A is not for Accident

Last Wednesday I attended a conference organised by the excellent road crash victim charity RoadPeace.  If you're not yet familiar with their work you should be - their website is here and you can follow them on Twitter @RoadPeace - and they've done some incredible work with the families and friends of cyclists who have died on our city's streets as well as campaigning outright for safer conditions on the roads for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.  This year's conference focussed on improving the post crash response in London and was well attended by key industry professionals such as members of the Metropolitan Police, the LCC and CTC, crash investigators, academics and solicitors.

As befits the core approach that RoadPeace takes towards road safety, the word 'accident' was banned from the conference - accidents are something which can not be prevented, 'one of those things', without blame or apparent cause - it's an injustice to the memory of those who die on our roads (be that through poor road design, inattentive or anti-social driving) and doesn't give road safety the attention which it deserves.  The conference started with the ground rule that every time someone mentioned the 'A' word they'd have to make a small donation to the charity - I'm trusting they collected a handsome sum by the end of the day!


Former Mayor of London and 2012 Mayoral hopeful Ken Livingstone gave the keynote address; "Fatalities on London's roads are down 60% over the past decade.  This is a huge achievement.  But things haven't changed everywhere... the likes of Jeremy Clarkson have propagated a cult of speed and there is a backlash against the road safety agenda; road cameras, pedestrian crossings, red lights are all under threat.  We have to be prepared to organise against this to protect the past decade's track record.  The question, ultimately, is whether you want to live in a human, liveable city or not." 

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson also shone the light on road safety with his address; "It is essential that we de do all that we can to protect those travelling on London's roads, and we take this responsibility very seriously... ..there are still too many people being killed and seriously injured on our roads today.  Road safety is non-negotiable and we will do all we can to protect those who use London's roads."

Strong words all round indeed, and encouraging in the extreme to hear such senior professionals recognizing road safety as a critical issue requiring top quality, well-financed resources.


The day played out with a series of talks highlighting how crashes are investigated, prosecuted and compensated with excellent speakers all from the top level of their industries.  Most exciting of all for me and perhaps with the most potential for avoiding road collisions in the future was the data presented by Richard Cuerden, of the Accident Research Group at TRL (Transport Research Laboratory).  His team's meticulous research of post-crash reports looks at the contributory factors leading up to the collisions and showed, in my eyes at least, that there can be no doubt that there is a strong correlation between speed and the severity of a collision and that 20mph should absolutely be the default speed limit for urban and residential areas.  Cycle campaigners; if you weren't at the conference on the day, you need to download this data now


Whilst of course it's tragic that an organisation like RoadPeace has to exist in the first place, I recognise that we do not live in a utopian world.  For all of the benefits that cars can bring to the individual, their collective impact on society and to those individuals who loose loved ones on the road is too high a price to pay.  As Sir Paul stated 'Road safety is non-negotiable'.  One fatality on our roads is one too many (and there have been 86 so far on London's roads this year)  So it's really encouraging, as a minority road user, to know that RoadPeace are on our side.

Also this week...

Many of you will follow that illustrious State-side cycling blogger BikeHugger - well, if you fancy rolling with him at one of his now infamous Mobile Socials he'll be here from the US for a pedal around London on September 28th - why not join him for a ride?
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1 comment:

Anne said...

Great report, Mark. It's worrying to me that any government would consider fundamental transportation safety an area for cutbacks, but I imagine it's happening in many places. I know that basics like road-surface maintenance are being let go where I live, and it takes no more than a single winter for an unmaintained road to become a safety hazard, particularly for bikes and feet.

It's encouraging to hear high-level politicos speaking out on these issues, and wonderful that someone is making the point about misuse of the word "accident".

Thanks again.