Response to Department for Transport. Call for Evidence. Cycling and Walking: Safety Review Reference DfT-2017-07

Submitted 31 May 2018

1. Do you have any suggestions on the way in which the current approach to development and maintenance of road signs and infrastructure impacts on the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users? How could it be improved?

There is considerable experience and evidence collected over the past 10 years on good infrastructure design, for example the London Design Guide. This has been adopted by Norwich City Council but the Highways Authority, Norfolk County Council, has recently approved works to a major roundabout on the A47 in Norwich without providing good, or indeed any comprehensive facilities for walking and cycling. National standards, requiring good quality and comprehensive facilities for safe walking and cycling for all new roads and modifications , would at a tiny fraction of the overall cost of these schemes, make a massive improvement. Although Highways England has recently published standards, these are not at present imposed on local highway authority schemes.

Norwich City Council through the Norwich Highways Agency Committee has made most of the urban area into a 20mph zone as part of its Cycling City Ambition projects and this should have a very positive impact on safety for both cyclists and pedestrians. Other initiatives which should be government led, are Home Zones and Cycle Streets for residential areas, but which need changes to regulations for designation and signage.

Norfolk County Council (the Highway Authority) pays lip service the benefits of walking and cycling in policy statements, for commuting, leisure and tourism. In practice they prioritise the private motor car. Examples can be found in the documents submitted by NCC to the to the Inquiry into the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, (renamed Broadland Northway A1270) and opened in April 2017. This is the most expensive road to be built in Norfolk but has only four safe crossings for pedestrians and cyclists each of which require a lengthy diversion.

In the evidence submitted to the Inquiry into the Norwich Northern Distributor Road, Norfolk County Council stated:

  • “Traffic increases on some rural and radial routes would result in some localised adverse impacts for NMUs due to potential increases in community severance. This is because some NMUs may be deterred from making their existing journeys where roads with traffic increases would need to be crossed…”
  • “In addition some slight increases in journey times for NMUs would be experienced as a result of the proposed junctions within the NDR, such as at Cromer Road. This may be particularly relevant to cyclists, where navigating junctions may deter some users from making their journeys.”
  • Table 1.17 “Permanent Impact of the NDR for the NMU Network”, NCC summarise the effects of the “new facilities and mitigation”. This is a subjective analysis by the designers of the scheme and if adjusted for bias is shows that most are only slightly beneficial, while about the same number are adverse The Inspectors raised questions about the lack of signalised crossings for NMUs on the NDR. NCC replied in detail claiming that the provision of signalised crossings was not cost-effective and would interrupt traffic flow.

In their report the Inspectors introduced the concept of “reasonable” to the issue of Cycle Proofing. This was endorsed by the Secretary of State in his decision letter (TWA 8/1/14 2 June 2015)

“The Secretary of State has considered the Examining Authorities assessment of the effects of the NDR project on non-motorised users at ER 4.473-485. With regard to the suitability of the provision that would be made for cyclists, the Secretary of State agrees with the Examining Authority that the applicant has taken a reasonable approach to cycle proofing the project (ER 480).”

In this context, the expression “reasonable” would include financial implications. We now know that the Examining Authority was misled about the financial implications of the project. The construction contract price was £104 million; it now stands at £172 million and it is expected to rise further when the final costs are calculated.

A small percentage of this cost over-run would have provided safe crossings and access for cyclists and pedestrians.

So far (29 May 2018) four cyclists and three motor-cyclists have been injured on the roundabouts. There have been numerous near misses reported on local Facebook pages and in the local newspaper (Eastern Evening News 2 Dec 2017). Several people have  commented that they will not attempt to cross the road with their cycle. These casualty figures will rise when the STATS 19 data is reconciled with NHS data later. Our view is that the design was for maximum speed and minimum cost with safety for NMUs coming a low third.

There have been many complaints on Facebook pages about the speed signs at the roundabouts on the Northern Distributor Road. The NDR is 70 mph and the signs restricting speeds to 50 mph are actually on the roundabouts and not before. A member of the Norwich Cycling Campaign experienced a near miss on the Fir Covert Road Roundabout when a car took the roundabout at excessive speed and drifted across the carriage way upon exiting the roundabout.

Although Cycle Proofing was flagged up, but never defined, as a national focus for infrastructure design, it is another example of a failure to set national standards. It seems that the Cycle Proofing Working Group has not met for several quarters. Can we assume that Cycle Proofing has been dropped from the Government agenda?

Norfolk County Council has responded in the local press to complaints about the safety of the NDR by stating that the road has passed two safety audits. It seems that members of the public cannot approach the safety team directly and all questions have to be directed through Norfolk County Council. This raises questions about the independence of the safety audit process. A member of Norwich Cycling Campaign used a FOI request to seek information on these safety audits. Very little information was supplied by Norfolk County Council except that a “warning cyclists” sign was to be removed as it was the only one on the new road.

