Blog post: London pedestrian safety plan a step forward - at least

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tom PlattThe capital's new Pedestrian Safety Action Plan makes some important proposals - but there's still a hint of business as usual, says Tom our London manager.

Pedestrian casualties rarely receive the attention they deserve despite representing more than a third of all those killed or seriously injured on London’s streets (there were 838 in 2013 alone).

If the Mayor is serious about achieving his longer-term ambition of freeing London’s roads from death and serious injury, there will need to be a step-change in how London’s streets are designed and managed in order to prioritise the safety of pedestrians.

We are pleased, then, that the Mayor and TfL have acknowledged the need to take action by developing their first Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP).

Wait signalSafer streets for all

We have worked hard over the last 12 months as part of the PSAP steering group to influence the development of an action plan that would lead to a significant reduction in pedestrian casualties whilst creating a more attractive city in which to walk.

And I’m pleased the plan’s actions have come a long way from earlier drafts which in the large focused on ‘campaigns’ aimed at changing the behaviour of ‘high risk’ groups (although sadly some of this still remains), rather than making safer streets by tackling road danger at source.

Some of the better stuff to come out of the plan includes:

  • A commitment to develop new Pedestrian Design Guidance for London which has the potential to improve the quality for future street and public realm schemes (obviously it will need to be done well and be used by TfL and boroughs to have an impact).
  • A ‘town centre pedestrian safety pilot’ with the aim to deliver an integrated package of road safety measures in town centres which often suffer a relatively poor casualty record.
  • A trial of 20 mph limits on two stretches of the TLRN with a view to rolling out similar schemes elsewhere on the TLRN and a commitment to encourage London boroughs to deliver more 20 mph schemes.
  • To trial Intelligent Speed Assistance technology on a number of buses to improve compliance to speed limits (something that has a real potential and not only for buses).

Safety means casualty reduction

Sadly however the good bits of the plan are somewhat overshadowed by a lack of ambition and general vagueness across the actions that mean even the better ones feel a bit half-hearted.

We’re disappointed there remains no specific pedestrian casualty reduction target or a clear funding allocation which will make it difficult to assess whether promised investment to improve pedestrian safety is being made. 

The introduction of a ‘gold standard’ pedestrian crossing is a good case in point.

The potential to improve signalised crossings across London is huge. Yet the action commits only to produce a standard that ‘will look to include’ (as it happens, not very much) and fails to tackle really important elements like waiting times or the time given to cross. 

In summary, there’s too much ‘business as usual’ type stuff in there rather than the really ambitious ‘step change’ type actions with concrete outcomes we were hoping for.

So what’s next?

While the plan isn’t everything we hoped or asked for,  we’re convinced there’s a genuine desire within TfL and the boroughs to make London’s streets safer for pedestrians and we will continue to do all we can to ensure that those good actions within the plan (and even those left out) happen and that London becomes a safer place for everyone.

In the mean time, please download our response to the draft PSAP.