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So-mo project to reduce pedestrians killed or seriously injured on Liverpool's roads: Concerns and questions
The following concerns and questions about the project were submitted to So-Mo on 13 March 2018.

So-mo describes itself as a "behavioural interventions agency" [1] and has taken on a commission to reduce the number of pedestrians who are killed or seriously injured on Liverpool's roads [2]

The agency promises "brutal honesty" [2], and is asking for thoughts, insight and contributions [2], so here is some brutal honesty about some of my concerns, and some questions that I feel need to be asked and answered.

What is the remit of the project?

What exactly is the remit of the project?
I have asked and there has been no answer.

How effective is the So-mo agency?

So-mo states "We understand how people really make decisions, then make small changes that achieve big results" [1] and "we deliver solutions that work" [1], but I cannot find any evidence on the So-mo website that in the field of road safety, So-mo has ever been involved in a project where small changes achieved big results, or where it delivered a solution that worked.

Is there any evidence that it has?

How effective is Road Safety Analysis?

So-mo states [2] that it is collaborating with Road Safety Analysis "who are providing data analysis, and the benefit of their not inconsiderable expertise in the field".
Looking on the website of Road Safety Analysis [3], I cannot find any evidence that any of its projects have resulted in a road safety benefit.

Is there any evidence that any of them have?

Is the overall number of collisions reducing in Liverpool?

In the header of the blog entries e.g. the 11 Jan 2018 entry [4], there is the following statement in bold: "fact: ... whilst the overall number of collisions is reducing, pedestrian casualties in Liverpool have plateaued since 2008".

But no justification is given for the statement that the overall number of collisions is reducing. This is not good enough. Any statements or conclusions should be backed up by data, or reference to data, in accordance with the core scientific principle of transparency. If justification is not given, conclusions cannot be checked.

Most collisions are not reported to the Police, so it cannot be Police records that are the justification for the statement - so what is it? The most complete records are of road deaths, and of serious injuries, and in fact the total number of reported deaths and serious injuries in Liverpool has actually increased over recent years [5].

Why does So-mo state that the overall number of collisions is reducing (without giving any evidence) rather than state that the total number of reported fatal and serious injuries has increased?

Is So-mo just telling Liverpool Council what they want to hear, rather than giving a fair summary of the data?

Why is "alcohol" given as the first cause for the problem rather than "excess speed"?

The So-mo blog of 11 Jan 2018 [4] gives several answers the question of "Why does the problem exist?". The first given is "Alcohol and drugs", the third is "Poor road layouts" and the fifth is "Speed", but no reasons are given for putting factors in this order and subsequently focusing on alcohol.

Why is alcohol given a greater focus than vehicle speed?"

What interventions will be considered?

The So-mo blog of 1st February [7] states
Guiding our progress will be psychology researcher, Holly Hope Smith who specialises in the design, implementation, and analysis of behavioural change interventions. She will be advising us in the design, testing and implementation, stages of this commission.
This indicates that a decision has already been made that the best way to reduce pedestrian casualties is by behavioural change interventions, rather than by lower speed limits, increased enforcement, or improved road layouts.

Has this decision already been made, and if so, on what basis?

Complacency over child pedestrians

In the So-mo blog of 13 February [8], Tanya Fosdick stated
Thankfully, [national] child pedestrian KSI casualties have reduced year on year since 2007
but without adding that the evil of high levels of child pedestrian deaths and injuries has been replaced by the even greater evil of child inactivity and obesity (since greater awareness of road danger has led to a reduction in healthy walking and cycling), leading in many to life-long health problems [10]. This is not something to be thankful about, and Tanya Fosdick and Road Safety Analysis should not be making this basic error.

This raises doubts about the ability of Road Safety Analysis to give a fair summary of the relevant evidence, and means that all their statements should be carefully scrutinised.

Will the Road Safety Analysis report be published so that it can be scrutinised?

Why are child pedestrians excluded from the project?

Ensuring that Liverpool children can walk safely is an important and urgent need.

In the So-mo blog of 13 February [8], Tanya Fosdick stated that the project will focus on adult pedestrians (i.e. excluding child pedestrians) without mentioning
  • that 115 child pedestrians were reported killed or seriously injured in Liverpool during the 5 years of 2012 to 2016 [5]
  • that Liverpool is third worst of 206 highway authorities for the rate of reported child pedestrian KSI casualties [9]
  • that Livepool's rate of reported child pedestrian KSI casualties is two and a half times the national average [9]
  • that there has been no decline is Liverpool's reported child pedestrian KSI numbers over the last 10 years [5]
  • that childhood obesity levels in Liverpool are appreciably above the national average [10].

If nothing is done, another 115 children will be seriously injured or killed as pedestrians on Liverpool roads over the coming 5 years, many more will have other injuries, and a large number will become obese.

Who decided that child pedestrians should be excluded from the project - was it Liverpool Council, So-mo, or Road Safety Analysis - and what was the basis for the exclusion?

How many pedestrians are injured at night?

The 16 February blog [11] states that
37% of adult pedestrian injuries are between midnight and 6am
but without giving the relevant numbers that form the basis for the statement.

What are the numbers that justify this statement?

Assessment of dual carriageways

The 27 February blog [13] presents a video of pedestrians and a cyclist on a dual carriageway.

The comments are all about road user behaviour and ignore the possibilities of:
  • reducing vehicle numbers by improving pedestrian and cyclist facilities
  • installing two-way segregated cycle tracks on each side of the road
  • reducing the number of lanes for motor vehicles
  • increasing the number of pedestrian crossings and improving their positions
  • reducing vehicle speeds.

Has a decision already been made that these interventions will not be considered? If so, when was this decision made and by whom?


[1] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/
[2] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/blog
[3] http://roadsafetyanalysis.org/solutions/
[4] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/blog/2018/1/11/it-starts-here
[5] http://www.travelindependent.org.uk/area_032.html
[6] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/blog/2018/1/27/why-use-data
[7] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/blog/2018/2/1/meet-the-team
[8] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/blog/2018/2/13/hmm-not-what-we-expected
[9] http://www.wacm.org.uk/files/police_and_ha_rankings.xls
[10] http://wacm.org.uk/72.html
[11] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/blog/2018/2/16/whats-going-bump-in-the-night-some-thoughts-concerning-alcohol-night-time-and-taxis
[12] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/blog/2018/2/16/everywhere-we-go-my-night-out-in-hanover-street
[13] https://www.so-mo.co.uk/blog/2018/2/27/observing-behaviours-on-liverpools-arterial-roads

Last updated: 26 Jun 2018