Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
14 MAY 2008
Q200 Graham Stringer: I am slightly
surprised that nobody has mentioned the relationship between the
Department for Transport and the Home Office. Do you think that
the Home Office plays as full a role in preventing casualties
as it could do? Are its policies as well co-ordinated with the
Department for Transport as they could be?
Professor Goodwin: When I was
in another institute some decades ago now, we did a piece of research
for the Police Foundation, a research body looking at policing.
The results of that research and their perceptions certainly were
that traffic policing is not a high-profile career track for high
fliers within the police force. It is something that clearly they
all understand is necessary but there are concerns about how important
it is, and especially concerns that, by too stringent policing,
the police might put themselves into conflict with what they see
to be the upstanding, middle groups of the community, which therefore
might conflict with the public support that is necessary for other
and, as they see it, more important policing objectives. It is
a complicated issue but there does seem to be some truth in that:
that there can be a go-softly approach to traffic policing, "Ah,
well, it's the sort of thing we all do, isn't it?"as
compared with any other activity likely to cause such grievous
damage to life, limb and property. Whether that is due to the
Home Office or to cultures within the police force I think is
a moot point, and I am not sure about that. However, I do think
that there is a need to raise the profile and importance; and
that actions likely to cause serious damage while you are driving
are absolutely as important as potential crimes, as any other
activity that people undertake.
Professor Whitelegg: Perhaps I
may add to that. As part of an exercise I did in 2004-05 on a
Department for Transport-funded project on the Swedish Vision
Zero road safety policy, we had the much-maligned focus groups
and we talked to about 230 citizens across the whole of England
about road safety, targets, objectives, and what people were concerned
about. There was an overwhelmingly strong view, almost without
any exception, on the part of the citizens we talked to that speeding
was a problem, and that was equalled by lack of police enforcement.
They were very unhappy about the lack of police enforcement. Interestingly,
however, they said, "But we see the point of view that we
think the police are operating from. They have large numbers of
demands on their time and we can see how it would be possible
for a police force maybe to prioritise crime against the person,
burglary, terrorism, or whatever." They were well aware of
the competing demands on time, but nevertheless the strong view
expressed was that there is a mismatch between what members of
the public are concerned aboutthey want safer streets and
much-reduced possibilities of being injured or killed in a road
traffic accidentand the lack of police enforcement of speed
limits, and the fact that the police actually operated, in their
words, as a "blocking mechanism". If there was a proposal
to impose a heavy goods vehicle ban on a street or have a 20 mph
speed limit outside a school or a whole number of things, the
police would say, "Do it if you like, but we won't enforce
it because we don't have the resources". That led to a deep
sense of grievance. I do not know in detail about the way the
Home Office works, but in terms of the interaction between road
safety issues, policing, justice, law enforcement issues, I think
that there is another strong lack of joined-up thinking.
Q201 Clive Efford: In your focus
groups, when people were talking about their concerns about their
local communities, did they give any indication of where they
ranked the issue of speeding against other issues that concerned
them in their communities? Was it very high on their list of priorities?
Professor Whitelegg: In a sense,
we had prejudged the situation by asking people to come and see
us to talk about road safety; so they were motivated to raise
issues about road safety. I think that it would therefore be unfair
to try and pretend that we had a scientifically rigorous, representative
sample across a range of things. In random discussion, they wanted
to talk about street crime, mugging, and a whole number of other
things that they thought were problematic and stopped them using
the streets as much as they would like to. Speeding traffic and
lack of enforcement was as high as anything that they mentioned,
but it would be wrong for me to say that I have some kind of rigorous
statistical sample to back that up.
Q202 Clive Efford: Did they give
any indication about the use of technology, perhaps to replace
Professor Whitelegg: Yes. It was
something that we had not raised in our briefing of the people
taking part in the focus groups but that they raised spontaneously.
