Healthy travel choices for all means everyone has options in how they travel for different journeys. It does not mean being forced to travel in a particular way.
Taking this approach would benefit everyone. For people who walk, wheel, cycle and use public transport (or those who want to) for some or all journeys, it would make travelling safer, more reliable, efficient and enjoyable. Whereas people who want or need to drive would benefit from less congestion on the roads and perhaps even an easier time finding parking.
This blog is the first in a series looking at the different benefits of having healthy travel choices. In this one, we’ll be looking at the impact it would have on road safety.
How safe are our roads?
There were 1,711 road deaths in the UK during 2022, up 10% from 2021.
Compared to 2019 (the last year unaffected by the pandemic), the number is down by 2%. However, the RAC has said the number of deaths in 2022 is “a chilling reminder that there remains so much work to be done to improve road safety in the UK”.
In 2021, 512 children aged seven or younger were killed or seriously injured on British roads, while six children in the same age group were killed and 159 seriously injured while travelling in cars.
Crashes, injuries and deaths should not be an inevitable consequence of travelling in the 21st century.
Vision Zero is a concept introduced by Sweden in 1997. It is not a fancy slogan, but a global movement to end traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by taking a systemic approach to road safety. The premise of this strategy is that road deaths and injuries are unacceptable and preventable.
Brake, the road safety charity in the UK, has been calling on the Government to adopt a Vision Zero approach to achieve safe and healthy mobility for all by 2040.
In contrast, while the UK Government set casualty reduction targets from 1983, in 2010 these targets were abandoned. While there was a reduction in death and injury during the decades with targets, since then the improvements have stalled and the number of road fatalities plateaued.
London, Leeds and Liverpool have joined numerous cities around the world to set a Vision Zero target, while in the summer Manchester stated their intention to do so too. In London, the Mayor’s Transport Strategy sets out how this will be achieved by 2041, while Liverpool and Leeds aim to get there by 2040.
Campaign group Action Vision Zero suggests that to reach these Vision Zero targets, there will need to be a systemic chance in how we plan our road networks. This will require speed reduction, junction and crossing improvements, safe cycling infrastructure, traffic reduction and safer vehicles. It will also need behavioural change and better enforcement.
Healthy travel choices would reduce road deaths
Investing in better public transport, cycle lanes, pavements and road junctions across the UK would give people safe alternatives to driving. This would help to reduce road deaths and crashes by reducing potential areas of conflict. It could also lead to fewer cars on the road, leading to wider benefits such as cleaner air and less noise pollution.
Fewer cars and HGVs
A study in 2015 by the University of Lancaster found that the London Congestion Charge resulted in “meaningful” reductions in traffic volumes, and also “substantial” and “significant” reductions in road accidents and deaths.
Provisional data shows that in 2022, 22 people were killed while cycling per million miles cycled, compared to an average of 29 during 2015-2019. This is a 24% reduction, and Cycling UK believe this could be due to updates to the Highway Code and other road safety measures introduced in 2021 and 2022.
Protected lanes would encourage more people to cycle as they would feel safer not having to do so mixed in with cars and HGVs on the road. In Copenhagen, segregated tracks have been widely introduced in the last 25 years and in that same period the risk of serious collision has reduced by 72% per cycled kilometre.
In 2022, 376 pedestrians were killed as a result of a road incident. Prioritising pedestrians, one of the more vulnerable groups of road users, would significantly reduce road deaths and injuries.
In Paris, a plan for pedestrians includes increasing pedestrianised spaces, providing more segregated walkways and allowing extra time at crossings. Better pavement maintenance has also been highlighted as important for improved safety. Walking already accounts for 65% of journeys in Paris and it is hoped that the new plan will increase this number, whilst reducing air pollution and fatalities.
“Walking is free, it’s emission-free, it’s noise-free, it’s good for your health and, as we see every time we pedestrianise, it’s also good for local businesses. So it’s a major priority – one that has been largely forgotten for decades in favour of the all-car – and one that we want to accelerate,” said Deputy Mayor David Belliard.
Increasing healthy travel choices is a win-win, as it has huge benefits but also costs so little, when compared to huge road schemes.
We are going to court to defend investment in healthy travel choices. Help us raise £40,000 for our judicial review of the cuts to active travel funding in England.
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