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Merseyside road safety failures

Merseyside / national road safety failures

Merseyside road safety concerns

So-Mo project on pedestrian casualties

Merseyside road safety improvements

Taking action on poor road safety

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Why children are suffering so much harm from the danger on Merseyside's roads
According to the #EveryLife Declaration by the United Nations and partner organisations (see https://wacm.org.uk/69.html):
Every child has the right to use roads and streets without threat to life or health
Children have a right to travel safely, but many are being killed or injured on Merseyside roads, and very many others are suffering poor health from pollution from motor vehicles or by the prevention of normal healthy exercise.

This is happening because a dangerous and unhealthy road environment has been created by the politicians, officials and police responsible for the roads. For many decades they have made poor decisions, often unfairly favouring car travel, and consequently have created an environment with
  • speed limits that are too high
  • a lack of protected areas for walking and cycling
  • unsafe crossing points, and
  • a culture of lawlessness, e.g. routine speeding.

For example the national urban speed limit of 20mph was raised in the 1930s to 30mph, which is a lethal speed for pedestrians. It has been clear for some time that this was a blunder, but decision makers have been unacceptably slow to correct it.

The poor decisions by politicians, officials and police can be considered under five inter-related themes:
  • Ignorance
  • Arrogance
  • Bias
  • Malpractice
  • Unaccountability.

Ignorance

Many decision-makers have not taken the trouble to understand the potential of the various road safety options.

For example, Liverpool Council Mayor Joe Anderson and Cllr Malcolm Kennedy are ignorant of the guidelines about where 20mph speed limits are appropriate e.g. saying that they cannot be used on A and B roads [1][2], which is wrong [3].

The failure to reduce dangerous 30mph speed limits to much safer 20mph limits has resulted in avoidable risks to pedestrians and almost certainly to avoidable injuries. In the health service, a doctor who was harming patients through ignorance of basic treatments would be struck off the medical register.

This ignorance of potential interventions is compounded by ignorance of road casualty and other facts and figures. For example, the Merseyside Road Safety Partnership excludes child pedestrians from its four key themes - and yet Merseyside is at the bottom of the rankings for the rate of reported serious child pedestrian casualties - only Lancashire is worse (see https://wacm.org.uk/28.html). An alternative interpretation though is not ignorance but deceit - that the poor figures are known but a decision has been made to keep quiet about them (i.e. malpractice - see below).

Arrogance

"To err is human" (Alexander Pope). Decision-makers should accept that they are fallible and active seek feedback on their plans to ensure that they can be as good as possible - as in a recent Merseyrail consultation email
...we want your help to make sure we get it right.

But road safety decision makers take an arrogant approach, as if they are infallible, and either do not organise proper consultation on their proposals, or do not give proper consideration to the feedback received.

Examples are (1) the lack of any consultation on the LCR Road Safety Strategy of 2017 (https://wacm.org.uk/22.html), and (2) the lack of a proper response to the serious concerns about the Strategy that have been raised by volunteer groups (https://wacm.org.uk/19.html).

Bias

Most journeys around Merseyside are very safe if made by motor vehicle, but many are very dangerous if attempted by bicycle or on foot. For decades, there has been a serious bias in the allocation of resources, favouring motor vehicles. The decision makers responsible for these decisions travel largely by car and show little interest in the needs of those (the majority) who do not own a motor vehicle. The situation is that car drivers are doing what's best for car drivers - acting for the few who only ever travel by car rather than for the many who want to walk and cycle, which is a form of malpractice (see below).

Malpractice

Anyone can make a mistake, but sometimes poor performance is deliberate - e.g. deliberate neglect of duty, or taking an easy option (for a quiet life) rather than the right one, or taking decisions that benefit the decision makers personally e.g. car drivers doing what is best for car drivers.

An example of malpractice is Liverpool Council's Scrutiny Committee Inquiry into road casualty performance. It was announced in 2014, and took oral and written evidence, but officer support was withdrawn and it never produced a report - see https://wacm.org.uk/27.html. So a problem requiring action was identified (high road casualties) but a decision was made to do nothing. Avoidable serious injuries and probably deaths have been the result.

Unaccountability

Most aspects of society, especially where the care of vulnerable people is involved, are subject to inspection and regulation. Examples are care homes and hospitals by the Care Quality commission, commercial premises by the Health and Safety Executive, and most police operations by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). But the quality of road safety interventions is not inspected or regulated (roads policing is not covered by HMIC). And yet road deaths are a leading cause of death in young people, and road danger is a major cause of ill health at all ages through deterence of a healthy lifestyle.

Without inspection and accountability, poor practice and malpractice will flourish.

The only protection for the most vulnerable on the roads is the conscience of the decision-makers (which seems to be largely missing) and road safety volunteers.

Volunteers have raised concerns for decades but their voices are largely ignored by the decision-makers and children and vulnerable adults are suffering as a result.

Action needed

The actions needed by the decision-makers have been clear for years:
  • strict enforcement of existing, and updated and clearer rules regarding vehicle speed and parking etc, including the use of average speed cameras and more traffic police, to replace the current culture of lawlessness by one of respect
  • lower speed limits and better road design, e.g. designs that clearly signal that cars are guests when turning into side roads/ residential areas; the use of bollards to stop through motor traffic; signal priorities for pedestrians/cyclists; etc
  • better education of vehicle drivers of the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.

But these actions have been advocated by volunteers for years and it is clear that the usual methods of engagement by volunteers with decision-makers, such as emails, have been ineffective. Unless volunteers are willing to consent to nothing being done to protect children, they need to switch tactics to a more assertive tone of contact (as here) and to a campaign of protest and disruption - it is how the Dutch people overcame the incompetence of the Dutch authorities and won a commitment to a safe road system - see https://wacm.org.uk/17.html.

References

[1] The use of 20mph speed limits was discussed at the 17th Sep 2014 Liverpool Council meeting: http://councillors.liverpool.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=305&MId=14315
[2] The rejection of 20mph limits on 'A' and 'B' roads can be heard on the recording of responses at https://wacm.org.uk/files/response_to_cllr-crones-maiden-speech.mp3
[3] DfT Circular 01/2013 Setting local speed limits (2013) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/63975/circular-01-2013.pdf






Last updated: 17 Jun 2018