They were very keen, for example, on whether or not speed cameraswhich
generally speaking they did not likecould be used as a
way of controlling speed automatically, in the sense that a speed
limit could be set and there would be two cameras. There is the
technology around, though I am not a technology expert. Basically,
there are experiments underway in London on what I think they
call "averaging speed cameras", which is what they were
talking about. They were very keen on technology being used, because
they were very keen on not putting a high burden on police resources;
so they wanted technology to substitute for police persons, because
that would serve the same objective of minimising speed and controlling
Professor Goodwin: There is some
other survey evidence as well to add to thatthe more conventional
types of opinion surveysand it is quite interesting that
the idea of 20 mph speed limits, especially in residential areas
or what people perceive as being residential areas, which means
"where I live", has an extraordinarily high level of
public support: very much higher than you would sense by looking
at the statements of organised opinion of stakeholders in the
transport/safety argument. It does seem to be one of the most
popular potential policies that can be implemented. I think that
it is also well established that potentially it is one of the
biggest remaining hits that one could make on the accident rate.
Q203 Graham Stringer: How does our
institutional approach to road safety compare with other European
countries, both at the national level and at the regional level,
as Mr Wegman suggested is important?
Mr Wegman: Perhaps I may come
back to this police question. One of the best things a government
can do in showing its serious interest in road safety is to bring
police to the roads and streets. There are not that many other
activities a government can show to the public. However, in all
countries I am aware of people are complaining in the road safety
sector about a lack of capacity and that they do not send a lot
of police officers to the streets. They are always other priorities.
We have to live with that. The only way out, in my opinion, is
to add two things to police activities. First of all, public information
campaigns in order to create an understanding of the police activity
and an acceptance of that being done. That is the first thing
they have to do. The second thing is to bring in technology. You
can make simple estimates about what the police officer has to
do in order to bring a specific deterrence to the road userand
that is very limited. That said, you have to do something additional
to bringing officers on to the streets. In my opinion, that is
future technology. Both parts are very important. Acceptance of
that technology, acceptance of the police, and then to bring the
message across that it is really serious when it comes to speed
enforcement, or drinking and driving enforcement.
Professor Goodwin: It is an interesting
question, is it notthe difference between the way in which
the safety argument is conducted in different countries? The Committee,
I know, has been very interested in the Swedish Vision Zero idea,
and there are variants of that in other countries. I think it
is the case that the biggest difference we see in those cases
is in the rhetoric, for want of a better word, with which safety
policies are argued at national level. I do not mean that in an
insulting way. It is the way in which politicians convince themselves
that this is the right thing to do. However, they only have any
meaning when you get down to specific, concrete acts of policy
implemented on the streets. A target, simply as a declaration,
has not quite zero effect but fairly close to it. When you look
at the specific actsfor example, speed humps, speed limits
or enforcement levels, the 20 mph idea, the access of vehicles
to specific residential areas, the conditions of law which influence
who is to blame when there is a collisionall those sorts
of things are specific, concrete acts and there is a large but
limited repertoire, toolbox, of things one can do; and all countries
choose more or less a similar pattern, though perhaps giving a
slightly different emphasis. I think that is much more important
than whether these policies are justified in terms of an overall
vision. In terms of your own discussions, I think that I am one
of the pragmatists rather than the visionaries on that.
Q204 Mr Martlew: On the priority
that the various countries give to road safetyfor example,
if we look at the audience today it is quite sparse but when we
were looking at the fiasco in Terminal 5 we were packed out and
the cameras were there, although nobody was killeddo the
public and the media take a more enlightened view with regard
to road safety, say, in Sweden and in the Netherlands? Is it more
important than it is to us?
Professor Whitelegg: I was a German
civil servant for three yearswhich I have still not recovered
Q205 Mr Martlew: Neither have they,
Professor Whitelegg: No, they
have not! It was the Ministry of Transport in the state of North
Rhine-Westphalia, in Dusseldorf, a state of 16 million people.
I have worked in Denmark and in other European countries, and
there is an enormous difference between Britain and these other
countries. It is simply one of boldness versus nervousness. Britain
is a very, very nervous countryincredibly nervous. We have
the best transport analysis and policy, in terms of documents
and research, of any European country I knowand I defer
to the Dutch, whose work is excellentbut we do not translate
it into policy, namely to things that happen on the ground. What
I mean by that is that is this. At the time I worked in Dusseldorf,
we had a street party to celebrate our 10,000th Home Zone. Ten
thousand in one state of Germany. Britain now has 600 Home Zones.
