Examination of Witnesses (Questions 320-338)|
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
320. I thought British roads were the safest
(Mr Mathew) Not for pedestrians and cyclists. David
Begg will be very good on this when he comes to see you, he makes
that point specifically in his written report.
(Ms Mitchell) Our safety statistics are based on vulnerable
road users excluding themselves from our roads.
321. You have made the point that you do not
think it will be possible to deliver the growth in cycle traffic
unless you reduce speeds, however at the same time you just said
it will not be possible to reduce motoring unless you generated
the growth in cycle traffic, is there not a circle here that never
(Mr Mathew) I do not think so. We did speak very briefly
about the new National Cycle Strategy, its new Board and chair
and its reaffirmation, which is in the Ten Year Plan, of trying
to treble cycle traffic by 2010. I would refer the Committee to
work by the AA in particular that shows that a lot of cycling
is a life-style choice, a life-style and a health choice. There
is an enormous possibility of substitution of short car journeys
if we make the conditions safe and if we make the conditions safe
in the way that Paige has outlined.
322. You are very critical about the media in
projecting speeds as something glamorous, how is that going to
(Mr Mathew) With the assistance of this Committee
and of a continued public discussion of the role of the media
and road safety. People have already commented on what the general
public already thinks and the term "silent majority"
has already been used. Just for the record I would like to read
in one more, this comes from the Office of National Statistic,
Focus on Personal Traffic published in December last year. Firstly,
"Speed limits of 20 mph were favoured by nearly 80 per cent
of people with only nine per cent against". Secondly, "Two-thirds
of people said that pedestrians and cyclists should be given priority
in towns and cities, even if this makes thing difficult for other
road users, only one in seven disagree". It is quite clear
that there is this disparity at local level between, presumably,
your constituents and a small London-based, usually male, vociferous
number of motoring correspondents of whom, we have to say, some
government ministers and their advisers appear, quite wrongly,
terrified and think they actually represent the public, they do
not, and they do the public a great disservice.
323. How can this be changed?
(Mr Mathew) We will continue to make these points
with double vigour to ministers, particularly to those in the
Home Office and Home Office advisers and we would like this Committee
to be able to also look at TV adverts and the general role of
the media. On the question of adverts, the whole question of culture
and attitudes is a complex one. I am sorry, Chairman, that Mrs
Dunwoody is not here today because I was going to ask her about
how she felt about an advert for a car which was described as
"testosterone-fuelled". I think I can probably find
it in last week's Autocar for 30th January, "It is
the genetically modified testosterone-fuelled MGZs". If you
go into any book shop you will see a large number of these magazines
and it goes into the wider elements of successful messages within
society about appropriate behaviour which, of course, is part
324. What experience have you had with the Advertising
Standards Authority or the Press Complaints Commission on issues
of this sort?
(Mr Mathew) Individual members of the Initiative have
in the past made complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority
and we do say in our evidence that the ASA changed its guidelines,
it had a specific section on motoring four or five years ago.
My subjective impression, certainly in the main press, is that
ads are not as bad as they used to be. However, I did notice this
other one, and I would like to quote from the Daily Telegraph
of 8 February, this is the MG, this is the ZR, which talks about,
"the chilli-chewing, pumped up, spine-tingling MG ZR".
I feel it is this constant drip, drip, drip of the wrong messages
in the media that we need to address.
325. Do you not think the TV adverts subsidise
the fact that we can get cheap television programmes?
(Mr Mathew) As are you aware, Chairman, there is a
lot of discussion about subsidy in all areas of life, an extent
to which it is welcome or not, and this is one subsidy I could
326. Do you think if we took all of the car
advertising away from television it would still be viable?
(Mr Mathew) This is a very subjective one, I was about
to say even if they had more football I would not really mind.
We have no problem with information, price, performance, the environmental
benefit. It is when it gets on to the slightly macho, thrill-seeking
and careless element we start to get worried.
327. How significant do you think the fact is
that most of the advertising in motoring magazines comes from
car manufacturers? Do you think that is as big or a bigger factor
than the London domination of this group of males you were talking
(Mr Mathew) Speaking from memory I think there is
£460 of advertising behind each car in the United Kingdom,
but it is a significant element. Again, I draw attention to the
fact that there is a responsible and an irresponsible approach.
I note that you also cite motorcyclists behaviour. I was very
dismayed to see that BBC's Top Gear magazine shows a high
powered motorcyclist doing a wheelie, which is the not responsible
approach to motorised travel that any of us would welcome.
328. The Slower Speeds Initiative does not appear
to be supporting the targeting of accident black spots. In view
of the fact that local authorities have limited resources do you
not consider that to target the areas of black spots, reduce fatal
accidents and serious injuries is the best way of going about
(Ms Mitchell) We are not against targeting black spots
but we are against restricting safety treatments and speed reductions
to areas where there has been a casualty. I have to say the communities
that we have contacting us are looking at what they call "human
sacrifice" because they are told that somebody has to die
before their authority will intervene to reduce speed limits and
control them or before the local police force will. We have said
that traffic calming and speed reducing measures have extremely
high rates of return, we have seen this with camera enforcement
and we have seen it with standard traffic calming, it is a matter
of priorities in the transport system. What we think is needed
is a much better understanding of the extent to which road safety
has to be a priority for an integrated transport systemit
should be top of the list of expenditure for transport. We are
talking about improving the way the network works now for all
road users, including those who are more sustainable and managing
it the best we can before we start spending money else where.
