Road Safety News

Petition demands safer roads for children

Tuesday 30th April 2013

The Prime Minister has received a petition signed by more than 10,000 parents, calling on the Government to make roads safer for children, as part of Sustrans’ Free Range Kids campaign.

Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans’ chief executive, joined One Show presenter Miranda Krestovnikoff and two pupils from Westminster Cathedral School to hand the petition to David Cameron in Downing Street.

Sustrans says that Britain has one of the worst road safety records in Europe for child pedestrians.

The Free Range Kids campaign calls for the introduction of 20mph speed limits in residential areas and increased investment in safe routes to make it easier for young people to walk and cycle around their local area.

Malcolm Shepherd said: “People long for the days when the streets were filled with kids playing and we all had the opportunity to walk and cycle to school.

“Our streets should be safe, pleasant places where people can socialise, kids can play and where we all can spend time outside the four walls of our home.

“We need slower speed limits and safer walking and cycling routes so our kids can travel to school by bike or on foot and start to build healthy habits for a lifetime.”

Click here to read the full Sustrans’ news release.


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Eric and Rod
I've allowed this thread to run but you have had six and five posts respectively, so I think we'll draw a line under your contributions at this point, while encouraging others to continue to express their views should they wish to do so.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

Why are Rod and Mark using a road safety website to present a story which makes no mention of the effect of 20mph on serious injuries, preferring to discuss miles per gallon, journey times and smoking? Why will they not admit that every 20mph scheme has resulted in worsening serious injuries?
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (2) | Disagree (12)

Nostalgia-lovers would do well to note that in 1930 when the population was 44.6 million and there were 2.3 million licensed vehicles, most of which would have struggled to reach 30mph in the average residential street, there were 3,722 pedestrians and 887 cyclists killed on our roads.

There are lots of reasons why it is unscientific to draw conclusions from comparison between 1930 and the present day where with over ten times as many vehicles and 50% more population we manage to have around 12% of the number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

I remain nonetheless sceptical about the notion that applying a 20 limit to a road where compliance is doubtful will realise the sought-after vision.
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

I think so many miss the point here and don't understand either the pros or the cons of 20mph residential areas. Switch this around and assume that we already have 20mph and are now making the argument for 30mph....

So the pro-30mph case: quicker journeys. But not 33% less journey time as naive calculations might suggest. People cannot drive at the maximum constantly, even the worse drivers slow and indeed stop at junctions and obstructions. Recently I drove a local loop with a "30mph driving style" and "20mph driving style". Following results from GPS and engine (pre-heated) instrumentation:

30-limit-driving-style: av 22.5mph peak 36mph 46mpg
20-limit-driving-style: av 19.0mph peak 25mph 53mpg

This was done just once, in one car, same driver, leafy suburbia (and a couple of one-off occurrences which actually favoured 30mph). But it's a useful indicator. With a 30mph limit, driving the local streets takes 16% less time in this case. On a one-minute run to a main road, that's 11 seconds. 11 valuable seconds saved at the start of what is, say, a 25 minute journey?

There are a number of reasons why that 11 seconds is an overestimate and why it is not worth the cost. Plenty of information on social, health and other benefits here:

Final point: saying drivers are the best to judge appropriate speed for conditions is a lot like trusting smokers to be responsible and sociable in deciding where they should and should not smoke.
Mark Heaton, Hampshire

Agree (15) | Disagree (2)

I think that Eric's comment suggests a complete difference of opinion in the way that speed limits are set.

The fact is that the UK government and DfT has for many years decided that they should be set by local authorities. They have mechanisms to represent the views of citizen, including those who drive and set limits accordingly taking into account the views of professionals and a wide range of considerations.

In an increasing number of places (now representing 8.4m people) this has resulted in 20mph being set as the speed limit for most roads.

Eric and others seem to wish to reject this established method and instead have a far higher limit (or no limit at all) and allow individual drivers to set their own limit based on their observations.

It seems incredible that he seems to distrust such informed and carefully considered decision making process and instead seek some libertarian free for all.