In 1991 we had 10,000 in one state in Germany. Graz in Austria
made the whole city 20 mph in 1992. There is Freiburg in southern
Germanyand the list goes on and on. The debate that we
have constantly is, "Oh, dear, what shall we do? We know
about speed; we know about the probability of crashes and injuries"
and so on. We go round and round, and we have lots of interesting
investigations and reports; then we say, "That was nice,
wasn't it? But we won't do it". We are not bold. That sort
of national governmental culture, wherever it comes fromI
do not have an explanation of where it comes fromI think
gets translated into a degree of frustration and almost disengagement
on the part of the public, which goes back to your point. There
is not so much interest in Britain because, again in our focus
groups, the thing that came through repeatedly was, "There's
no point in saying anything because nothing useful ever happens".
Nothing will happen. We do not get the 20 mph; we still do not
get the Home Zones; we do not get the speed enforcement. We just
do not get it. The big difference between us and other countries,
therefore, is simply one of boldness. The Swedish Vision Zero,
as Phil said, is not unique. The Danes do not have a Vision Zero,
but they have a policy that says, "One death is one death
too many". Norway has a similar policy, and so it goes on.
They implement it and have clear, budgeted, targeted interventions
that deliver that result. We do not. We are very nervous, very
complacent, and we behave more like rabbits in the headlights
of an oncoming car. We go round in circles, back to where we started,
and we do not do the jobthat is the problem.
Mr Wegman: Until 2000 we were
always looking to the United Kingdom when it came to road safety.
You were the inventors of many good activities and policies. All
of a sudden, somewhere in 2000, you stopped doing things and we
continued with our efforts. A simple figure to illustrate that
is that, compared to 2000, in 2006 you had 7% fewer fatalities
in this country. We have one-third fewer. That was the pace of
improvement that you also showed in the past. I do not have an
explanation for that, but the real question is why you have not
continued with your efforts. As to this item, it is right that
we are doing things. Is the public waiting for it and asking for
it? In a way, they are. For example, we have quite a lot of public
support for the implementation of 30 kph zones20 mph zones.
Potentially, we have 50,000 km of street lengths in which to implement
it. In the last 10 years, we have managed to implement 30 kph
zones in 60% of those streets. Not because it was a wish on the
part of the government but because the citizens asked for it.
It is very important indeed that you market a solution to the
public and that the public is asking for those sorts of solutions.
Instead of bringing the good measures to them, they ask for it.
We are now running out of budget and we are looking for additional
budget to continue with these efforts. Nevertheless, it is an
example of the implementation of these different measures. That
is not new or unknown to you. You know everything. I fully agree
that you have the best experts in this country. The question is
why you do not do it. I do not have an explanation for that. The
road safety problems are rather similar. We are facing a new area,
where we cannot simply apply the same recipes as we did in the
past. We have to develop new recipes. We need the public on our
side. It is not their top priority and never has been; nevertheless,
you can make progress step by step. The big question for you is
"Where can we find our opportunities here?"
Q206 Clive Efford: Just to follow
that up, could you elaborate for us, Mr Wegman? You said that
we fail to follow through and implement changes that you have
implemented. What specifically do you mean?
Mr Wegman: The first example I
gave is traffic-calming, but I can give you another example.
Q207 Clive Efford: Can I just ask
you what you mean by traffic-calming?
Mr Wegman: By traffic-calming
we mean that we do not want to have people using residential streets
as a through-traffic street, first of all, so we would like to
get rid of that through-traffic in residential areas.
Q208 Clive Efford: We are talking
about physical barriers, one-way systems, to stop people doing
what we call "rat-running"?
Mr Wegman: Let us call it making
it less attractive. The second thing is that we try to slow the
traffic down to 30 kph. Again, if you accept that the only people
in these areas are those who live there and have their destination
there, you want to see some kind of interaction between the residents
who live there, saying, "Please slow down". That is
just an example. I can give you another example.
