Are they all merchants!? Instead of making roads intrinsically safe, by replacing priority with equality, traffic authorities spend fortunes on retrospective “solutions” which are not solutions at all. Instead of integrating all modes in a mutually-tolerant mix, they segregate, corral, and put us at odds with each other! This links to an article outlining Boris’s plans for segregated cycle lanes in Westminster. I can see them rubbing their hands together as they contemplate more revenue from ENFORCEMENT of yet more counterproductive REGULATION!
Local press confirms Council rethink over pedestrianisation after hearing my Equality Streets presentation.
“We have to get away from the patronising view that the state knows better than the individual,” stated Chancellor, George Osborne, on 21 July 2014, “about how to spend its money.” He was referring to pensions reform, and is still a million miles away from applying that commonsense to traffic and road-user relationships.
It seems a mark of the relatively low esteem in which transport is held in this country that Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, retained his role in the recent reshuffle. He thinks most if not all accidents are caused by people using mobile phones. I actually heard him say that last year at a UN conference on road safety which I was invited to attend. What a buffoon, I thought, but bit my lip. The reason roads are dangerous is because they are subject to the dysfunctional rule of priority, which promotes neglect and licenses aggression. If we lived by equality (“After you”) instead of lived and died by priority (“Get out of my way!”), most of our road safety problems would disappear. McLoughlin is no different from his predecessors, including Philip Hammond, now Foreign Secretary. All transport ministers are as bad as each other, and that includes Labour ones. McLoughlin is wedded to HS2, the spawn of Labour transport minister, Lord Adonis. The RSA says northern transport connectivity should be prioritised. So does poet, Simon Armitage. Instead of another conduit to London, siphoning off work and encouraging Northerners to head for the capital, says Armitage, the £50-odd billion should be spent on lateral links between northeast and northwest, creating a humming northern hub of social and economic activity. In addition to that sensible re-allocation of funds, of course, is the potential in traffic system reform for efficiency savings that would pay for roadway redesign that expresses a social instead of a traffic engineering context, as well as a programme of re-education that would change the culture of the road from priority and hostility to equality and empathy.
The current traffic system, founded on the anti-social idea of priority, embodies a culture of violence and intimidation. It encourages intolerance and inappropriate speeds, denying infinite filtering opportunities and expressions of fellow feeling. Priority produces a “need” for expensive, vexatious regulation which, by treating symptoms instead of causes, amounts to an exercise in self-defeat. The solution is a simple, sociable one: equality, not priority, as a basis for road-user relationships. “After you,” instead of “Get out of my way!”
Simple-minded roads ministers are planning to quadruple fines for the fabricated crime of “speeding”. Presuming guilt, removing responsibility, outlawing discretion, and infantilising us by making us drive by numbers instead of harnessing our humanity and encouraging us to drive by context. Chop off a man’s hand for stealing a loaf. £10,000 fine or jail for doing 100 on a clear motorway, as Stephen Fry, Harriet Harman and countless other responsible adults have done with no risk to anyone. Speed doesn’t kill. It’s inappropriate speed that kills. Who is the better judge of appropriate speed? You and me at the time and the place, or limits fixed by absent regulators?
The current driving test is predicated on anti-social priority. Advice and practice stem from that odious premise, so the driving test unleashes cohorts of barbaric drivers onto our barbaric roads. The Highway Code says pedestrians have priority at junctions. This morning I was walking along a pavement and had started to cross a side road, following the broken double white lines, when l heard a car approaching from behind. I was aware of it slowing down, presumably to turn into the road that I was crossing. As an assertive ped, l wasn’t about to bow and scrape, so I kept going. Only when I heard him screech to a mini emergency stop did I turn and look into his startled face. He was one of the great unleashed: he was assuming priority, and assuming I would be intimidated. Although I was peeved at him and his ignorance, my real contempt is for a system which encourages him to think he owns the road, and that people on foot should defer to him and scatter. There is a grand canyon between the Highway Code and the assumed rules of the road that no authority – not the DfT, nor the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency), nor the DVLA or whoever is in charge of the inadequate driving test – thinks of bridging.
The Daily Mirror slams government cuts for axing school crossing patrols. A teacher warns that councils will “have blood on their hands”. As I pointed out in 2010 and 2011, if roads were designed for safety instead of danger, we wouldn’t “need” lollipop people, any more than we would “need” traffic lights or speed limits.
20mph campaigners’ hearts are in the right place, but the spirit is trumped by the letter. The Institute of Advanced Motorists states: “Good design and widespread consultation are the keys to the successful use of 20mph zones as a road safety tool, because limits that match the road environment enforce themselves.” This contorted logic reflects the tortuous traffic control system. Unpicked, the statement expresses the case against 20mph limits, or indeed any tools of regulation. It could be rewritten along these lines: Good design, re-education/culture change, and freedom from vexatious regulation make speed limits redundant, because speeds that match the context are self-regulating and as such, (infinitely) more appropriate.
Road safety minister, Robert Goodwill, is thinking of extending red time at traffic lights to allow pension-age pedestrians more time to cross the road. About 6 years ago I briefed him about my take on traffic lights. Disappointingly, he is intent on throwing good money after bad by restricting free will and freedom of movement with yet more regulation! How absurd is the current system which requires one set of road-users (people on foot), to ask permission of another set of road-users (drivers), by means of a signal, to cross the road? If we lived by equality (“After you”), instead of lived and died by priority (“Get out of my way!”), we could dispense with most traffic lights, those weapons of mass distraction, danger and delay. Moreover, Goodwill is shovelling millions into the Think! “campaign”, which basically pays for road signs saying Think! He fails to realise that instructional road signs are a sign of failure to design roads in a way that stimulates equality and empathy. Was our only astute transport minister Leslie Hore-Belisha? His beacon, introduced in 1934, acknowledged the human instinct for cooperation and stimulated interaction between road-users. The current crop of ministers, including Patrick McLoughlin (who laughably blames most traffic “accidents” on mobile phone use), continues to squander public money on systems of counterproductive control. They persist in treating the symptoms of our road safety problems, never the cause.