Improving road safety for pedestrians and cyclists in Great Britain

Improving road safety for pedestrians and cyclists in Great Britain


Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world in terms of road deaths and the
Department for Transport (the Department) is on track to achieve its overall road safety
targets for 2010. It is unacceptable though that, when compared internationally, Great
Britain’s record on pedestrian and, particularly, child pedestrian deaths per head of population is some way behind the best. There is nothing worse than a child’s death and we welcome the Department’s commitment to making it a priority to improve performance, but its approach must be one of zero tolerance for child deaths.

More generally, pedestrians and pedal cyclists (cyclists) are among the most vulnerable
road users. They have little or no physical protection and have a higher rate of fatality per
distance travelled than for any other mode of transport except for motorcyclists. In 2007, over 30,000 pedestrians and 16,000 cyclists were injured, with 646 pedestrians and 136 cyclists killed.

The Department leads the promotion of road safety with a budget of £36 million in 2008–09, although most of the measures to improve road safety are carried out by local highway authorities with whom it must work closely.

There is a perception that the anti-social behaviour of some cyclists increases their risks and makes other road users feel unsafe. There appears to be some misunderstanding among the public and some police as to the laws which apply to cyclists, for example, on cycling on the pavement. Deaths and serious injuries among cyclists have fallen overall since the mid 1990s, but they have risen by 11% since 2004 despite little change in the amount of cycling.

The Department uses data collected by the police to measure its performance on road safety but research suggests that serious injuries are under-recorded. To clarify this, the Department is taking steps to match hospital data with the police data.

The Department knows about the success of its own projects, but there are others it does not fund, for example in Scotland, which might also provide valuable lessons on the importance of speed cameras, signs and road humps. Other organisations can have a strong influence on road safety issues but this may not be their prime role or priority. The Department does not have an explicit strategy for working with them. It needs to improve the way in which it disseminates information to local highway authorities and other interested groups.

On the basis of a Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, we examined pedestrian and cyclist safety in Great Britain, the Department’s strategy and activities, its work with other organisations and data on road casualties.

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