Q209 Clive Efford: Is it a request
just to slow down or is it physical barriers like speed humps?
Mr Wegman: Two things are very
elementary in this. First of all, that you are aware that you
are entering such an area; so there is a kind of gate there to
show that is a different area to the one you have been in before.
The second thing is that, regularly, you have those physical means.
There is always the question that people do not like it and they
do not have the most positive feelings about it. Then it is a
question of negotiations with the citizens: "What do you
wish to see there? What kind of physical barriers would you like
to have here?" Again, if people do not accept it and are
against it, my recommendation will always be "Don't do it.
Wait until there is a certain request and a willingness to accept
Q210 Clive Efford: How willing are
people to be inconvenienced in the areas where they live? My experience
of localised traffic-calming measures, where you introduce, say,
one-way systems, is that it creates a very circuitous route for
people sometimes to go a short distance to get to their home in
one of these new zones. Therefore, a lot of opposition is generated
by any proposals, because the people do not want to be inconvenienced.
How much of that did you come across?
Mr Wegman: That is well known
and, again, it is a matter of the smart design of those schemes.
Again, do it together with the people living there, instead of
"I bring you the good message. Please buy it from me".
Professor Goodwin: I think that
we have tended in the past to rely on too narrow a repertoire
of instruments of traffic-calming. Essentially, it is one-way
streets or cul-de-sacs and speed bumps. When you look at the textbooks
now, the international textbooks on traffic-calming, there are
100 different measures, including the road surface you use, the
curvature, the use of lines of sight. You have very much more
effective engineering methods than the simple speed hump with
a bumpy profile, with speed tables. You can use the texture of
the road surface to give signals to people that this space is
allowed to vehicles but is the pedestrians' property. People do
actually behave in accordance with those signals. If you do all
these things together and you do it with good design standards,
and not too cheaply, then the experience seems to be that this
is not resented by residents as something which is inconvenient;
this is perceived as an improvement to the quality of their local
street environment, in the same way that trees or a local park
would be. It is actually a very positive thing.
Q211 Clive Efford: Could you give
us an example of where a textured road surface, where pedestrians
are given priority rather than cars but they come intonot
contact with one anotherbut I am thinking of somewhere
like Covent Garden. Do you have any examples?
Professor Goodwin: You want actual
Q212 Clive Efford: Yes.
Professor Goodwin: We can provide
you with a good list of places to look at.
Q213 Clive Efford: And the sorts
of measures that are being implemented.
Professor Goodwin: Yes. To give
a very simple example, speed tables, which are much broader than
speed humps, with a pedestrian crossing on top of them, are a
very effective, simple method of changing the perception of the
driver so that they do not think, "This is a road. What are
the pedestrians doing here?" They think, "Ah, this is
a pedestrian space. I'd better go a bit carefully".
Q214 Clive Efford: It is remarkable
that you made that last comment, because my next question was
do we corral pedestrians too much?
Professor Goodwin: We do.
Q215 Clive Efford: Do we generate
too much an attitude that every pedestrian that steps off the
kerb into the road is a trespasser?
Professor Goodwin: I had a very
interesting experience recently in an international conference,
talking about pedestrian refuges. A German colleague at the conference
said, "Refuge? What's `refuge'?" We explained, "This
is an island". "You mean pedestrians are refugees?"
He could not get the concept of these railings which are a barrier
in the way of pedestrians. We send pedestrians underneath roads,
in nasty, smelly underpasses, while the vehicles get the priority
of the surface. It is a crazy process of priorities.
Professor Whitelegg: This is again
a matter of boldness, in that one of the issues that the discussion
of Home Zones and traffic-calming raises is that a traffic engineer,
or a local authority, indeed the Department for Transport, would
see these as fundamentally causing problems in terms of traffic
flow and congestion. There is almost a hierarchy of policy objectives,
and one of the problems in Britain is that that hierarchy is often
described in a benevolent way, saying, "We put pedestrians
first", and then cyclists, and so on. However, every time
I have looked in detailand I have worked with dozens of
local authoritiesthe hierarchy is the other way round.
