MPs call for more 20mph limits

Report urges slower streets, study in to cycling fears and training for bad cyclists

by Tony Farrelly   October 29, 2008  

20mph_415x275.jpg

 MPs on the The Transport Select Committee have called on the Government to increase the number of 20mph speed limits on Britain's roads.

The comittee's report Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010 comes out as the Government starts work on a new Road Safety Strategy for the next decade, the report calls for road safety targets to be set in the context of the need to promote healthy and sustainable transport.

A key recommendation of the report is that “local authorities be given the powers and resources to introduce 20 mph limits much more widely.”

Commenting on this Roger Geffen, CTC Campaigns and Policy Manager, said, “Making 20 mph limits the norm for most urban streets would not only have huge road safety benefits for everyone, but would also encourage more people to walk and cycle, and allow their children to do so.  The evidence also suggests it has strong benefits for local economies and people’s quality of life and, above all, that they are what 75% of the public wants.”

The report also calls on the Government on integrate its road safety strategy with its strategies on promoting healthy living and in particular sustainable transport.

The MPs cite evidence from the CTC that some local authorities are unwilling to promote cycling for fear that more cycling would jeopardise their targets to reduce road casualties when in fact there was strong evidence that more cycling actually makes cycling safer.

The Committee said, “It is essential that, at both national and local level, casualty reduction targets are seen in the context of promoting sustainable transport”.  It recommends that the Government “ensure that road safety is seen as relevant in other policy areas and that road safety policies do not have unintended consequences on other important objectives, such as improving public health by encouraging walking, cycling and play.”

Roger Geffen said, “The use of simplistic casualty reduction targets creates perverse incentives for local authority road safety officers to oppose pro-cycling measures for fears that this could increase casualties.  In fact the opposite is the case, and the Government must now set targets which encourage more as well as safer cycling”.

Exploring the ‘perception of danger’

Another of the committee's suggestions is that the Government conduct a British Road Safety Survey, including studying the fears of pedestrians and cyclists. Such a survey would help establish how great a part ‘perception of danger’ plays in preventing more people cycling.

According to the CTC the fear of traffic is the greatest barrier to more people taking up cycling and a key part of any future road safety strategy should be reducing this fear, by better training, road law enforcement, and reducing traffic speeds.

Cycle training rebuke

The report also takes the Government to task for failing to consider how cycle training could contribute to the training of novice drivers.  Recent consultation proposals failed to discuss how to improve driver awareness and understanding of how they drive with consideration for cyclists’ safety, or to include any walking or cycling groups in the original consultation. Maybe they should look at Victoria Pendleton's suggestion that sitting on a bike and experiencing what it's like to be passed by a car at speed should be part of the driving test.

The Committee also backed CTC’s suggestion that cyclists who break the law could be offered cycle training as an alternative to a fine, in the same way that drivers who speed are in some circumstances offered speed awareness or driver retraining courses rather than a fine and penalty point endorsement.