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

Memorandum by the Institution of Civil Engineers (RTS 138)



  The Institution of Civil Engineers sees this inquiry in the context of the rehabilitation of the public realm from a place where vehicle use has come to dominate, to one where there is a healthy balance between vehicles and people.

  There is a concern that a significant proportion of the population are unhappy with city life, leading to the dispersal of urban populations into rural areas, and increasing car dependency, energy use, and global warming in the process.

  The challenge is to create conditions in existing development where people will choose to live.

  The Institution of Civil Engineers applauds the Committee in taking forward this inquiry.


  This submission is based on four key studies:

Vision for Road Safety beyond 2000

  This report, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers advocates:

    —  education—to achieve a change in attitude towards safety. It is noted that children are expected to behave as adults—something that they cannot do owing to skills of judging moving traffic and distance which are yet to develop;

    —  engineering—to create a road environment that encourages safe road user behaviour and that is forgiving of the mistakes people inevitably make. The road environment should be designed and managed, and vehicles designed and maintained to minimise the risk of a crash occurring; and that should a crash occur, those involved escape serious injury.

      —  Vehicles should be designed to protect all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, as well as occupants.

      —  Pedestrian safe vehicles, including compressible fronts, pedestrian air bags, and collision avoidance systems.

      —  Advanced transport telematic systems, including driver information systems, speed control and collision avoidance should be developed and introduced.

      —  Speed limits should be set to minimise the probability of a crash occurring, and should one occur, to ensure those involved escape serious injury.

    —  enforcement

      —  The penalty system should be reviewed to provide consistency with other forms of violent crime.

      —  Traffic regulations should be enforced, particularly speed limits in residential areas and controls on obstructive parking.


  The ICE convened a working party under the Urban Design Alliance to review the underlying philosophy, standards and practice employed in designing and managing the streets of Great Britain. The consultation report was published in June 2000. A final report will be published shortly.

  The report found:

    —  Vehicle-centric design—for example streets designed around the largest vehicles ever likely to be encountered.

    —  Design being conducted under narrowly focussed lines.

    —  Underlying assumptions on which practice and standards are based, are not necessarily justified.

    —  Slavish adherence to guidance and regulations, and the tendency to treat guidance as instruction.


  This report was produced by a grouping of the key professional institutions involved in Transport convened by ICE under the Engineering Council.

  The report outlines a programme for the transformation of the transport system in the UK over a 20 year period.

    —  Access for all—by age, sex, educational attainment, affluence, etc.

    —  Transport without costs—transport systems which impose minimal costs on others in terms of noise, pollution, congestion, death, damage and injury.

  The report proposes the introduction of environmental and people friendly vehicles:

    —  Low noise—low engine, exhaust and tyre noise, allied to low noise road surfaces.

    —  Low pollution.

    —  Energy efficient.

    —  Safe.

  The report demonstrates the great potential from the introduction of an intelligent transport system including:

    —  traveller information;

    —  navigation;

    —  speed control/electronic traffic calming;

    —  traffic management; and

    —  automatic driving.

  It also stresses that for a fully integrated transport system, all modes of transport need to be funded and regulated on an equivalent and fair basis, including equal safety standards and a common system for safety and environmental risk assessment.

  The report stresses that it is better to pay for solutions than to continue to pay for the problems.


  This report published by the Institution of Civil Engineers, in conjunction with the Royal Town Planning Institute proposes a revision of the road classification defined on the basis of function. Many A roads no longer serve a national or regional function, having been by-passed by a more modern motorway and trunk road system. Similarly, many B roads are access roads. The system proposed would lead to the declassification of many B roads, and the downgrading of many A roads. The signing system would draw a greater distinction between roads for vehicles and roads for people.

  Other recommendations were for the integration of the transport and land use planning systems, including a national strategy, and the introduction of clear and customer focussed performance standards.


The guidance system for the design and management of public realm, of which speed limits and actual speed is a part, should be based on evidence based design.

  The Urban Design Alliance through its report Designing Streets for People, has been developing the principle of evidence based design. The report calls for the underlying reasoning and principles behind guidance and standards to be made public, to enable informed interpretation. "Evidence Based Design" was the term coined: to challenge existing practice, ensure it is based on sound science, and make the justification easily accessible to practitioners so that they can use their professional judgement to tailor the solution to local circumstance. Attention is also drawn to the complexity of the regulatory environment in which practitioners have to operate and the desirability to simplify wherever possible.

  A system based on evidence based design would operate along these lines.

  Define what we want from the public realm:

    —  set objectives;

    —  provide evidence based design guidance on how those objectives can be met; and

    —  arrange the design and management of the space and the vehicles that use the space around those objectives.

Fitness for purpose tests

  The underlying assumptions of the design and management of streets should be tested against contemporary need.

Holistic objectives

  In terms of objectives, there will be a range from quick journey times, through to providing a liveable street environment. Not all roads are the same. The objectives for a street should be set to reflect the wide range of interests and needs to be met, from needs of statutory undertakers, of through traffic and of pedestrians, cyclists and frontagers.

  In the context of road danger, an approach might be to define acceptable risk levels for different types of road, then to arrange the management of individual roads in reflecting the relative hazard posed by different forms of vehicle technology.

Evidence based design guidance

  Underlying principles and guidance as to how the objectives may be reached should be based on sound science, and statistics. There is a wide range of knowledge to draw upon, from basic physics, through to probability and statistics and behavioural science, as well as practical experience.

  The guidance should be holistic and treat the public realm as a single entity, rather than attempt to address it as a series of disconnected single issues.

  Similarly it is important to apply the same holistic approach to the design of vehicles, and the design and management of the roads which they use, rather than them independent entities. There is scope to adapt human behaviour, but no scope to change the human body and its ability to withstand injury. The accommodation must be on the side of the design of vehicles, the design of the road environment, and in the way the space is managed.


  It is noted that the then Department of Transport in its strategy on Child Pedestrian Safety published in 1996 identified the cost of introducing 20 mph zones on 80 per cent of suitable urban roads:

    —  Cost of measures: £2.3 billion;

    —  Cost of casualties: £2.432 billion;

    —  Casualties saved: £1.362 billion;

    —  Total savings including non-injury accidents saved: £2.118 billion.

  These Government statistics give an indication of both the benefits (a rate of return of over 90 per cent per annum) of appropriate areas of reduced speed, and also the costs of introducing such measures. It remains the case that the resources being devoted to safety are substantially adrift of this figure. The current £30 million sum announced for Home Zones, may represent less than 1 per cent of the amount that would be required nationwide.


  The General public should be made aware of the underlying causes of crashes, what happens during the crash, and in particular, what the main injury mechanisms are, in the expectation that a better understanding of the actual risks, will encourage people to adjust their behaviour. Diagrams from the Vision for Road Safety Beyond 2000 report are enclosed as Annex 1.


Corporate Manslaughter

  We invite the Select Committee to explore the extent to which highway authorities, vehicle manufacturers and other relevant bodies, may be liable.

Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights

  We invite the select committee to explore the relevance of Article 8 to the question of speed.

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Prepared 5 July 2002