Today the Government announced its response to the consultation on its “Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) Safety Review”. You can download it here and I suggest anybody interested in sustainable/healthy travel does so – this is a very important document.
Below I’m giving some first impressions – as I say, you should read the full document yourselves.
1. “Realising your vision”.
In this first chapter there is an enthusiastic endorsement of active travel, safety for people walking and cycling and the call for “A world in which a 12 year old can cycle, and walk, safely”
1.3 Cycle lanes don’t cause congestion – nice to see the Minister, Jesse Norman, say this.
1.7 Repetition of how the Government wants cycling and walking to be the “natural choices” for short journeys, or as part of longer one: unfortunately this is “by 2040”.
2.11 Next year there will be a 2 year “plan” – the “Road Safety Statement”. I don’t know if this will be different from what is summarised under Chapter 10 ANNEX A in this document, which gives a 2 year “Action Plan” including research.
3. The CWIS safety review
3.7 This is where the consultation on cycling offences – which has drawn so much justified anger from road danger reduction campaigners – is referred to. Apparently the emphasis on what cyclists might do to pedestrians is “the other side of the coin” of what the CWIS Safety Review is about. What this seems to mean – and I admit that I’m not totally clear on this – is that the promised review of road traffic law is now not going to happen as it’s now supposedly good enough. This maybe explains the Minister’s extraordinary statement last year that : “We already have strict laws that ensure that drivers who put people’s lives at risk are punished…”
4. Key themes
4.4. This the bit where we get the intention to : “build awareness, understanding and empathy between different road user types” and involves“…reviewing the guidance in The Highway Code to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians; (this is the soon to be announced consultation on changing the Highway Code – do watch this space) commissioning new research to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a change to a presumed liability system (presumed liability would help with insurance claims and is the norm throughout Europe) ; using ‘nudge’ techniques to encourage drivers to consider the needs of vulnerable road users (“Nudge” techniques are a rather mimsy way of getting change – polite requests rather than actually specifying that something is wrong) ; promoting and testing awareness of vulnerable road users in the drivers’ Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC); and developing a package of vulnerable road user training for public sector drivers.” (The last two have been done for some time in London and some other places: but CPC can often be a box-ticking exercise and a robust approach is both necessary and easy to achieve).
Prioritising the needs of cyclists and pedestrians when decisions are made:
4.5 – 4.8
This looks promising and is about reinstating the “Hierarchy of Road Users” – namely priority for pedestrians, then people with disabilities, then cycling, then public transport, when it comes to decisions about planning, policing and transport. That’s good, but those of us who worked in local authorities with a supposed commitment to the Hierarchy of Road users can remember that it would often be there only in name. The most interesting part is:
4.8 The Government will be: “encouraging local authorities to invest around 15 per cent of their local transport infrastructure funding over time on cycling and walking.” That looks good, but don’t forget that is infrastructure (not other support or subsidy), and “encourage” may not mean much.
Protection of vulnerable road users from motor vehicles
4.9 – 4.11
We would have thought that this was what the CWIS Safety Review was all about, but it somehow just gets these three paragraphs.
4.10 gets down to this task with a reference to segregation, and then : “protection can also involve legal measures, for example, improving the rules of the road and their enforcement”. That is where the question of road traffic law seems to have ended up. There is no idea of how we met get traffic laws that work, nor – more importantly – of what is going to happen to reverse the reduction in numbers of traffic police officers.
In fact not much at all here:
4.11 We get some minor measures such as educating drivers about cycling and walking as part of sentencing – but then the basic position with regard to the law and it’s enforcement does not appear to be changing, so this is unlikely to have any positive effect.
Improving awareness of vulnerable road users.
4.15 – 4.18
Not much here of value in my opinion. The current concerns about distraction of drivers just gets: “The spread of mobile phones and other electronic devices may play a role here.”(4.16)
Higher levels of compliance with the law and rules of the road
4.19 – 4.22
This should be an important section. However, in 4.19 the report seems to go along with the view that : “the UK’s road traffic laws and rules of the road are effective and well-designed” with simply a problem of lack of compliance. So how should this be addressed?
4.20 and 4.21 point out, with apparent sympathy, the views expressed that life would be better if the rules and laws were obeyed and complied with. Again, how is this going to happen?
What we get is basically just “investing £100,000 to support the police to develop a national back office function to handle video and photographic evidence submitted by the public” (4.22). Were big supporters of 3rd party reporting – but if it is to be taken up properly in the UK it will require a lot more that £0.1 million for back office staff. Cameras for local councils to enforce the small number of mandatory cycle lanes (and it’s “allowing” rather than supporting with finance) will not make much difference. The only other measures in 4.22 are the review on cycling offences and something (already mentioned) about education as part of sentencing that small minority of drivers who get successfully prosecuted.
Promoting a more positive image of cycling and walking
4.23 – 4.24
This is often the “somewhat hopeless” part of the strategies to support active travel we have seen over the past couple of decades. It gives an impression that “something is being done” while in fact very little is. There is recognition in 4.23 that people are concerned about baiting of cyclists in the media – but all we seem to get is a “Cycling and Walking Commissioner”. We also get “and reviewing The Highway Code to ensure that the principle of the hierarchy of road users is reflected in guidance” (4.24) although that could be interpreted in different ways.
