Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Road Safety messengers have to change their spots

It was the easiest thing in the world for a Road Safety Officer to blag a pile of high viz landfill from a company that realised spending 3s 6d on tat is cheaper than spending proper money sorting out their drivers and vehicles, and it fulfilled their role as a cheap sop to politicians who couldn't care less for people walking and cycling.

But those days need to be put behind us. In London, at least, the active traveller  should absolutely not need to kowtow to the motorist.

Let's remind ourselves for the umpteenth time why:
1) 60% of London car journeys only have the driver in the car, squandering the capacity of valuable road space. It's a dumb way to move lots of people around, especially when half of all car journeys in London are under 3kms - a distance so easy to cycle or walk for the vast majority.

2) A third of men aged 35 to 65 are too fat to be able to see their penis. They need to build exercise into their daily routine, easiest done by travelling. (Apart from not being to see their best friend, they're more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease and cancer).

3) 6 out of 10 London households don't have a car, and getting on for half of outer London households don't either.

4) Cars pump out CO2 and exhaust emissions. It's bad for the planet and bad for us - there'll be 50,000 premature deaths due to poor air quality this year and each year we continue.

5) motor vehicles have a shudderingly high amount of kinetic energy compared to the pedestrian or cyclist, and a driver therefore has a hugely disproportionate likelihood to cause serious injury or death.

Okay, enough already. It's blindingly obvious that promoting walking and cycling is the way to go for urban trips, and we're not going to achieve that if we take every opportunity to portray cycling as an incredibly dangerous activity.

I mean, look at this recent image of training for riding on local streets, published in the Western Gazette - does it encourage parents to let their children cycle around their neighbourhood?

By all means take sensible measures to have cyclists use lights as nights. For example, like the Germans historically, you ensure lights are built into bicycles, with dynamo lighting, so they're always present, in the right place, and reliable.

Control the speeds and access of motor vehicles. Adopt the Dutch method of sustainable safety, based on the proven principal that a 21 year old male is a nutter for reasons well beyond their own control.

And focus your road safety attention on the vehicles with the greater kinetic energy.

And if you watch this you'll see why I went on this rant this evening. A really good beginning for change would be for the BBC and other media to agree a code of conduct that ensures road safety messages are not at the expense of promoting active travel.

If you want to read more I suggest you start with the Road Danger Reduction Forum