The car comes first. I even know of local authorities that are
trying to remove pedestrian crossings as a way of improving traffic
flow and of reducing congestion. There are the kinds of policies
which would have the direct effect that I have seen in German,
Austrian and Swiss cities, for example. We can close streets.
If there is rat-running on a street, close it; put bollards at
both ends which are up most of the time and all the residents
have a smart-card, they swipe it, and then they go down. In fact,
York City Council has done this. It is the only one I know of
in Britain, but there may be others. The street has been converted
from an extremely unpleasant place to a place where children are
playing on the streets and the whole street has taken on a new
life, because a residential street had become a major traffic
thoroughfare. Now it is there for everyone to see, with the rising
bollards that go up and down. However, that kind of discussion
which we need to have is very difficult in Britain, because of
this inherent or intrinsic conflict in what we really, really
want. What I think we really, really want in Britainwe
could have a big discussion, but you do not have time and neither
have I, about what we mean by "we"is to have
lots of cars running round, because it looks good for the economy;
it is freedom of choice; it reduces congestion; and we do not
really want to create highly healthy, attractive, pleasant living
environments. We have to change that priority.
Q216 Clive Efford: Could I ask you
to go back to the issue of lack of boldness and 20 mph zones?
My experience of trying to introduce them is that there is this
perverse impact now of technology. That is, because there are
not speed cameras that are calibrated for 20 mph zones, police
say, "If you put a 20 mph zone in, it must be self-policing".
Therefore you have to spend a lot of money on speed humps and
things like that, if you are to have a 20 mph zone, which seems
to me to be a barrier in the way of actually introducing 20 mph
zones in what we would call residential areas.
Professor Whitelegg: You have
identified a crucial problem or barrier generally to making progress
in terms of urban design and making places really attractive for
the elderly, for children, for people with disabilitiesmaking
places nice places to live. First of all, the 20 mph calibration
thing is a completely false pointthat they cannot be calibrated.
There is no problem technically in having a piece of equipment
and technology that can identify whether a vehicle is going at
19, 20 or 21 mph. It can be done; it is being done. It is being
done in York, where there are 20 mph speed limits outside schools,
which are enforced. That one has therefore been resolved. The
thing about self-enforcing is very much a circular kind of argument.
The current position in England is that Home Zones, traffic-calming,
have to be self-enforcing, which means that there have to be humps,
bumps, chicanes, build-outs, and so on, and you cannot have them
otherwise. However, the international experienceand German
cities have moved massively in this directionis that you
do not need the humps, bumps, chicanes and build-outs. You put
up big signs. You sayin the case of Germany "Tempo-30""This
is a 30 kph area". It is effectively policed, and every country
has a different way of policing to minimise demands on police
time. People get the message, and it works. The problem in England
is that a Home Zonethat is, an area-wide treatment with
new surfaces, humps, bumps, chicanes and build-outson average
costs about half a million pounds. We had one in my local authority
area that covered 150 dwellings, which cost three-quarters of
a million pounds. There is no chance whatsoever that we will get
enough Home Zones in England, at those costs, to solve the problem.
We therefore have to move in the direction of a different kind
of psychology and a different kind of engineering, and that removes
the barrierbut there is resistance.
Q217 Clive Efford: I know that we
have been on this point for a very long time, but I have just
one last quick question to follow that up. Your experience is,
though, that in other countries where they have introduced Home
Zones, 20 mph zones, without the build-outs and the humps and
bumps, they have worked?
Professor Whitelegg: Yes, they
do work. The whole city of Graz in Austria is one Home Zone and
it works, and it is not all humped and bumped. It was in the early
days but they have now got rid of them, and they have moved on
to this kind of open-space approachand they work.
Mr Wegman: I know the German example.
In Germany they claim that it works like that. In my country it
does not work like that. We need engineering measures but we also
need public support, and I am not very much in favour of sending
police officers to residential zones for their enforcement activities.