I would put it to him that the involvement of communities in the decision making process of setting speed limits actually reflects the workings of a "civil" society and should be applauded rather than criticised.
Rod King, Cheshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (2)

Once again Rod King resorts to citing the support of communities who have either not been presented with all the facts about 20mph schemes or who have been "consulted" using biased questionnaires. There is no sound road safety argument for 20mph.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (17)

Following Rod’s response and expanding on my earlier comment, the problem to be overcome is that some individuals, whilst wearing their ‘member of the community’ hats, may be fully supportive of lower speeds in their community, but then seem to have a change of heart when they are wearing their ‘I’m driving my car’ hat!

Anyone who is involved with speed management and/or enforcement have tales of vociferous campaigners for action on speeders in their community later being acutely embarrassed and red-faced when subsequently stopped for speeding themselves.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (12) | Disagree (0)

Hugh raises an important topic and that is the relationship between communities and road users. They are in fact the same people.

I believe that what we are seeing is symptomatic of a cultural change in the way that people see roads being shared for all road users rather than just one mode. The "roads" are as much about the way we use them as their actual construction. We are seeing a move away from deciding upon an appropriate speed from the physical characteristics of a road towards the presence or potential presence of people.

In our campaign we stress that it is "community led and establishment endorsed". If we want large scale behaviour change then why not start in the very communities where we wish people to change their behaviour? Campaigns like these and ours act as a catalyst for debate and behaviour change and are gradually developing a consensus that driving slower benefits everyone.

Of course every large scale change is mocked by those who want things to stay the same. But the fact is that a majority of our communities aspire to lower speeds on our roads and are changing both their own behaviour and through the democratic process even the behaviour of those who may not have the same aspirations. Let's therefore celebrate it as helping to create a better society.
Rod King

Agree (7) | Disagree (3)

On the other side of the coin, whilst 10,000 parents are apparently ‘demanding safer roads for children’ it would be nice to think that they, having signed this petition will themselves be playing their part i.e. driving more cautiously; not parking on-street when off-street parking is available; less selfish and hazardous parking, etc.

‘Demanding’ action from the authorities does not absolve the indignant individual from recognizing and accepting their own responsibilities. Roads are ‘safe’ - it’s some of the road users who aren’t, but a petition to the Government demanding ‘safer road users’ wouldn’t have the same impact. Apart from anything else, it would essentially be a petition calling for action against those who have signed the petition i.e. the everyday road user! Easier on the conscience to blame the ‘unsafe’ roads it would seem.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)

Well a lot of people do think streets and particularly tarmac would not exist it were not for cars. But roads and streets have existed for many centuries before the car was even invented and tarmac was introduced after the mass use of bicycles. So in fact cars are very much a "Johnny come lately" to roads. You can read more at the following :-

And Eric is suggesting that we should ignore the well researched findings of WHO and their references to academic reports from around the world and instead rely upon his personal observations.
Rod King, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (5)

I 'disagreed' with your comment because although your view is a reasonable one, the misguided 20mph campaign is alien to many road safety principles - it dilutes the need for children to learn about what can hurt them and it ignores the evidence of its effects. Many areas are pushing for, or adopting, wholly inappropriate 20mph schemes for ill-founded reasons.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (5) | Disagree (13)

Some roads should be prioritised for vehicles e.g. motorways, main routes into and around towns and cities, access to industrial estates. Others have different purposes: their main use may well be for residents or within a town centre for shoppers and leisure or a mixture of these. Some of these may well be more suited to more evenly shared use or for pedestrians and other users to take priority over vehicles.

The art of local decision making is deciding which streets are used for what purposes and by whom, and then how best to treat them, including appropriate speed limits, surfacing, road markings and other measures, taking account of the needs and safety of all road users. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, nor should this be confrontational – how about we work together locally to see what is best suited locally rather than taking up stances on principle? One size does not always fit all.
Honor Byford, Vice Chair, Raod Safety GB

Agree (14) | Disagree (3)

Motor vehicles can be a hazard which is why you shouldn't play in the road! People are motor traffic, they're the bits behind the wheel. It's not about the vehicle it's about the person inside. On their own, as with guns, cars don't tend to do much.

Not sure what Steve is disagreeing with, perhaps he's happy for children to play on the railways or for them to run into the road heedless of traffic, or maybe he doesn't want more parks and recreation space?

