In an unexpected development at a meeting today of the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee’s inquiry on road safety Britain’s Transport Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP backed calls for more traffic police on the streets to protect cyclists and pedestrians. Up until now the official line has been non-commital on the need for extra traffic officers while at the same time stressing the deterrent value of traffic calming measures and speed cameras.
CTC , which represents the UK’s cyclists had earlier also called for speed limits and other rules of the road to be backed up by a reform of road traffic law. The organisation contends that the current distinction between ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ driving is hopelessly muddled and greater priority must be given to traffic policing to increase the likelihood that dangerous drivers will be caught and their offences properly investigated and prosecuted. Roger Gffen CTC’s National Campaigns and Policy Manager welcomed the minister’s remarks.
Less unexpectedly the Road Safety Minister reiterated his backing for increased use of 20mph speed limits in urban areas. Members of the committee were also supportive of the. The 20mph limit is backed by 70 organisations, including the CTC and, a claimed, 75% of the general public.
During the CTC’s evidence to the inquiry Roger Geffen called for the Government to set out a new vision for safe community streets to enable people to cycle and to feel comfortable letting their children cycle to school.
“Most people would prefer to live on a street where they could feel safe cycling and walking, or allowing their children to get out and about, instead of being cooped up indoors as car-dependent couch potatoes. If we are to encourage healthy and sustainable living, we must make sure the streets outside our front doors are safe and welcoming for all."
Besides speed policy, traffic law and enforcement, Roger Geffen identified three other priority areas for action: the long-overdue publication of new Government guidance on pedestrian and cycle-friendly street design – this was originally subject to consultation 4 years ago having being promised in 2002, the need for more action to improve vehicle safety to tackle the threats posed by goods vehicles and for research into the link between cycle training and both cyclist and driver safety.
The Government is expected to publish a new 10-year Road Safety Strategy next year, which will cover the decade from 2010 onwards. Consultation is due to begin later this year.