It has been stated on the internet that that the manual produced by Highways England “INTERIM ADVICE NOTE 195/16 CYCLE TRAFFIC AND THE STRATEGIC ROAD NETWORK” will be incorporated into the DfT “Design Manual for Roads and Bridges”. However, what prevents local authorities such as Norfolk County Council applying the principal of “reasonableness” as referred to above, to circumvent the requirements set out in these publications?

2. Please set out any areas where you consider the laws or rules relating to road safety and their enforcement, with particular reference to cyclists and pedestrians, could be used to support the Government’s aim of improving cycling and walking safety while promoting more active travel.

There may be a case for bringing cycling offences into line with driving offences. However, the laws and rules relating to road safety need to reflect the fundamental difference between the potential hazard caused to other road users of driving a motor vehicle and riding a bicycle or walking. The same breach of a rule while driving a motor vehicle, such as driving through a red light, is potentially much more harmful than if carried out on a bicycle, or by a pedestrian jay walking. The potential victim in the latter two cases is most likely to be the rider or pedestrian and certainly much more likely to sustain serious injuries or worse. The relative vulnerability of the person committing the offence should be embodied in the law. If there is a collision between a motorist and a cyclist, the motorist should have to show, as a matter of course, that they were taking adequate care considering their greater potential to cause harm.

There is a similar case for cycling on footways when a pedestrian is injured, if the cyclist is not taking care or is riding dangerously. However, the evidence points to the dangers to pedestrians of driving on the footway.

According to the report, “Reported Road Casualties in Norfolk 2015, Norfolk County Council”, 44 pedestrians were injured in collisions with motor vehicles while on the footway or verge. There is no record in this publication of injuries to pedestrians as a result of collisions with cyclists while on the footway or verge.

Norwich Cycling Campaign notes the reference (Birkett 17.4) to “a historic offence aimed at carriage driving” and suggests that consideration should be given to amending or replacing the Highway Act 1835 (Local Government Act 1880 and subsequent legislation) which states; “bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes, and other similar machines are hereby declared to be carriages…”.  These laws prohibit the riding of a cycle on a footway (a path at the side of a carriageway). The situation has been complicated by the introduction of the term “pavement” in the Regulations brought into force 1st August 1999. The term “pavement” was not defined but it is used by engineers to mean the whole surfaced carriageway. Further complications were introduced by the letter by Mr Paul Boateng (Home Office Minister) offering advice on the application of the Regulations and a subsequent letter by Mr John Crozier (Home Office) 23 February 2004. As far as Norwich Cycling Campaign can find, motor vehicles have not been defined as “carriages”.

This question invites submissions on the “laws or rules relating to road safety and their enforcement”. Norwich Cycling Campaign would like to raise the issue of the role of the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts in protecting cyclists and pedestrians.

A representative of Norwich Cycling Campaign has attended Inquests on cyclists killed on Norfolk roads since 2012. The Inquests are important as evidence submitted may not have been heard in the criminal courts. The first concerns the death of Sam Crisp (3 May 2012). Sam died as a result of a collision with a car in Norwich – the driver was charged with speeding and fined. At the Inquest the Police Investigating Officer told the family that the Crown Prosecution Service would not proceed with a charge of causing death by dangerous driving or driving without due care and attention as no Jury or Magistrate in Norfolk would convict.

Paul Grenville (1 Dec 2013) was killed on the A140 as a result of a collision between several cars. The offending driver was fined – he had already surrendered his license. The driver had texted
several times before the collision that he had a hangover and could not play hockey (Eastern Daily Press 11 October 2014). No evidence was given at the inquest about drug or alcohol testing. There is research in the UK and the Netherlands which suggests that driving with a hangover is as dangerous as driving with access alcohol in the blood stream.

McKinney, A., Coyle, K., & Verster, J. (2012). Direct comparison of the cognitive effects of acute alcohol with the morning after a normal night’s drinking. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 27(3), 295-304. doi: 10.1002/hup.2225

Verster, J. C., Bervoets, A. C., de Klerk, S., Vreman, R. A., Olivier, B., Roth, T., & Brookhuis, K. A. (2014). Effects of alcohol hangover on simulated highway driving performance. Psychopharmacology, 231(15), 2999-3008. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3474-9

Cyril Harrison died on 21 January 2016 some months after being involved in a collision with a car at Cringleford near Norwich. Evidence was given at the Inquest that the driver, who had been driving at 45mph in a 30mph zone could not be prosecuted as “a speed repeater sign was missing” (Eastern Daily Press 4 August 2017).

Break (The national charity for road Crash victims) published an important report “Road Death Investigations- overlooked and underfunded” November 2017. Section 5, “Conclusions and calls”, has eleven action points: Norwich Cycling Campaign supports these action points. In addition to the above, Norwich Cycling Campaign would like to see road deaths treated with more rigour, as are rail and aircraft fatalities.

