Safety last

Safety features in cars are an admission that collisions are inevitable and conflict is the norm. But if roads were designed for coexistence instead of competition, and we had a worthwhile driving test, conflict would disappear and we’d go without fear. By making roads inherently dangerous, and toying with retrospective safety measures, the current system puts safety last.

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Am I being censored?

Every so often, I pitch stuff to among others The Telegraph, Guardian, Today Programme and Newsnight, most recently as follows: “No alternative to tax increases to fund social care? Oh yes there is. Tens of billions go on traffic control that fails to keep us safe, contributes to congestion, and maximises emissions. Bizarrely ringfenced, the high-cost traffic control industry escapes scrutiny partly because we’re brainwashed into thinking we need its interventions to keep traffic moving and keep us safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. This piece details the vast potential savings, and manifold other benefits, that system reform would bring.” The editors, some of whom I know by name, don’t even reply, let alone give me column space or airtime. Most have published me in the past. Does non-publication of stonking ideas amount to censorship?

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Grotesque misapplication of resources

There are countless road design and policy improvements that would save lives, time and money, but transport departments and traffic authorities fixate on counterproductive control and racketeering enforcement at vast cost to our well-being.

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Crying Wolf

Rounding the first hairpin on the way down to Combe Martin, I saw a black Audi A1 crashed into the side of the gorge. Three guys were standing in semi-shock, one on his phone. Front end was trashed, bootlid up, showing neatly stored luggage in the boot. A holiday cut short before it had begun. I wanted to stop, but you can’t on those bends. As I drove on, I thought, idiots, for taking the bend too fast!  Then I thought, the arrow <<< warning signs on the approach are pretty clear, but those arrow signs are common – you see them on innocuous bends too. If traffic authorities cry wolf elsewhere, they should put special warning signs at such unusually steep bends, e.g. SLOW! or DANGER! on the road itself. Why not make better use of road surfaces to communicate? OK, some of the blame lies with the young male driver (though he will get it all). But some lies with policymakers for an inadequate driving test which unleashes ill-equipped drivers on to the roads. And undoubtedly blame lies with the DfT and traffic authorities for failing to sign and design roads for optimum safety, although of course they will get away scot-free.

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Put away my pen?

Is my work done? With the announcement that the DfT is planning to introduce a new hierarchy of road-users (which I’ve proposed for years, and briefed four Roads Ministers on), with vulnerable users at the top, and the mightiest at the bottom, maybe it is. Then again, maybe it isn’t. The new hierarchy only seems to apply at junctions. There is nothing about equality or merge-in-turn for all traffic at all junctions (and along streets for that matter); nothing about scrapping most traffic lights, those weapons of mass distraction, danger and delay. And I’ve yet to hear anything about reforming the driving test, or the state-sponsored extortion racket otherwise known as speeding control.

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Press priorities

The news that the Brazilian rainforest now emits 20% more CO2 than it absorbs brings perspective to the fuss over plastic bags. A positive drop in the ocean of planetary destruction may be better than nothing, but it’s bizarre that the idea of cutting exhaust emissions and brake dust in half by letting cars filter gently at low speeds and low revs (and brings a host of other benefits, above all true road safety), gets no coverage at all, despite innumerable pitches to TV, radio and the Press.

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Post Office bad; traffic system diabolical

The scandal of the Post Office’s Horizon system has been called the biggest miscarriage of justice in our peacetime history. It’s bad, but nothing like as bad as the traffic control and enforcement system which has been causing untold injustice and harm for generations.

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Commissioning scandal?

A TV documentary exposes pervasive racism and “apartheid in death” which meant that 115,000+ non-white troops who laid down their lives in WW1 were dumped in unmarked graves. It makes headline news and prompts The War Graves Commission to apologise for not commemorating them in the same way as white troops. 

The world recognises genocide against Jews, Native Americans, Armenians, Rohingya. Yet a vast army of innocents who die and continue to die in peacetime on the altar of malign, misguided traffic policy go unremarked. It’s now 21 years since I started pitching for a TV commission to expose the scandal. The failure of broadcast commissioners to back the project seems to me a scandal in itself.
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Demands for a public inquiry

Michael Rosen is demanding a public enquiry into the government’s handling of Covid-19. “We desperately need an inquiry into how and why this lethal idea [alleged experimenting with herd immunity without vaccination] was taken seriously. We owe it to the dead and injured and we must learn from such a terrible mistake.”

His words apply equally to this campaign. An inquiry is desperately overdue as to why dysfunctional public policy, pursued over the decades by transport ministers and traffic managers, is still being allowed to cause untold injustice and harm.

 

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UK law-breaking on pollution

Transport Network reports that the UK has “systematically and persistently” broken legal limits on dangerous air pollution since 2010. So finds the European Court of Justice. Of course the UK government has been guilty of this for several decades. They have got away with it because most exhaust fumes are invisible.

Katie Nield of ClientEarth said: “The Government has been dragging its feet for too long on air pollution, downplaying the problem and passing the buck. Clean Air Zones are the solution, alongside support for the move to cleaner forms of transport. While authorities delay getting the most polluting vehicles out of our towns, lives are being ruined by toxic air.”

The quickest win? Replace priority with equality. This would avoid the “need” for most traffic lights, which multiply emissions at least fourfold by making vehicles continually stop and restart, often needlessly.

 

 

 

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