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A protest campaign over poor walking and cycling safety

Effective road safety planning: what should be happening

What the vision should be
Road safety planning and policing: what we have a right to expect
Poor Merseyside road casualties should be considered
Other relevant information
Past strategies
Options that should be considered

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

Current campaigns





Children are being harmed on Merseyside's roads: Who's responsible?
Children have a need and a right to walk safely on Merseyside streets,
1. Children are being injured: on average
  • a child is killed on a Merseyside road every year
  • a child is seriously injured every week
  • a child suffers some form of injury every day
2. Children are being intimidated:
  • 400,000 children have their mobility impaired (road danger prevents healthy walking and cycling) leading many to develop obesity and life-long health problems, and to die early.
3. Children are being poisened by air pollution from motor vehicles.

Looking at best practice around the world, it is clear that most of this harm could be avoided, if the right decisions were to be made. So, who is responsible for Merseyside children being harmed?

This report assesses the performance of the key agencies and individuals who have responsibility for minimising the dangers from the roads. Most are inadequate, neglecting their responsibility for the welfare of Merseyside's children.

UK Government: Theresa May and other ministersInadequate funding; inadequate supervision of highway authorities; etc (see below).
Liverpool City Region Authority: Steve RotheramThe current (2017) road safety strategy has no significant actions; etc (see below).
Merseyside Councils: Joe Anderson and other leadersNo road safety strategy or a strategy with no significant actions (see below).
Conservative and Labour PartiesElection slogans have not been translated into effective action; etc (see below)
National Police Chiefs Council: Anthony Bangham Poor guidelines on speed limit enforcement particularly on 20mph limits; etc (see below)
Merseyside Police: Andy Cooke and Jane Kennedy Poor enforcement of speed limits and other laws; and no appeal for more funding from fines.
Company and private drivers in MerseysideLawlessness is almost the norm: exceeding speed limits, illegal parking on pavements.
NHS staffGood or excellent care of road casualties and other health problems from road harm
Merseyside childrenDeliberate recklessness is rare
Merseyside parentsDeliberate neglect is rare.
Merseyside citizensFeeble response to the uncaring incompetence shown by many of the agencies
UK drivers organisationsOpposition to measures that would make roads safer for children; etc
UK mediaSome biased and misleading reporting of road safety data and possible interventions.
Good, Requires improvement, Inadequate

Status of this document

This document was first published in November 2018. Please give feedback about errors, omissions and unfair judgements. The aim is to produce an evidence-based consensus of all those who care about child safety.

Feedback can be given by email (see https://www.wacm.org.uk/33.html) or via the "Comment or edit" button.

Notes on harms inflicted

  • Road casualties in Merseyside are poor compared to national averages, e.g. it is the worst police area for pedestrian casualties - see https://wacm.org.uk/7.html - and the UK averages for walking and cycling are poor compared to the best peforming European countries.
  • Obesity levels in Merseyside are worst than the national averages - see https://wacm.org.uk/72.html
  • Roughly 700 Merseyside people die each year from poor air quality - see https://wacm.org.uk/55.html

Details of public bodies assessed

UK Government:
(Theresa May and other ministers)
Funding failures
  • Most of the children's share of the roads budget is allocated not to the needs of children to walk and cycle safely, but to the convenience and safety of the better-off adults who own a motor vehicle.
  • Inadequate funding of enforcement or road safety laws - it should be a simple matter to fund enforcement from fines. The cowardice of the politicians and officials who are failing to do this is an abuse of power.
Legal failures
  • The national default speed limit for urban environments is too high - it should be 20mph (not 30mph).
  • It is currently legal for the locations of speed camera to be publicised, but it should be banned, as it is in other countries.
  • There is no system of presumed liability.
Road safety framework failures
  • The Government's reporting of road safety is misleading, claiming a good record, and ignoring the journeys that are not taken because the intimidation from motor vehicles prevents walking and cycling
  • There are no standards for highway authorities - children need a clear national Safe System approach to highway design
  • There is no inspection of highway authorities regarding child protection on the roads. Uncaring and incompetent councils can get away with doing nothing.

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority:
Steve Rotheram, Metro-Mayor of Liverpool City Region (LCR), and Liam Robinson, Chair of Merseytravel and Chair of LCR Transport Committee), and Merseyside Road Safety Partnership.
  • The current (2017) Liverpool City Region (LCR) road safety strategy contains an admirable target of reducing deaths and serious injuries from a total around 600 in 2016 to a total of 400 by 2020, but it contains no actions that will achieve this reduction. Effective measures exist for reducing road casualties, but the LCR Combined Authority made a decision not to adopt any.
  • Concerns about this 2017 road safety strategy from walking and cycling groups have not been dealt with adequately.
  • The Third Local Transport Plan for Merseyside of 2011 had a vision of "...where sustainable tavel is the option of choice", but neglible progress has been made towards this vision with regard to walking and cycling being safe and convenient.

