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Transport Select Committee report urges Government to provide strong leadership on road safety

DfT urged to show how it is meeting the eight key point of Times Cities fit for Cycling campaign

An influential House of Commons committee has urged the Coalition Government to “provide stronger leadership” on road safety, saying that an increase in road casualties since it came to power “should be a wake-up call” for ministers. The call to action, made in a report published today by the Transport Select Committee, has received the backing of Sustrans and CTC and also urges the Department for Transport (DfT) to formally outline how it is responding to the eight key points of The Times newspaper’s Cities fit for Cycling campaign, which Prime Minister David Cameron has said he supports.

The committee said that it agreed with the Government about the need to improve the safety of cyclists, but says “there does not appear to be a defined action plan to reduce cycle casualties. 

“This perhaps highlights a tension between the Government’s aims and its localism agenda,” the report goes on. “Whilst the Government may wish to prioritise cycle safety, the measures to achieve that, particularly in the provision of infrastructure, appear to fall largely outside the DfT’s remit.”

It added that there needs to be greater co-operation between departments particularly with regard to the provision of cycle infrastructure, and in its conclusions highlighted a comment made by the broadcaster Jon Snow, President of CTC, when he gave evidence to the enquiry, that the Government lacked “joined-up thinking” on the issue.

CTC was united alongside other cycle campaigners in condemning the decision of the Government in abolishing Cycling England as part of the October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review shortly after it came to power, which many feared would lead to cycling lacking a united and influential voice in its dealings with central government.

With cycle safety rising up the political agenda partly as a result of the focus on the issue in London in the months ahead of May’s mayoral election which resulted in the re-election of Boris Johnson, as well as The high-profile Cities Fit For Cycling campaign from The Times whose editor, James Harding, joined Mr Snow in giving evidence to the committee, the issue is at least being discussed regularly at Westminster now. The government is now being urged to take action.

CTC Campaigns Director Roger Geffen said: “With cycle casualties now increasing faster than cycle use and with worsening safety for other road users too, it is clear that the Government needs to show far stronger leadership on reducing danger on our roads.  It is all very well asking local authorities to consider more 20mph limits, and providing the occasional spurt of funding for a few cycle-friendly junction improvements.

“What is really needed is a concerted, properly funded action plan to get councils, police forces and the freight industry pulling together to reduce traffic speeds, ensure cycle-friendly design for all roads and junctions and reduce the threats from lorries.  Police forces must give the safety of pedestrians and cyclists the priority it deserves.”

Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of the sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, echoed that call, saying: ““The statistics on road safety released just a few weeks ago have shown an alarming rise in serious injuries among the most vulnerable people on our roads.

“If the Government is serious about making our roads safer it must show clear leadership. A great start would be to reduce our default residential speed limit from 30 to 20 miles per hour, which will make our communities safer for everyone.”

The committee's chair, Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: "We are very concerned that 2011 saw the first increase in road fatalities since 2003, with 1901 people killed on the roads.  It is shocking that road accidents are the main cause of death amongst young adults aged 16-24 and that so many cyclists continue to be killed or injured.  In 2010 there were 283 fatalities amongst car occupants aged 16-25. 

She continued: "27% of young men aged 17-19 are involved in a road collision within the first year of passing their test.  If the government is not willing to set targets, it should show more leadership.  Action is required to improve road safety for young drivers, including an independent review of driver training.  We welcome the attention cycling has received but there is much more to do.

“The evidence we gathered suggests the principal factor in improving road safety is robust political leadership," Ms Ellman added. "The Government’s strategy sets out to devolve decision making on road safety to local authorities but many authorities face a shortage of funding and the loss of many skilled road safety personnel. We welcome innovative working between local authorities and, for example, health authorities.  The Minister should also do more to flag up and disseminate best practice.“

The Transport Select Committee’s report outlines the findings of the inquiry it announced last September into the government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety, itself published in May 2011. The report’s conclusion begins by stating that Mike Penning, the Minister for Road Safety, had told the committee “that success of his strategy could be judged by seeing a reduction in road casualties. From the latest figures, it would appear there is a risk that the strategy is insufficient,” it adds.