I think that in the transport budget itself if there was much
stronger guidance from government to get the safety element right
we would have a lot more spent on road safety and we would not
need to be restricted to areas where we have already sacrificed
members of our community.
329. You say you are not opposed to this but
you do not support it?
(Ms Mitchell) We think it is wrong to restrict safety
expenditure to areas where people have lost their lives or been
(Mr Mathew) Prevention is better than cure.
(Ms Mitchell) Exactly.
330. Where there are limited resources, which
they are, and therefore the issue that is, perhaps, facing the
local authorities is the best way forward? Your philosophy of
enforcement, where the people who are involved in local authorities
are trying to target the speeders to reduce their speed to make
sure they are aware of the problems, do you not think that is
a better approach to enforcing road safety where there are limited
(Mr Mathew) First of all I am not certain that resources
are limited, we have been talking about the Ten Year Plan and
the £180 billion of expenditure. This government, to its
credit, has made more resources available for transport and for
local transport and we would argue that areas, particularly of
major highway widening, could be moved into local transport and
increase those resources. Secondly, it does get back to the whole
question of the framework. I was struck by the Chief Constable
of North Wales saying speed is not just a casualty issue, it is
a quality of life issue, it is social issue, it is a children's
issue, it is a neighbourhood issue and it gets back to that sort
of assessment framework, almost a health and safety approach,
designed to identify problems and iron out problems before they
occur, before someone is killed or disabled for a lifetime.
331. Can I just draw attention to your briefing
note, briefing number two, when you comment that resources are
available. It states here that speed cameras are not being used
to their full potential because of the cost of operating them.
If the funding programme can be overcome more cameras should be
used to cut collisions. If there is no problem with funding why
do you put it in your briefing?
(Ms Mitchell) That is a briefing that came out in
response to the Speed Policy Review and in advance of the hypothecation
332. There is still a restriction in funding?
(Ms Mitchell) No, the briefing has been rendered out-of-date
in that respect, the hypothecation pilot, the netting-off pilot
has actually solved the problem of under funding of speed cameras,
within very strict parameters I have to say. We do not think there
is a serious funding problem, we think the problem is integrating
policies and prioritising expenditure.
(Mr Mathew) There was a problem with funding cameras
at the time that was written.
333. If I can just remind the Committee of my
interest in the RAC, which I declared previously. We have taken
evidence on the difference between excessive speeds and inappropriate
speeds. Just in regard to what you have shared with the Committee
this morning do you think it is appropriate to almost focus entirely
on the reduction of speeds to 20 mph in residential areas, which
I appreciate can bring benefits, and we have seen that in the
Vale of York. There are other roads, and perhaps the experiment
you have conducted might help with this, that show, for example,
where you have what appears to be a deeply rural road between
two villages, where there is excessive or inappropriate speeds
because of the nature of the road and severe bends on that road
and also the fact that you have shared use between agricultural
vehicles, children walking, old people walking and cyclists as
well, is it not better to look at reducing speeds on all roads?
(Dr Davis) I think the issue of reducing speeds on
all roads is a valid one, certainly as mentioned by a previous
submission of evidence this morning, the example of Suffolk, where
Suffolk County Council after pressure over a number of years decided
to allow villages to have 30 mph speed limits. That did show effects
in terms of the reduction in casualties and speed coming into
the villages, especially reducing substantially the level of high
speeds entering the villages. It is not absolutely a blanket everywhere
but 20 mph in urban areas we see as very important. On that point
I would like to highlight that back in 1992 a former transport
minister, Christopher Chope did say that, "I estimate that
eight out of every ten urban roads would potentially be eligible
to be part of a 20 mph zone". That was made by a government
minister, so we already have that on the record. I do take your
point that in other areas we may be looking to lower speeds from
40 mph or 50 mph, as in the case of Suffolk, to give people 30
mph speed limits where they want them.
334. Do you not receive representations from
people also saying that speed humps are a blessed nuisance, they
create a lot of noise, you have the sound of engines running up
and then immediately braking? Do you not think that speed limits
would be best left to the local authorities rather than to national
(Ms Mitchell) I would like to supplement what Adrian
was saying, we do have a policy that speed limits on every class
of road should be lower and better enforced. This is why we are
advocating the use of the Speed Assessment Framework, what we
want is to have the tools to explain the nature of speed, the
impacts of speed and why lower speeds are better. We do think
speed should come down on country roads and we think they should
be as low as 20
335. We have heard that, could you comment on
(Ms Mitchell) We do not get complaints about humps,
all we get is people who want more humps. The discomfort that
some cause is largely due to the way that the driver negotiated
336. It is very difficult for somebody driving
an ambulance without giving some impact to the people in the back
of the ambulance?
(Ms Mitchell) Authorities like Hull and others who
have had a lot of experience of humps know about negotiating with
the ambulance services and with the emergency services in order
to install humps that can accommodate their vehicles. They have
done the same with public transport and they have had a trade-off
where they have put humps in some areas and bus priorities else
where to allow the buses to make up for time loss, so it can be
done. We need drivers to understand how to negotiate humps.
337. Would you agree that local authorities
should set the limit?
(Mr Mathew) Local authorities in consultation with
other key players and the community.
Miss McIntosh: If there were three things you
would wish the government to do to improve speed what would they
338. Fairly briefly, please?
(Mr Mathew) One, press the Home Office to revise the
whole question of traffic law and penalties, which has been delayed.
Secondly, to have this programme of major trials that we have
called for. Thirdly, to have a much more rigorous annual announcement
of speed management policy through the LTP process, the pluses
and minuses and best practice gained.
Chairman: On that note can I thank you very
much indeed for your evidence.