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Mr. Redwood: That is a perfectly good point, although it is different from the one that I was making. I am all in favour of better bus services. I am also well aware, as is the hon. Lady, as a constituency Member,
My point is that when introducing new bus stops, local authorities should at the very least have a duty to use their best endeavours to find places on the highway where it is possible to pass a bus that is stationary or collecting passengers and, ideally, that would be an absolute requirement. Indeed, in the case of new estates, commercial developments and retail areas, it should be possible to incorporate lay-bys and pull-ins in the road structure so that buses can pull off the highway safely without impeding traffic flow, and people can get on and off the buses free of the pressures of traffic whistling close to them as it does when buses are allowed to stop in the middle of the carriageway in narrow streets, as they often are now.
Of course it will not be possible to move all the existing bus stops. That would be too disruptive. Nevertheless, local authorities should be required to apply those measures to the siting of new stops, and also to the design and development of retail and industrial facilities. All those, surely, should be required to provide proper back access, proper parking and proper entry and exit points for heavy commercial vehicles. That would end many of the problems in busy town centres where vans and lorries must stop outside the front doors of shops, disrupting the traffic pattern. I am glad that the Bill contains provisions relating to double parking, but it could go further by proposing at least a duty for future developments to provide proper access for deliveries and the collection of goods in the case of retail outlets.
My sixth point concerns junction design. Here the road safety problems that worry us all meet the problem of congestion. I do not think that enforcing better road safety need conflict with the solving of congestion problems, although many Members seemed to take that for granted today. A great many accidents occur at junctions, because it is at junctions that a damaging conflict between pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles all travelling in different directions, and all taking up less usual positions on the highway as they jostle to turn right or left, intersect or move from lane to lane, is most likely. There is a lot of fairly unpredictable movement, and too much movement causing conflict between the vulnerablethe pedestrian and the cyclistthe less vulnerablethe carand the largely invulnerable heavy lorry and bus.
I want the Government to encourage better design at junctions. That is not possible in every case, as some of our beautiful towns and cities contain narrow mediaeval street patterns; but in many instances, even given the existing width of the highway, it would be possible to segregate right-turning traffic from traffic going straight ahead. That would lessen congestion and introduce more discipline and order at junctions, reducing the potential for dangerous conflict. It would be a good idea to design a decent long right-turning lane in every new highway and road that will be heavily usednot just in trunk roads, but in busy interconnecting roads between towns and villages and different parts of a large cityso that right-turning traffic can be segregated, and straight-
My seventh suggestion is that we should allow traffic to turn left at red lights, while treating a red light as a stop sign. Traffic should of course be required to halt so that it can make sure that the situation is safe, and anyone crossing the road should have priority, but in many instances vehicles could easily turn left while posing no danger. That would free junctions more quickly, increase flows and reduce the pollution caused by those sitting at junctionsas they nearly always dowith their engines running and stuff belching out of the back.
This is my eighth point. We should think again about traffic light phasing in many towns and cities. There is a new tendency, especially in London, towards all-red phases that seem to go on for a very long time, regardless of whether there are people wishing to cross the road. That is causing a good deal of pollution, congestion and frustration. It is normally sufficient for pedestrians to be able to cross one road at a time. It is therefore possible to synchronise light controls for pedestrians with those for vehicles. There should always be a green phase for vehicles at busy junctions, along with a guarantee of safety for pedestrians in the form of a green phase for them as well. All-red light junctions are causing an awful burden of extra pollution in the centre of London.
In my area, where we do not yet experience that problem to any great extentalthough I fear it is coming our waywe need a system allowing people to decide on the priority route. Traffic light junctions would be much better if the lights always reverted to green on main roads unless they sensed traffic on the lesser roads coming into the junction. After the busy periods, traffic often sits at red lights for no good reason at night, again polluting the environment and frustrating the driver, when there is obviously nothing coming in the other directions. Traffic sensors, and a presumption that the lights would always be green for the main route unless traffic was present, would greatly reduce the congestion and frustration for which there is no need, given the small volume of traffic.
My ninth point is this. We should reduce the number of pinch points and humps on well-used roads, which are themselves becoming a danger. A few years ago, a strange safety fad began: that of taking a perfectly two-lane road, deciding that all other speed-control methods would not work, and putting bumps and other obstacles in the way so that the two-lane road became a one-lane road. Unwise drivers would then play a game of chicken with each other, coming in different directions. It would be a case of who would reach the pinch point first and get through. I do not consider that a safe way of behaving, or a sensible way of reducing congestion and encouraging flow. If there is a speed problem on the road, by all means solve it in other ways.
John Mann: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the changes in the Department for Transport traffic guidance in the last year are a significant improvement on the guidance of 1990, 1991 and 1992, which
Mr. Redwood: I am not sure that the latest guidance helps as much as the hon. Gentleman suggests. Many of the measures to which I object have been introduced in the last six years. Perhaps councils are finding it difficult to catch up with more sensible and rational thinking. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response to that.
John Mann: I have spent a lot of time looking at this. I should be interested to know which departmental guidance, since 1997, has altered the position in relation to pinch points and road humpsapart from the guidance of approximately three years ago that created the concept of home zones. Those that have caused trouble in my area date from 1990, 1994 and the earlier years, particularly 1991 and 1992. If there are specific examples of guidance that has changed the position, I have obviously missed them. I should be most interested to know of them, as this is of great consequence to my constituents.
Mr. Redwood: I am talking about the reality on the ground. Many of these things were introduced under a Labour Government and often under Labour and Lib Dem councils. It is a great pity. I look forward to better guidance and support from the Department to get rid of some of the obvious follies.
