York, as I understand, they have hit their government targets for slight casualty reduction and for KSIs well ahead of schedule.


  304. KSIs?
  (Mr Mathew) Killed and seriously injured. They have a safe city and a vibrant and economically attractive one.

Mr O'Brien

  305. Is that based on cost-effectiveness or quality of life?
  (Mr Mathew) The economic vitality. I would have to refer you to the general feel and ambience of the City, I am sure there are some statistics. I was about to say that York is one of those also who pioneered safe routes to school and there we have started to see a distinct change in shift, we have started to see casualties go down and I invite Paige Mitchell to make some comparisons with Hull, because with the same mixture of safe routes to school, lower speeds, cycle pedestrian priority is starting to bring about enormous community gains.
  (Ms Mitchell) The average rate of return is about 500 per cent, if you scan through the local transport plans on the internet you will see that the lowest is about 200 per cent. Hull has had returns of up to 1,000 per cent and that does work by involving other money, so the return is on the investment made by the local authority. Schemes are incredibly popular and that is why Hull has introduced them for longer than anyone else, and they are 20 per cent traffic calmed. Going back to the point about pedestrians and casualty reduction, on those schemes of high returns they are getting something like 95 per cent reduction in pedestrian casualties. The rates of return on this type of investment are incredibly high and it is accepted widely that they are too high, why should we ask safety schemes to have such huge rates of return when other areas of investment by Government are looking at three per cent to nine per cent.

  306. Are you aware of the schemes in Sweden and the Netherlands where they have a total reduction of speed, if we had to apply that in the United Kingdom what would the cost be?
  (Mr Mathew) While Paige thinks about the details of that I will simply answer on the principles, it is a question of the revision of the Ten Year Plan, what your principles are and what your priorities are? What the major thrusts are? Can you afford not to do this kind of progressive and enlightened measure? The cost, as Paige just said, is incredibly cost-effective. Speaking from memory, the cost to British society of road crashes in all their forms is equal to the proposed spending every year of the Ten Year Plan, the costs are enormous and as you see at a local level the benefits are enormous. I am not certain if anyone has worked out the national cost.

  Chairman: I think the best thing would be to give us a note on the cost, that would be quite helpful.

Dr Pugh

  307. You are in favour of 20 mph limit on most urban roads, which sort of urban roads would you not have a 20 mph limit on?
  (Mr Mathew) We think extensive trials are needed. Secondly, the Committee are aware that the Department has recently let a contract for four or six major urban roads with a mixture of traffic flow. There are certainly trunk roads, I think, again in York, where they are thinking of 20 mph.

  308. Which urban roads do you think there should not be a 20 mph limit on?
  (Mr Mathew) Ones on the edge of town probably serving industry without a great amount of residential housing or schools and contain a large amount of commercial traffic.

  309. You do not appreciate enforcement difficulties as motorists move from one zone to an urban area?
  (Mr Mathew) It is all to do with what has been discussed this morning, the message that the road has given, if the message for the other roads is much more that this is a road for people, if it is a road slightly more on the edge of town and for industry, less people on the road, also carrying heavy flows and occasionally long distance strategic flows we support that.

  310. Presumably most traffic within a city is only at 20 mph, do you anticipate more congestion and slower moving traffic?
  (Mr Mathew) It is partly to do with the re-allocation of road space in the Transport White Paper and slower moving traffic can actually also move slightly more reliably than totally congested traffic.

  311. Would you get more congestion at 20 mph.
  (Mr Mathew) Not necessarily

  312. Why not?
  (Mr Mathew) For the same reason that you do not get more congestion with the 50 mph limit on the M25, because it is the reliability, it is also the urban traffic control system, it is the whole question of what the road is used for.

  313. You would accept in an area like London where traffic barely moves at 15 mph you can feel in danger because frustrated motorists when they get a chance to move any faster do so very quickly.
  (Mr Mathew) It depends entirely on what the traffic is.

  314. Okay. Can I press you on the performance of the Ten Year Plan, you think the Ten Year Plan should fund the backlog of traffic calming measures, how much do you think that is going to cost?
  (Ms Mitchell) An estimate was made for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions by the TRL in 1997 in Road Safety Strategy: Current Problems and Solutions[1] which estimated that to reduce casualties by 50,000 and introduce traffic calming to its maximum potential area-wide safety management schemes would cost £3 billion. At the current level of expenditure that would take 40 years to implement, so it is not a big bill.

  315. Do you consider there will ever be a scenario where you will recommend, simply because it is rational and simply because it is defensible on safety grounds, raising speed limits?
  (Dr Davis) There is no evidence to suggest in general a policy to raise speed limits. All of the evidence from across the world and all of the reviews suggest speed limits should go no higher. There is strong evidence, in certain cases, speed limits should be reduced.

  316. Even if there was an area where there was no safety problem, it was a clear road, there was no indication that accidents would occur in that area and motorists were prohibited to 40 mph you could not see a reason why it could not be 50 mph, could you not say a recommendation to raise the speed limit would not be appropriate?
  (Dr Davis) There may be individual cases but I am referring to the general policy. If we are looking to raise speed limits it does not help us in terms of reducing casualties. We should be looking to try and lower speed limits in many cases rather than raise them.

  Dr Pugh: But there are exceptions?


  317. Would it not be a pretty good idea to say to the motorist you can do 80 mph legally on the motorways and 20 mph in urban areas?
  (Mr Mathew) It would not. First of all, we are forgetting about the emissions of CO2 at a higher speed. If you travel at speed and you come down to 30 mph you still feel you feel like it is 50 mph and you should be doing 30. The raising of the speed boundaries, I, think would be disastrous.
  (Ms Mitchell) This is why we advocate the early introduction for local authorities to trial the speed assessment framework. This was applied by Plowden & Hillman in this country and we take a strong lead from the work they did, and in every single case I know where they have attempted to apply an assessment framework which factors-in all of the impacts you want to use, including the time penalties that might be entailed by lower speeds, a vehicle's operating costs, casualty reductions, emissions of CO2, noise, everything you need to consider for lower speeds, it comes out by being cost-effective. We are not only talking about casualties, we are talking about the fuel costs to companies, the cost to the environment and the cost to the wider community. Lower speeds always justify themselves. The only possible penalty is the time penalty, and that is more than paid for. I just heard an interesting case about a delivery company which found they were making savings in insurance costs, crash costs and fuel, which made up for any time penalty they suffered by imposing a strict observance of speed limits on their drivers.

Chris Grayling

  318. What lessons can we use from the 20 mph limits in Holland and what have we learned so far in this country?
  (Ms Mitchell) I have just been to the Netherlands to look at their speed management, It is a very mixed experience, actually, because I think they would not function if they did not have such widespread speed management, because it allows an enormous amount of cycling and walking. I just think the country would grind to a halt without all those people on bicycles, because there simply would not be room for cars. I think that the information now from the Atkins Study of Best Practice in Europe for CfIT is just completely incontrovertible, we need to allow people to mix equitably on our roads. If we want an equitable mix of road users we have to make it safe for everyone to have access to road space, that is what the Dutch have done. Admittedly, they have a very comprehensive cycle network which allows you to undertake cycling as a serious mode of transport with no problem. Everywhere you go there are humps at accesses to residential areas, there are humps through residential areas and these have been there for 30 years. They have accepted the idea that speeds must be reduced.

  319. Are Dutch roads safer than ours?
  (Ms Mitchell) They are much safer than ours for pedestrians and cyclists, they have the lowest pedestrian and cycle casualty rates in Europe.

1   DETR, October 1997. Back

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