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London gets new road safety plan aimed at cutting disproportionate casualty rate among vulnerable users

Cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists make less than a quarter of London journeys but account for three quarters of those killed and seriously injured on city's roads...

Cutting deaths and serious injuries among vulnerable road users, who make less than a quarter of daily journeys in London but account for more than three quarters of those killed or seriously injured on the city’s roads, is the focus of a new road safety plan, Safe Streets for London, unveiled by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) yesterday.

Among all road users, the new plan aims to cut the number of people killed or seriously injured by 40 per cent by 2020 – a target described in the document as “a formidable challenge.”

In particular, the report focuses on how to reduce serious casualties among vulnerable road users – cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists – who account for a disproportionate number of the total killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the capital’s roads.

TfL data relating to 2011 cited in the report show that cyclists accounted for 2 per cent of daily journeys in that year, but 20 per cent of KSIs (571). Motorcyclists made up just 1 per cent of daily journeys, but 21 per cent of KSIs (599). Pedestrians undertook 21 per cent of daily journeys, but represented 35 per cent of KSIs (980).

To put that another way, more than three in four people killed or seriously injured on London’s streets in 2011 were engaged in a mode of travel that collectively make up less than a quarter of daily journeys.

It’s a little more than three years since Mr Johnson’s Cycle Safety Action Plan was launched in March 2010 – a new version will be released later this year – and in the intervening period cycle safety has shot up the political agenda both within London and nationally.

That has resulted from the efforts of cycle campaigners, bloggers, victims’ families and some politicians – both at City Hall and the Palace of Westminster – as well as the Cities fit For Cyclists campaign launched by The Times newspaper 16 months ago.

Specifically in terms of cycling, there’s little in yesterday’s report that hasn’t already been announced by TfL, with the major potential innovations being the trialling of Dutch-style roundabouts and low-level cyclist only signals, subject to Department for Transport (DfT) approval.

Some would argue that the fact that just three years on from the 2010 Cycle Safety Action Plan which made no mention of them, such features are even being considered represents progress of sorts, as does Mr Johnson’s recent appointment of Andrew Gilligan as the city’s first cycling commissioner.

Other aspects of the new plan include £100 million to be invested in safer junctions, providing funding for more 20mph zones, and a strong focus on HGV safety, with lorries being responsible for around half the deaths of cyclists in London, while only accounting for 5 per cent of traffic, according to the London Cycling Campaign (LCC).

As part of that, TfL says that it will be studying rules now in place in Dublin and Paris that restrict the movement of lorries at peak times.

There is also a commitment to implement the recommendations of that Cycle Safety Action Plan once it is released, and it will also run alongside the mayor’s recently published Cycling Vision for London, which aims to grow levels of cycling in the city fourfold by 2025.

Certainly the mood among cycle campaigners seems to be that things are finally moving in the right direction, albeit slowly, although one potential hurdle is achieving buy-in from the boroughs responsible for the vast majority of London’s roads.

Just last Tuesday, Danny Williams on his Cyclists in the City blog highlighted a new and woefully inadequate ‘cycle path’ installed by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on Bethnal Green Road, complete with a parking ticket machine that blocks riders’ progress, and which makes them rejoin the main carriageway at a dangerous point.

Launching the new plan at the IMAX roundabout at Waterloo yesterday morning, Mr Johnson said: “I want London to be the most liveable Capital city in the world and improving the safety of our roads is key to achieving this.

“We've made good progress in recent years, but we must do more. London's population is rapidly increasing and the extra demand that this will place on our road network poses a significant challenge.

“That is why I have set a new target to cut the number of those killed or seriously injured by 10,000 - or 40 per cent - by 2020.

“This will allow the Capital to make significant progress towards the ultimate ambition - a London road network free from death and serious injury.”

TfL says that it has identified 56 key measures that will lead to improved road safety for everyone, including:

Ensuring substantial long-term investment on schemes to radically improve the safety of London's main roads

Creating a London Vehicle Innovation Task Force

Equipping boroughs with the skills needed to implement road safety improvements

Focusing police enforcement

Open data on collisions in London

Make the best use of innovative marketing and education resources and

Carrying out trials of innovative cycling measures.

Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director of surface transport, commented: “Reducing the number of casualties that occur on London's roads is something that we are absolutely passionate about throughout our entire day-to-day operation.

“Through sustained long-term investment, and by pushing ourselves to develop new and innovative approaches, this plan will help us all work towards our overarching ambition to free the Capital's roads from death and serious injury.”

Cynthia Barlow, Chair of RoadPeace, whose daughter was killed by a lorry while she was cycling in the City of London, added: “We have always believed that road deaths and serious injuries are not ‘accidents,’ they are foreseeable, preventable and avoidable tragedies.

“With the Mayor's responsibilities encompassing both TfL and the Met Police, London is in a strong position to take a systematic approach following each fatal or serious injury incident, which looks at all the relevant factors so that lessons can be learned and appropriate action taken.

“We welcome the new comprehensive approach signalled in Safe Streets for London and we will work tirelessly with TfL and the London boroughs to aim for a ‘Target Zero’ in road deaths.”

British Cycling’s director of policy and legal affairs, Martin Gibbs, welcomed the report, saying: “These proposals further demonstrate how committed the Mayor of London and Transport for London are to making the capital a true cycling city.

“Measures like 20mph zones and looking at restrictions on HGV movements are very welcome and echo what British Cycling is calling for in its road safety manifesto. We’d now like to see more towns and cities across the UK getting behind cycling as a priority form of transport.”

Simon joined road.cc 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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