It is simply not very cost-effective. It is far better to send
your police officers to roads where you have volumes and where
you have a massive neglect of the speed limits. I am not in favour,
therefore, of sending police officers to residential areas. That
is why I am more for self-enforcing activities; not because it
is only humps and bumps or whatever, but because people in the
residential areas do accept that as a starting point and then
you add, for example, those gates that I have talked about. I
am also very much in favour of raised intersections. It makes
it very clear that there is an intersection; it indicates that
you have to slow down; there is other traffic to the intersection.
That is a starting point, and sometimes you need additional, in-between,
physical engineering measures.
Q218 Mr Martlew: I think it was said
earlier that it is becoming more and more difficult to reduce
the number of casualties. The easy bit has been done. To listen
to the professor, you would think that we were one of the worst
countries in the world. In fact, we are still one of the best
countries in the world. Would it not be easier, if we wished to
make progress fairly quickly, to have two pieces of legislation?
One would beand personally I am ambiguous about thisto
reduce the alcohol limit at which people could drive; secondly,
to change the novice driver system, so that people can start to
learn to drive at 17 but cannot pass until 18. That would very
quickly have a fairly dramatic effect, would it not, on the number
of fatalities and would not cost a lot of money?
Mr Wegman: Coming to drinking
and driving, in many parts of EuropeI do not exactly know
the situation in your countrythe public no longer accept
drinking and driving. There is only 1% of all motorised transport
in my country where there is drinking and driving. It means that
the overwhelming majority of the population are no longer drinking
and driving. However, we need to send police officers to make
it clear to the public that we do not accept that. Our major problem
now is that this 1% represents perhaps 20 or 25% of our fatalities.
The big problem these days is how to find those who are not obeying
Q219 Mr Martlew: We have a higher
blood level, but we are talking about reducing it.
Mr Wegman: When we talk about
making it more comprehensive, broader, my opinion is that we have
to treat that as a problem of alcoholism that is manifesting itself
in road traffic. Then you have a far broader perspective than
just sending more police officers and bringing more police pressure
on these people. The problem is that you simply do not find them.
You can post a police officer on the roadside; he will wait and
wait, and will see no one. Police officers do not like that. That
is the reason why we have to do something different in the future
than we have done in the past, in order to bring the overwhelming
majority below the legal level. In your case, and the point about
the legal limit, I do not believe there is a good reason to have
it at that level; there is a good reason to lower it. There is
one problem that you will have to face, however. Assuming that
you are lowering the legal limit and at the same time you have
more people above the legal limit, it means that you have to send
more police officers for more people above the legal limit. That
is a major problem. If you are going to change the law, you have
to pay a lot of attention to the pressure by the police on those
who are above the legal limit. That is not an easy problem to
solve at all, assuming that there are not a lot of additional
police officers to be sent onto the streets.
Professor Goodwin: Although I
would add one point to that. There are cases when it can actually
be easier to enforce a zero legal limit than an 80 mg legal limit.
The problem with our current situation is the uncertainty. People
think, "Well, I'm allowed to drink a bit", and nobody
knows exactly how much that bit is or what it really means in
terms of their own body physiology, or even what it means in terms
of the size of the measures that are offered in homes or in pubs.
The advantage of an effectively zero limit is that there is no
doubt any more. People know. It is a simple decision, "I'm
going to drive; therefore I won't drink". That is a question
of public acceptability but, once it is gainedand I think
that it is possible to gain ityou have a smaller enforcement
problem with the amount of policing you need, not a larger one.
I do think that it is one of the biggest examples of success,
when you think that, when I was young, "one for the road"
was a statement of hospitality. Now, "one for the road"
is an incitement to get into trouble. It is a phrase that has
simply disappeared from civilised discourse now. You do not hear
people saying, "I really must have one for the road"
and it was a completely normal expression of everyday life. In
one generation, that is a very big effect on social norms, which
I think would translate itself with a clearer decision, that drinking
and driving are two things which simply do not match together,
and if you are doing one you do not do the other.