Among specific criticisms aimed at the government was the issue of putting more of an onus on local authorities to take the initiative on road safety, with the report stating that “there are a number of challenges currently faced by local authorities which may undermine their ability to deliver road safety outcomes,” and in particular cuts in budget which impede them from developing road safety initiatives and financing the staff needed to run them.

It also said that the government had “failed to grasp the nettle” when it came to addressing road fatalities among people aged 16 to 24, which it pointed out was the leading cause of death among people of that age.

Accusing the government of providing “mixed messages on road safety,” the committee said that it understood Mr Penning’s assertion that targets alone were no guarantee for improving road safety, but said that if the government was not going to set targets, then “it should be making more effort to provide leadership in other ways.”

It added: “Unfortunately, this has not happened.”

The detailed conclusions and recommendations of the report are as follows, with paragraph numbers referring to the main body of the report:


1. The Department should provide a clearer explanation of the role of casualty forecasts in its road safety strategy.  We recommend that it set out in its annual report whether road safety is improving each year in line with its forecasts, or, if not, explain what is going wrong. The Government should also state what action it will take if its road safety forecasts turn out to be inaccurate. (Paragraph 13)


2. As part of its evaluation of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety, the Government should publish an analysis of the resources used for road safety at a local level to highlight best practice by local authorities, in particular noting innovative practices and multi-agency approaches to achieving road safety goals. (Paragraph 17)

3. The Government should explain how it intends to measure which are the worst performing local authorities and how it expects “naming and shaming” them will improve their performance. (Paragraph 18)

Young drivers

4. We recommend that the Department provides an update of the initial findings of the Learning to Drive programme with its response to this report. (Paragraph 24)


5. We recommend that the Government initiate an independent review of driver training to assess thoroughly the various options put forward to reduce the casualty rate for young drivers and make recommendations about which are likely to be most effective.  We recommend this review be completed before the end of this Parliament.  (Paragraph 29)

Cycle safety

6. The Government should consider how to encourage greater adoption of these measures. (Paragraph 32)

7. We agree that joint working between departments will be necessary to achieve road safety outcomes.  We recommend that the Government shows how its efforts to work in partnership with departments such as DCLG and local authorities have been effective in encouraging the provision of cycle infrastructure and outlines which problems in securing this joint-working have yet to be overcome. (Paragraph 37)

8. Given the Prime Minister’s support for The Times cycle campaign, we recommend that the department issue a formal response to each of its eight points showing how they are being addressed and, if a point is not being acted on, what alternative action is being taken to address the matter. (Paragraph 38)

9. Prior to The Times campaign on cycle safety it was difficult to see how the Government was showing leadership in cycle safety.  There is now evidence of commitment, but, as Jon Snow said, leadership requires joining up Government. We are not convinced that this is happening and therefore there is much work still to be done. (Paragraph 40)

Motorcycle safety

10. We recommend that the DfT should, in its reply to this report, explain what lessons it has learnt from [the delay to revising the motorcycle test] and how it will go about implementing future European directives on the subject of driver or rider training without undue delay.  (Paragraph 42) 

11. We recommend that the department write to us on a quarterly basis to explain progress in this area. (Paragraph 43)

Speed limits

12. The Government should encourage the development of inter-agency partnerships and include examples of best practice in securing joint working in its forthcoming guidance for local authorities. (Paragraph 46)

13. We recommend that as part of its consultation the Government calculates the costs associated with stricter enforcement of an 80 mph limit and creating more variable speed limits on sections of the motorway network deemed inappropriate to see an increase to 80 mph. (Paragraph 47)

14. The possibility of increasing the motorway speed limit has been discussed since September 2011, it is now time for the DfT to publish its consultation document or to explain the reason for delay. (Paragraph 47)

15. The Government should ensure that any decision to increase the speed limit should follow a debate in the House on a votable motion. (Paragraph 48)

Technology and engineering

16. We recommend that the Government includes engineering measures in its outcomes framework, for example by providing EuroRAP assessments of road safety.
(Paragraph 50)

17. We recommend that the Government provides an update on progress in those areas which it committed to developing at an EU level in the last road safety strategy and sets out forthcoming areas for prioritisation. (Paragraph 51)

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Cycle Alert | 11 years ago

The key point here is encouraging government to actually make good on promises and do something. The Times has said in their manifesto, fit sensors to lorries, the committee is now saying fit sensors, we are obviously saying fit sensors, but will anyone in goverment speak to us to learn of our findings??

antigee | 11 years ago

think there was a similar UK study with similar results - one concern is that cyclists are being given poor quality alternatives to using (relatively)well maintained major roads with good sight lines- some of these alternatives involve the type of obstacles that result in low speed accidents or involve for example a lot of parked vehicles or slow turning vehicles, no physical contact but evasive action results in injury - its possible the number of accidents increases but severity reduces.

