Safe streets

HRH Prince Michael of Kent Patron of the Commission for Global Road Safety says in STREETSCAPES:

By working together across disciplines in partnership and by building coalitions, far more can be achieved than by trying to go it alone.

Secondly for a road safety innovation to be successful it must be based on sound evidence. The need for it must be clear and its effect must be rigorously evaluated.”

Tony Kirby President, Institute of Highway Engineers  says:

There are many aspects to road safety. Much depends upon the abilities and reaction of road users when an unanticipated event occurs. Highway Engineers help to create legible streets and pleasant places that operate efficiently for movement, and minimise the likelihood of driver errors and collisions

The number of road accidents that lead to death or serious injury is frighteningly high, often tragically due to driver error. The annual total, 24,000, equates to several airliner crashes a month, yet very few accidents are reported nationally. In comparison, there were no accidents in 2015 on commercial airlines operating to or from the UK.

Fortunately, until 2010 there was a gradual decline in the number of road accidents but this is probably because the vehicles themselves became safer as brakes, seat-belts, crumple zones, vehicle structure, as well as the speed and quality of medical care improved. Since 2010 the numbers have remained quite constant, with any variations within statistical limits. Accidents involving pedestrians have not significantly reduced.

In fact accidents involving child pedestrians vary according to locality, probably because in many places children are simply not allowed out on their own, so are less likely to be in a road accident. Accidents involving cyclists, though few compared to other road users, are in proportion to distance travelled very high and unfortunately are increasing, especially at weekends.

Of course, statistics need to be interpreted with caution. As a background note journeys by road tend to increase as a proportion of the nation’s gross domestic product, GDP, and the number of road accidents follows the volume of traffic flows to the extent that there are peaks and troughs throughout the week and during each day. On a typical Friday accidents involving both car occupants and cyclists follow the fluctuating traffic flows of the working day. On Sundays the number of accidents involving cyclists peaks at 11.00am while those involving people in cars peak at 1.00pm. At about 8.00am on Fridays and at 11.00am on Sundays the accidents involving cyclists are at a similar level to those involving car users. This is remarkable as the average number of miles travelled in a year by cyclists is only one per cent of the average number of miles travelled by people in cars. The conclusion is that cycling is disproportionately dangerous.

Against the background of these statistics it is understandable that many of the on-going adjustments to the design and maintenance of a street are the result of concerns about road safety. Having accepted that arrangements for efficient traffic movement can be incorporated into and help make places attractive, people naturally ask if the legitimate concerns about road safety can also chime with making a place attractive. The answer is positive. Knowledge of driver behaviour applied to the design of streets can result streetscapes that are attractive, efficient and help people to travel safely.

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