We teach children what is dangerous and why, and we teach them how to negate that danger (the green cross code). If we stop doing that we fail them and place them in harm's way.
Dave, Leeds

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

Streets are designed for vehicles. If it were not for vehicles, there would not be streets (ie wide strips of tarmac). Your gun example has no place in a road safety argument but if you were walking around on a shooting range, then a bulletproof vest might be advisable.

Rod - your cited report claims "proven" but I see no referenced report providing that proof. Perhaps most tellingly, your extract finishes "... OR in bringing about desired behaviour change" and this is a flaw in your position. Your desired behaviour change is slower vehicles: but that "OR" suggests that that is not accompanied by reduced pedestrian casualties.

My comments are based on observed careless behaviour of pedestrians in any 20mph zone and the increased serious injuries in every 20mph implementation (when allowed for trends).
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (10)

Er no Dave,

Roads and streets should be designed for people first, motor traffic a lower priority.

Motor vehicles are a hazard. They should be managed as such. Either removing them from the situation altogether, or more realistically, managing them so that they pose less of a threat.

If someone was wandering around town waving a loaded gun, you would hope that the police would remove the person waving the gun, not tell everyone else to wear bullet proof vests.
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (9) | Disagree (9)


If you would like to provide any references for your claim that "slower traffic encourages pedestrians and cyclists to take less care" then we could debate it. But unless you do then it is simply independent road safety opinion.

On the other hand here is the latest WHO report on Pedestrian safety at:-

You may wish to look up page 64 which refers to "Implement area-wide lower speed limit programmes for example 30km/h" as:-

Proven: Evidence from robust studies such as randomized controlled trials,
systematic reviews or case–control studies show that these interventions are effective in reducing pedestrian fatalities and injuries, or in bringing about desired behaviour change.
Rod King

Agree (8) | Disagree (3)

Rod ducks the issue once again by introducing a red herring in the form of a pedestrian crossing. To answer that point, pedestrian crossings are safe only when used properly, and can be hazardous if you step out without ensuring traffic has seen you and is responding.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (11) | Disagree (6)

Yes Eric

Lower speeds enable people to feel safer. Just like pedestrian crossings.
Rod King

Agree (3) | Disagree (8)

Hang on, haven't we always taught children not to play in the road? Steve, you seem to be suggesting people should be allowed to just wander into the road without looking and play hopscotch. We wouldn't encourage people to play on railway lines and we shouldn't encourage them to play in the road. Streets were engineered for sharing - roads are for vehicles and cycles, pavements for pedestrians and that works if everyone behaves appropriately. Playing on pavements would be ok but perhaps what we really need is parks and recreation spaces for children to play in?
Dave, Leeds

Agree (16) | Disagree (3)


I'm afraid your comment "slower traffic encourages pedestrians and cyclists to take less care" smacks of victim blaming.

Shouldn't they be allowed to relax? Shouldn't roads be engineered to promote community and safety? Why should roads be engineered to prioritise motor vehicles at the expense of people?
Steve, Merseyside

Agree (16) | Disagree (6)

I don’t think the prevailing speed limit in a residential road means anything to children ‘playing’ in or adjoining a road. Their level of safety awareness - if it exists at all in some - does not vary according to the perceived speed of traffic - it will only be to the degree which has hopefully already been drummed into them by parents and teachers.

Motorists therefore, have to assume that whether the limit is 20 or 30, children, due to their natural exuberance, are just as likely to run/cycle across roads between parked vehicles without warning and without looking, and if some motorists do not have the awareness to voluntarily reduce their speed to a precautionary level because of this possibility, then 20 as an upper limit does make sense. Better still - children should be discouraged from playing in a street – it’s a hazardous environment.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

Hugh is absolutely right on this one. This is precisely the nonsense promoted by 20mph proponents, based on the false premise that slower equals safer. They never factor in "slower traffic encourages pedestrians and cyclists to take less care" and actively ignore this.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (6) | Disagree (14)

“People long for the days when the streets were filled with kids playing…” Really? That’s not what the roads are for and it is absurd to want to promote children playing in the street but at the same time want those very same streets to be ‘safer’. Bit of a conflict of interest I would have thought.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (4)