Another absurdity is the double cushiona cushion on each of the lanes of a two-lane highway. Some people think that the way to avoid the cushion is to drive straight down the middle of the highway, where they do not bump as much as when they go over the cushion. That is extremely dangerous but it does not stop a lot of people doing it.
John Mann: I believe that it was the 1994 guidelines that did not incorporate the ambulance service, which was not consulted and would have objected to many of the double cushions. Ambulances could not traverse them. As the right hon. Gentleman will recall, they were created on the basis that they would allow emergency service vehicles, particularly fire engines, to traverse them. Does he welcome the fact that in the past year the ambulance service has been automatically statutorily incorporated in any guidance on traffic calming, which means such problems can be avoided in his area and mine in future?
Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman is unwise to try to make a party political point because I cannot avoid a party political point in response. What I had in mind were road cushions introduced by a Labour council in Reading right outside Royal Berkshire hospital, which is about the most inappropriate place one could imagine given that, when we go there, we do not want to be shaken up too much if we have broken something or have something a little tender. It is not at all helpful to have those cushions right outside the hospital. Ambulance drivers do not like them either.
We are invited by the Bill to consider speed cameras. We have had an unsatisfactory debate so far. There is a role for speed cameras in locations where speed could be, or has been proven to be, the cause of accidents. I suspect that the guidance on the location of speed cameras is broadly correct. I would want to look at it again but I can see the logic of it. I just do not believe that quite a lot of speed cameras that I have seen and sought to obey successfully are there for the reasons set out in the guidance.
There is another problem. While there are still some places where the maximum speed limit is inappropriately high for the conditions, there are many places where the maximum speed limit for the road is thought inappropriately low by most of the road users. That is where those cameras become ways of taxing or frustrating the motorist.
I often seek to come to London by car because I normally stay several nights in London and my local train station will not allow me to park my car for longer than a day. Therefore, I cannot come by train[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) wish to intervene? No, he does not.
I get a lot of experience of using the M4-A4, the M3-A316 and the M40-A40, the three principal western radial routes into our capital city. In recent years, there has been a progressive reduction in the 70 mph speed limit on motorway sections closest to London and on the dual carriageway with grade separated interchanges on the trunk road system to the east of the motorway. Most motorists do not think that those speed limits are appropriate. There are now speed limits of 40, 50 and 60 mph, depending on where one is, on what are very big roads with no pedestrians and no conflict of traffic across them.
As a law-abiding law maker, I do not like that law but I know that I have to obey it. I dutifully come in at 40, 50 or 60 mph. I am always in the slow lane. Most people are overtaking me at 10 or 20 mph faster than I am travelling. I do not think that they are doing anything unsafe but they are clearly doing something illegal. As soon as they reach the cameras, all the sensible ones who know those roads very well stick on their brakes. They bunch around the camerassomething that the Government have now told the press, but not Parliament, they may want to tackleto try to get their
That is making idiots of the law makers. It is doing great harm because, as soon as people get the idea that it is perfectly safe to do 60 mph on a grade separated dual or treble carriageway into London, they may think, "It makes sense to do 40 on a 30 mph road or perhaps I can do 28 on a 20 mph road. Perhaps the speed limit there is ill judged, too." However, the speed element in this case may have been better judged because there could be a conflict with vulnerable users of the highway.
The Government need to look again both at speed limits and where they wish to place their main enforcement activities. The cameras are in much greater profusion on those large roads where there is no great danger from speeds higher than the speed limit and there are still quite a lot of very bad roads, described by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford as some of the worst in Britain, where, for good reason or bad, it has been decided not to place speed cameras, perhaps because someone has decided that speed is not the major cause of accidents on them.
In considering the Bill, we must tackle that general question: is speed the main or primary cause of accidents? The Transport Research Laboratory and others have concluded that speed is only the primary cause of accidents in between 7 and 15 per cent. of all accidents. That is serious but by no means the main cause. The main causes of accidents are bad driving, pedestrians and cyclists behaving rashly on busy roads, or bad junction construction allied to misjudgments by motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. That is where an awful lot of the accidents occur and where my suggestions on junction design and segregation would make quite a lot of impact on road safety. Our safest roads are our motorways, which happen to be our fastest roads. Even this Government are not going to suggest that we should all go at 30 mph on the motorway to avoid some of the accidents that unfortunately occur, because they realise that we have to have reasonable speeds on the main trunk motorway routes around the country to keep things moving.
To say that speed is the cause of accidents is about as helpful as saying that travel is the cause of accidents. It is self-evident that if we banned everyone from travelling other than by foot we would avoid a lot of casualties and deaths but few people would want to live in such a society. It would be much poorer and the range of things that we could do would be gravely reduced by such huge restrictions on our movement. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford made the powerful point that one reason for congestion is the big surge in people gaining access to driving licences. Twenty or 30 years ago, they would not have been able to, owing to the fact that motoring was much more a luxury for the rich and less a necessity of the many. We should welcome that and try to accommodate it.
The answer is not to say that speed is the main problem. It is not to say that limiting speed is the way to deal with safety and/or congestion. Nor should we be trying to drive all those people off the roads all the time. We should be trying to make good transport choices available for them, including getting them to proper
I hope that, during the progress of the Bill, the Government's laudable aim of reducing congestion will remain the principal aim of the legislation. I have tried to show that that is not necessarily in conflict with having safer roads, but could in many cases be allied to better road safety if we have a proper understanding of the causes of accidents, deaths and injuries. I have offered 10 practical suggestionssome could be included in the Bill, and others could be dealt with by other Government actionthat would give much more bang for our buck, and much more scope for cutting the congestion that is now a grave threat to our economic recovery and to our quality of life.