Chapter 5. Infrastructure and traffic signs
This is supposedly about how “The Government seeks to ensure a consistent approach is taken to cycling and walking infrastructure design guidance so that all road users can benefit from the best facilities”(5.3), with reference made to the current updating of ‘Local Transport Note 2/08: Cycle Infrastructure Design’ (LTN 2/08) to reflect current legislation and to take into account developments in cycle infrastructure design, since its publication in 2008.”
But will highway authorities be required to implement these new standards? Ever since there was any kind of engineering of infrastructure for the supposed benefit of cycling, there has been continual debate that much of it is of little benefit, some useless, and some even worse. The response from the Government here in 5.10 is here:
“We have carefully considered the calls for the Government to create national standards, as opposed to guidance, for cycling infrastructure. We do not want to be overly prescriptive about what infrastructure must be like; the evidence is that this can reduce investment and/or lead to inappropriate designs and a lack of ambition and innovation. We believe it is better for local councils to continue to be responsible for their design standards and implementation…”.
So that’s a “No”. Poor examples of infrastructure will simply be “highlighted” .
Under “Strengthening planning policy on cycling and walking” I can’t see anything which is actually new. There is reference to under 5.12 (110): “applications for development should: ─ Give priority first to pedestrian and cycle movement”. But does this mean that there is a framework in place which actually gets this? My experience is that there is plenty of completely car dependent housing being produced under just this sort of framework: “should” doesn’t mean “has to”.
Under “Investment” I can’t see anything new – I hope I’m wrong, do comment below if I am!
This Chapter ends up with:
“5.29 While it is important to learn from best practice, contextual and cultural factors mean that the success of an intervention in one country at improving cycling and walking safety does not guarantee its success in another.” That is obviously true, and I wold be the first to say it. However, in the context of this report it seems a bit like a warning to not expect continental quality of cycle infrastructure. But maybe that’s just me.
6. Law and rules of the road
A key chapter here, with all eyes on the forthcoming review of the Highway Code – but this may take up to three years, just on the walking and cycling elements (6.5).
Under “Safety around schools” there is consideration about introduction of slower sped zones; and a review of pavement parking laws.
“Enforcement” (6.19 – 6.27) is dire. Apart from the very small amount given to back office support of 3rd party reporting, there is practically nothing. The actual issue of enforcement, which would require a massive increase in roads policing as well as a road danger reduction approach, is simply pushed on to Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables (6.19) , who don’t (with a few notable exceptions) have a good record on squeezing more and better roads policing out of contracting budgets.
All we get are somewhat unclear possibilities for enforcement of mandatory cycle lanes and Advance Stop Line boxes (“the issue is not straightforward…”), along with “However, the Government also recognises the need to avoid over-zealous parking enforcement…”(6.25). And, yes, dangerous cyclists threatening pedestrians (6.27).
“Sentencing” (6.28 – 6.35) gives us, well, nothing really. There is no comprehensive review of the law, and we have: “6.32. When we review The Highway Code, we will work with the courts and the Crown Prosecution Services as key decision makers to ensure that the principle of the hierarchy of road users is reflected in guidance”. It’s very difficult to see what that would actually mean without a full review of the law.
“Liability” does see some progress. Don’t forget this applies in civil law, so it does not appear to me that this is being considered under criminal law – which is anyway not being reviewed. Most European countries have some sort of presumption of liability in civil law in cases involving motorised vehicle drivers/riders on the one hand, and pedestrians and cyclists on the other. What we are getting here (6.42) is “We intend to work together with the Ministry of Justice to commission research to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a change in liability rules.”
“Registration and licensing of cyclists”. This gets a NO, as it should.
7. Training and educating road users
Not much here, in my view. There won’t be compulsory re-testing for drivers, except for a small minority who have been successfully prosecuted for various bad driving offences.(7.9/10); cycle raining for driving instructors; cycling awareness in various CPC modules; Bikeability (although there is no indication of proper levels of funding being available to those who want it).
8. Vehicles and equipment
The section on HGVs does refer to the Direct Vision standard being developed in London – but doesn’t say anything about rolling this out to other cities in the UK. Just some paragraphs on “awareness raising” of the issues. Very disappointing.
High visibility and helmets: Very disappointing. It does say:”… we believe wearing helmets, and also high-vis clothing, should remain a matter of individual choice rather than imposing additional regulations which would be difficult to enforce”.(8.11), but note that the reason for this is NOT – as we think it should be – an evidence-based approach based on the lack of evidence of benefits of hi-viz and helmets. There is still an assumption that these are basically good interventions, with no evidence referenced at all for hi-viz, and poor evidence for helmets being quoted. Despite the lack of good evidence, the Government is still saying: “we will continue to encourage cyclists, especially children, to wear helmets to protect them…” .
Motor vehicle standards: Nothing on making drivers take up any advances in telematics, just existing work such as Intelligent Speed Adaptation on some vehicles. Years ago we were promised automatic braking systems on motor vehicles to protect pedestrians and cyclists, and now…very disappointing.
9. Attitudes and public awareness.
As said above, this is the bottom of the list of interventions we need to consider, and there is nothing much here worth commenting on.
That’s my assessment. Do feel free to comment below. If you want to see what we think SHOULD have gone into this document, see our response to the consultation here.