Merseyside Councils:
Joe Anderson (Liverpool Council Mayor) and other council leaders
  • Liverpool City Councl has no road safety strategy
  • Wirral Council published a "Road Safety Plan" in 2018, but this contains no significant new actions, and so will not achieve anything.

Conservative and Labour Parties
  • Election slogans have not been translated into effective action: the Conservative party slogan of "a country that works for everyone" has been ignored in the transport decision-making by the UK Government, and the Labour party slogan of "For the Many, not the Few" has been ignored by the Merseyside council administrations. The needs of children are being ignored and priority is being given to the convenience and safety of car-drivers instead.
  • Neither the Labour nor the Conservative party have easily-accessible guidance on good policy-making, or good procedures for dealing with failing politicians in their own party.

National Police Chiefs' Council:
Anthony Bangham (national lead on roads policing)
  • The national police guidelines on speed limit enforcement are poor, particularly on 20mph limits - the current national guidelines are dated 2013, and were drafted by the Association of Chief Police Officers (which was dissolved in 2015), and so should have been updated by now. These guidelines treat 20mph speed limits in a different way to other speed limits, and set conditions on when the police will enforce them. So the police are deciding which laws they will enforce and which laws they will not. This is an unacceptable abuse of power, as they are acting outside their constitutional status.
  • The NPCC is failing to speak up about the lack of funding for enforcement of road safety laws. There is very poor compliance with many road safety laws, e.g. speeding, illegal parking, not giving way to pedestrians at side-roads, mobile phone use. This lawlessness particularly affects children. The police have a responsibility to tackle this, and if they need more funding, they should say so. An easy solution is for roads policing to be funded from the fines paid by motorist for breaking the law. The police should be asking for this clearly and repetedly.

Merseyside Police:
Andy Cooke (Chief Constable), Ian Critchley (Assistant Chief Constable) and Jane Kennedy (Police & Crime Commissioner)
  • Poor enforcement of speed limits and other laws
  • Not appealing for more funding e.g. from fines (as above for the National Police Chief's Council)
  • Merseyside Police officers are still parking vehicles illegally on pavements.

Merseyside Police have made some progress, as follows.
  • Road safety has been made one of the force's priorities
  • Jane Kennedy is advocating a Vision Zero approach to road safety.
  • Merseyside Police have taken some actions on pavement parking, although Merseyside Police drivers are still parking illeglly on pavements.

In many areas of policing, the attitudes of the Police to vulnerable groups has improved: cases of domestic abuse, sexual harrassment, and homophobic and racially motivated abuse are now taken seriously. But the attitude to the bullying and intimidation of vulnerable road users by some vehicle drivers, which is experienced on a daily basis, is still treated as trivial. Children are afraid to leave their homes becasue of the lawbreaking by a proportion of adult drivers. If it was the other way around, and adults were afraid to drive their motor vehicles because of lawless children, it would be swiftly dealth with. There is a bias in policing against the needs of children.

Company and private drivers in Merseyside
Lawlessness is almost the norm via:
  • Exceeding speed limits
  • Illegal parking on pavements
  • Not stopping at crossings
  • Not giving way at junctions
  • Illegal mobile phone use
  • Not slowing down near children.

NHS staff
There are no concerns in the care of road casualties or other forms of road harm - care is generally good or excellent, according to internationally recognised best practice. The contrast with the other agencies is stark.

Merseyside children
Sometimes children are blamed for the being hit by motor vehicles, e.g. for "failing to look". Even it is true to a child did not look for approaching vehicles, under the Safe System approach, the blame for the child being hit should go to the politicians and officials responsible for the design of the road layout, or the driver who failed to comply with the law. The system should not be designed on the basis that children will do exactly as they are told 100% of the time.

Merseyside citizens
The response to the uncaring incompetence shown by many of the agencies paid to protect children from road danger has been feeble. There are many avoidable deaths and much avoidable ill-health, but most people aware of the poor performance have done little, and it seems that there have been little in the way of protests and no arrests.

It is the most disadvantaged children who are suffering the most harm

There are advantages to child if their family owns one or more motor vehicles. However, many children are not in this position, and these are the ones who suffer most from road casualties, from the impaired mobility, and from the poor air quality from motor vehicles. There is a grave social injustice.

Other vulnerable groups suffering harm on Merseyside's roads

The harms from Merseyside's roads are not just inflicted on children. Other groups particularly affected are
  • adults with no access to a motor vehicle
  • people with disabilities

What is needed

Children need a culture of care from those responsible for their welfare. Decision makers should be asking themselves: what is the most that they can do to reduce the harm to chldren, not what is the least they can get away with.

Merseyside citizens need to ensure that there is a hostile environment for poor performance relating to the care of children on the roads.

Last updated: 25 Dec 2018