By law, new electric cars travelling at 12mph or less must now emit warning sounds of their approach. Like traffic lights, this is an attempt to retrofix a man-made problem. If the zombies running the system made drivers responsible for safety, and made them, by law and through the driving test, defer to the vulnerable road-user, none of this expensive regulation would be necessary.
Reports of 83 year-old Irene Mayor, injured by a motorcyclist in a royal convoy, speak of an “accident”. Irene thought she could trust the traffic lights to guide her safely. But they led her into danger. Without lights, she would have been watching the road, and seen the convoy approaching. This is another case of the rules of the road setting the stage for an “accident”.
Central to the reforming agenda of Equality Streets is a shift in the balance of power in favour of the pedestrian, the child, the vulnerable road-user. Why should they wait for traffic to clear or lights to change, inhaling the baleful fumes from vehicles whose drivers are licensed to neglect them? Why should toddlers learn age-inappropriate road safety drill? Why is the onus on the child to beware the motorist? So ingrained are the delinquent rules of the road that a lorry driver who stopped to help an old lady cross the road makes ITV News! Malino Wilson, former soldier, immigrant from St Vincent in the Caribbean, is an enlightened gentleperson, something we could all be if the rules of the road promoted empathy instead of neglect.
A boy of 11 is killed trying to cross the road. This was no accident. The rules of the road, and nothing but the rules, are to blame. It’s another case of state-sponsored manslaughter, or child abuse. Shame on traffic officers, politicians, transport ministers and policymakers for subjecting vulnerable road-users to a lethal system, and failing to adopt reform!
Last night was a bad news night. Doyen of shared space, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, speaker, practitioner, father and friend, died of cancer on Sunday. He coined the term “shared space”, later preferring “low-speed environments”. Hans Monderman died aged only 62. Ben made it to just 63. He leaves a huge hole and an important legacy.
So the Duke has apologised for the “accident”. But it wasn’t an accident. It was an event contrived by the rules of the road, specifically, main road priority. The Duke was a victim, as were the others involved. If junctions were all-way give-ways, the “accident” would never have happened. So it’s not for the Duke to apologise, especially as he was further disabled by blinding sunlight. It’s for the DfT, along with local traffic authorities, traffic managers and successive Roads and Transport Ministers to apologise – for subjecting us to a lethal system. Of course they never will.
The government’s clean air strategy aims to halve harmful emissions by 2025. It plans to ban wood burning stoves and ammonia from farm fertilisers, but abdicates responsibility for vehicle emissions to Local Traffic Authorities. Equality on the roads is the solution. It transforms road safety and efficiency (as I’ve explained to numerous LTAs), it can save the public purse tens of billions, and it more than halves emissions, more or less immediately. How? By eliminating the wasteful stop-idle-restart drive cycle produced by traffic control.
On most things to do with street design and road-user relationships, Ben Hamilton-Baillie and I are of one mind, but we diverge on one point. He says street design alone can achieve the desired behaviour change – from war to peace, intolerance to civility – however you like to phrase it. A clash the other day between me on foot and a driver illustrates my call for a change in the rules of the road to precede or at least accompany changes in street design. It was at the entrance to a supermarket car park. The driver was coming out; I was walking across the gap between the pavements. I was there marginally first, so didn’t break my stride. He drove on, forcing me to stop, so I slapped his side window with the palm of my hand. He stopped in the middle of the road, remonstrating with me for hitting his car. I stood my ground, saying he was an oaf for not giving way. Jaw jutting forward, he got out and came at me. I said, “Are you going to hit me?” Meanwhile, traffic had stopped, bystanders were gaping, a bus was making a big deal of passing the obstruction … He said, “No, but you shouldn’t hit my car,” and backed off. As I often say in such situations, I said he was in the wrong, but I blamed him less than I blame the rules of the road which promote intimidation and neglect of vulnerable road-users. DfT, Jesse Norman, et al, take note.
This woman, a talented musician, was attacked outside her home. She was crossing the road with her child, when she was hit by a car. She managed to push the child to safety. She needed 21 stitches in her head. Would this “accident” have happened if equality, not priority, was the basic rule of the road, and if the onus for road safety was on the driver instead of the pedestrian? Not in a million years.