Our member who has attended inquests on cyclists on Norfolk has reported that the quality of the investigation varied considerably. In one case the Police Officer had no maps or diagrams of the collision site and had the position of a cycle path wrong. In another case a representative of Norfolk County Council was so ill-prepared that he had to borrow diagrams from the Police Investigating Office. His evidence was so poor that the Coroner had to write to Norfolk County Council to obtain information about the road signs and the changes that had been made.

A further example of prejudice by Norfolk Magistrates against cyclists is the report in the Eastern Daily Press, 28 July 2016: “Cyclists urged to stop at red lights after Norwich man is fined £200″. In addition the cyclist was ordered to pay £22 victim surcharge and £85 in court costs; a total of £307.

Motorists jumping red lights are fined between £50 and £100. Transport for London, Press Release 15 August 2013 states: ” Cyclists will be targeted for jumping red lights and issued with a £30 fine if caught doing so.”

3. Do you have any suggestions for improving the way road users are trained, with specific consideration to protecting cyclist and pedestrians?

Several charities and other organisations provide cycle awareness training for professional drivers. Cycle Training UK state on their website; “We deliver cycle safely seminars, training for HGV drivers and other professional drivers, and training for driving instructors. To date, we have training over 4,000 HGV drivers through Transport for London’s Safe Urban Driving scheme. We have developed a new half day FORS silver approved course ‘Pro-Driver’ this is suitable for van drivers, fleet and other professional drivers.”

Norwich Cycling Campaign strongly supports this type of training which should be mandatory.

The Times (24 May 2018) published an article “Crack Dealers, burglars and violent criminals driving taxis” highlighting the deficiencies in the licensing of drivers. A further article on 25 May reported that the Government is considering new legislation. Training for taxi drivers for safer driving, awareness of the law on cycle lanes and tracks and safe distance for overtaking cyclists would be very beneficial. Local licensing authorities could use their powers to encourage offenders to answer to them.

4. Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve road user education to help support more and safer walking and cycling?

A report published by DfT (Batsford, Reid et al; “Drivers perception of cyclists” TRL 549) came up with the a number of suggestions which included education of drivers and training for cyclists. The report also calls for further research into the behavioural response of drivers to frustrating conditions, including encounters with cyclists.

A paper by Mikkel M. Thorrisen, “Personality and Driving Behavior”, (University of Oslo 2013),notes that research on driver’s behaviour towards bicyclists is scarce.

In addition, three important reports, and their recommendations should be considered:

  • Christmas at al: Cycling, Safety and Sharing the Road: Qualitative Research with Cyclists and Other Road Users. Department for Transport September 2010.
  • Cycling UK: Cycling Safety; make it simple 2018. Page six contains a table listing 13 Key Recommendations.
  • House of Commons Transport Committee: “Cycling Safety – Third Report of Session 2014-15”, July 2014. This report contains 26 Conclusions and recommendations most of which are relevant to the current call for evidence.

The development of cycle friendly infrastructure in Norwich has gone hand in hand with increased numbers of people cycling and there is no doubt that as more people {who} cycle, the more awareness there is of what constitutes good driver behaviour. However, the most common reason given for not cycling is that the roads are too frightening.

Norfolk and Suffolk Police have carried out a number of ‘Close Pass’ events in Norwich. These initiatives had an educational objective, on the drivers who are caught passing too close to cyclists and on the media interest in the initiative. We wholeheartedly support this, as close passing is one of main causes of injuries to cyclists and the most commonly experienced threat on the road.

Working with schools to encourage walking and cycling to school and cycle training is too piecemeal. More resources are needed to make these priorities.

5. Do you have any suggestions on how Government policy on vehicles and equipment could improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, whilst continuing to promote more walking and cycling?

Technical developments in automatic sensors and speed control could be used to prevent speeding and close passing. Legislation concerning driverless vehicles must take into account the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Specific training for HGV, bus and taxi drivers is vital.

6. What can Government do to support better understanding and awareness of different types of road user in relation to cycle use in particular?

In the experience of our members and other cyclists we are in contact with, an important contribution to safety is courtesy which affects all road users.

Although off road cycle facilities are welcomed, the reality in most of our cities is that a mixture of cycle tracks, off-road routes and using the main highway is going to be the reality. In Norwich where the urban area is now mostly 20mph, cycling should be more comfortable and safer. Much of the problem behaviour perceived by non-cyclists arises from those cyclists who do not really consider themselves to be road users and therefore subject to the Highway Code, when riding a bicycle and this can be encouraged by emphasizing off road facilities. It is the same with shared use facilities in urban areas where cyclists and pedestrians are encouraged to mingle at the expense of pedestrian and cyclist comfort and the freedom of the visually impaired.

Additional note submitted 1 June 2018
Since our contribution was submitted two additional pieces of evidence have emerged from the charity Road Peace which you may like to consider.

A recently published video promoting safer construction industry vehicles.

Road injuries in the National Travel Survey: under-reporting and inequalities in injury risk

Aldred, R. Road injuries in the National Travel Survey: under-reporting and inequalities in injury risk. Project Report. Department of Planning and Transport, University of Westminster, London.