How Do We Know if Walk and Cycle Routes Are Safe?



How Do We Know if Walk and Cycle Routes Are Safe?

Authors

STARK D, Traffic Safety Research Innovations Limited, UK

Description

1.1 The s!ow modes of transport are figuring more prominently in UK transport policy, and there is a strong commitment by central and local government to encourage walking and cycling, particularly in urban areas. The economic, environmental and health be

Abstract

1.1 The s!ow modes of transport are figuring more prominently in UK transport policy, and there is a strong commitment by central and local government to encourage walking and cycling, particularly in urban areas. The economic, environmental and health benefits are well recognised by transport professionals and road users alike. An essential step though is to set appropriate targets for the slow modes. They should not be too low, for even a doubling of levels in the UK would have very little impact on motor traffc. Nor should the timescales be too long, for the choice of walk or cycle is a matter of lifestyle rather than availability.

1.2 The main problems that must be addressed before any significant increase in levels could be contemplated are those of safety and security, for a doubling of pedestrian and cyclist casualties would hardly be acceptable. This is not going to happen overnight, however, as public perception of the risks involved is the main barrier to greater use of the slow modes. It may be that people are more worded by the prospects of mugging rather than maiming, but it doesn't really matter. The distinction between an armed and an armoured aggressor is somewhat fine when you are a vulnerable road user.

1.3 The solution of course is to make the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists. This isn't very difficult, though it may cost a bit, but people have to be convinced that it will be worthwhile. The aim of this paper is to provide the basis for quantitative safety evaluation of pedestrian and cycle routes along existing roads, with an emphasis perhaps on main urban roads. These after all are the routes that providing the best access to local facilities as well as the greatest security, and they already carry appreciable numbers of pedestrians and cyclists, along with other traffic. This topic has been well researched in the UK, and it is now possible to undertake the requisite planning studies with some confidence that they will reliably inform decision makers.

1.4 The principal measures will be low cost route treatments that minimise conflict with motor vehicles, paralleled by the development of more sympathetic traffic management strategies. What this means is the provision of pedestrian and cycle facilities as part of a planned risk reduction strategy, with speed reduction measures to provide greater levels of protection in critical parts of the network. To assist in achieving this objective, the evaluation framework has to take account of the differing levels of 'competence' of different groups of pedestrians and cyclists, in particular children, the elderly and those affected by alcohol. The way their interactions with traffic vary over the day is very important, as are the landuse activities along the route being evaluated. Neglect of these factors in earlier studies has led to the conclusion that the relation between motor traffic, the slow modes and accident risk was weak This has made it needlessly difficult to justify constructive action to improve safety in cost-benefit terms or to establish the right balance of priorities between the needs of motorised traffic and the slow modes. By default, decisions have gone in favour of the powered modes.

1.5 Finally, this paper not about trying to change the culture, as some have put it, to achieve the proposed improvement in road safety. It starts from the premise that we expect marginal changes in levels of activity over a fairly short timeseale. We do not anticipate significant changes in the behaviour of the current population of pedestrians and cyclists, nor can we look for a major change in driver behaviour. We may condemn stupid or reckless behaviour in any of these groups, but what matters is why it seemed to make sense at the time, and the role of road layout and traffic management.

Publisher

Association for European Transport