Louise Ellman, the MP who chairs the House of Commons Tranport Committee, has said that the Department for Transport has “wasted an opportunity” to show leadership on the issue of road safety following today’s publication of the government’s response to the committee’s enquiry on the subject.
Cycling and road safety campaigners also accused the government of failing to take responsibility for reducing road casualties, which rose last year for the first time since 2003.
In the Transport Select Committee’s report, published in July, the government was urged to take the lead in bringing down the number of people killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads, but its response has disappointed Ms Ellman, who represents Liverpool Riverside.
"The DfT has wasted an opportunity to demonstrate focus and leadership on road safety,” she said."Generalised talk about everyone playing their part to bring road casualties down should not be allowed to hide central government's responsibilities to keep local authorities, the police, other agencies and the public fully focused on delivering significant and sustained improvements in road safety.
"I am particularly disappointed that the government hasn't accepted the committee's recommendation to initiate an independent review of driver training, especially given the high casualty rate for young drivers."
"We will also be watching closely over the coming months to see if the department provides significant pro-active leadership in other areas of road safety not least that relating to cyclists and motorcyclists," she added.
In April, during an oral evidence session held by the committee on the issue of cycle safety, then Road Safety Minister Mike Penning claimed that British roads were safer for cyclists than those in the Netherlands, an assertion greeted with astonishment and condemnation by cycle campaigners.
In its report, the committee had urged the government to fully embrace the eight-point manifesto of The Times newspaper’s Cities fit for Cycling campaign, but the DfT’s response, dwelling at length upon how responsibilities are shared across government departments and with local authorities has left campaigners unimpressed.
Roger Geffen, CTC’s campaigns and policy director, said: “The government’s actions so far on cycle safety are pretty feeble compared with the drastic action needed if we are even to begin catching up with our continental neighbours on making cycling a safe and normal option for day-to-day travel.
“‘Leadership’ means a lot more than providing councils with a bit of guidance, a heap of statistics and the occasional mini-spurt of cash for safety improvements at a few junctions, welcome as these may be.
“What the Government really needs to do is to say it will place cycling and cycle safety at the heart of its forthcoming transport strategy. Nothing less will do”.
Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive of the road safety charity Brake, commented: “Last year road death and serious injury increased for the first time in 17 years, meaning more families suffering horrendously and needlessly.
“The government’s assessment of this rise in serious casualties is disappointing, failing to acknowledge the suffering they inflict, the costly burden on society, and their preventability.
“Both Brake and the Committee urged the government to treat these horrifying statistics as a wake-up call, to spur determined and bold action to make our roads and communities safer, particularly for people on foot and bicycle.
“However, the government’s response shows a lack of willingness to take responsibility and a lack of ambition in bringing these devastating casualties down.
“We urge ministers to acknowledge how much could be achieved, to the benefit of communities and the public purse, through more decisive and progressive road safety policies.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.