Csn't see a lot about the need to change attitudes and culture - 20mph in residential areas but what about the roads that link? These are not only the location of the fatalities and serious injuries but also the barrier to more people taking up cycling - "you'd have to be mad to ride on there", "i wouldn't let my kids on that road"
- Why? because perception is that motorised commuting and delivery traffic is more important than cyclists or pedestrians and has a right to move at speed - would like to see some sort of national campaign that encourages people to allow more time for journeys and respect other road users, employers and schools could be helpful by being more flexible oh..and remove the travel to work time/average traffic speed measure from local authority statistics - it encourages "traffic flow" which discourages other road users

Campag_10 replied to antigee | 11 years ago
antigee wrote:

- would like to see some sort of national campaign that encourages people to allow more time for journeys

Good idea but it won't happen. The coalition government is slashing centralised diktats (do they ever work anyway?) and promoting localism.

Most of the population would benefit, and cycle more, if the roads within a five mile radius of where they live were less intimidating. As 80% of the UK population lives in towns and cities, that's where the potential lies.

Rob Benington | 11 years ago

Heres what Lance Armstrong says ....

“A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (in the USA) found that the majority of cycling accidents don’t involve motor vehicles. Rather, most accidents involve cyclist’s falling down by themselves as a result of poor handling skills, equipment failure of ignorance of how to ride in traffic. Most of these accidents are preventable”.

The Lance Armstrong Performance Programme,
Lance Armstrong and Chris Carmichael (2006) Rodale International Ltd.

Hosptial episode statistics for England confirm that many more cyclists are injured in single vehicle incidents that by collisions with vehicles. Our research would challenge Lance's conculsions about the causes, but we need to translate our growing understanding into practical action to keep cyclists safe.

PATMAC | 11 years ago

sedgepeats CV doesn't seem to cut much mustard either if the spelling in the tag line is anything to go on.. who's instead of whose..
the insulting coffee smelling jibe doesn't cut much either , wake up ...there are many cyclists who can and do share the roads safely. ime most drivers today are cocooned in modern vehicles , they drive at the end of their bonnet , illegally use cell phones and seem to be partially sighted that when another human on a bicycle happens in their proximity, perhaps impeding their progress, they have to get past whatever the cost , usually trying to do so without leaving the other human sufficient space while meeting traffic coming the other way and doing do within the central dividing white lines..

Sedgepeat | 11 years ago

What a load of nonsense. So 2010 was a record low so what do we expect to follow? But then cycle clip politicians, like Boris, have been encouraging more and more people to mingle with essential heavy moving machinery in a way that would be outlawed if any other idea. It's not 1900 any more when the horse and bike ruled. Last year's rise was mostly cyclists to prove my point.

Our economy and us, depend on motor vehicles now for our basic needs, including water. Over-slow it and people die.

Slowing it costs £3 billion a year for every 1 MPH. Average about £30 billion a year. How many lives could be saved with that sort of money?

Cyclists. Wake up and smell the coffee. Mingling with heavy moving metal would normally be considered madness.

Tony Farrelly replied to Sedgepeat | 11 years ago
Sedgepeat wrote:

Our economy and us, depend on motor vehicles now for our basic needs, including water. Over-slow it and people die.

The tap isn't that far away that I need to drive to it.

Slow moving traffic is not the reason for a rise in the number of casualties, and when it comes to death and injury on the roads by far the greatest number of victims are motorists or their passengers.

batch | 11 years ago

Billions on the railways, billions on the roads for motorised transport, pennies on sustainable infrastructure. They (Govt and local CC's etc) can't even keep existing routes for pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists from becoming so overgrown that each is forced to use the main carriageway to the dismay of all affected.

Hogwash, lip service and bo**ocks yet again.

End rant.


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