Government has "wasted opportunity" to take lead on road safety says Commons Transport Committee chair

Report had urged government to take responsibility on issue, but response disappoints MPs and campaigners

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.”

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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