(Rigid) rules for fools

Should Notts Crime Commissioner, Caroline Henry, resign over her 5 “speeding” offences? No. The anonymous fools who make us drive by numbers instead of context should.

And the puerile numbers rule should be changed. A US study found that drivers who drive faster than average have the fewest accidents, yet they are the primary targets of speed enforcement.

Brake! would say that driving by context is a licence to drive without due care and attention. Wrong. It’s a bluerint for driving with true care and attention.

In March and May 2021, Henry was twice clocked doing 35 in a 30mph limit, twice doing 38, and once doing 40. How many times was she driving well below the limit? No record, of course.

Full story here.

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Censored again?

Last week I pitched the following to PM and Today. As usual, no response. Am I being censored, do they not read emails, or do they only respond to non-controversial material?

If as road-users, on foot or on wheels, we give way to others who are there first, i.e. if we take it in turns as in other walks of life, then, not only do we make common cause and enjoy the sociable interaction, we would be able to dispose of those weapons of mass distraction, danger and delay – traffic lights.

Do you have any idea how much that would save the public purse? Tens of billions. Annually (see this, even just the summary at the end).

Moreover, air quality would see a transformation. By making us stop when we could go, and making us continually stop and restart, traffic control extends journey times and maximises emissions.

By contrast, letting us filter at low speeds and low revs cuts exhaust emissions and equally toxic brake dust by over half, as I wrote in 2007.

So instead of squandering public fortunes on congestion charging, with its intrusion into our freedoms and our pockets, let us build on the Highway Code’s overdue change in priority in favour of the vulnerable, and wise up to the benefits that equality among all road-users can bring.

That the Code’s new hierarchy of road-users has received inadequate publicity was demonstrated when I was crossing the road yesterday and was honked at by a bus driver. I blame his ignorance less than the traffic control system which, perhaps most egregiously, has put the onus on the child to beware the driver, when it should be the other way round.

Today we heard that the Transport Select Committee wants to plug the looming £35bn tax hole from loss of vehicle tax through road charging. Still the high-cost, counterproductive ship of traffic control sails on, bizarrely ringfenced and unquestioned.

 

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Killer Roads?

How can an investigative documentary with the pedigree of Panorama fail so dismally in its investigation? One cliché after another followed as the programme sought to account for the trending increase in road “accidents”.

The key interviewee was HM Inspector of Constabulary, Matt Parr. He thinks the increase is due to cuts in roads policing and speed cameras.

Cliché clips showed priority traffic insisting on its artificial right-of-way, as it failed to show empathy for others trying to enter or cross. At a roundabout, a driver who arrived first and filtered left was honked at and tailgated by a driver who was already in the roundabout. We were invited to tut at the left turner, because most commentators and policymakers in the traffic field are incapable of thinking outside the box marked “priority” – priority for the main road over side roads and pedestrians (creating lethal conflict when there could be gentle merging in turn); priority to the right at roundabouts (producing queues on the roads less travelled and a “need” for traffic lights). For me, the clips were noteworthy for their failure to prompt questioning or analysis by the programme.

We met a young boy whose leg was horribly broken by a driver in a Cornish village. His mother called it an accident. No. Like most “accidents”, it was an event contrived by the vicious rules of the road, which put the onus on the child to beware the motorist when it should be the other way round!

We saw volunteers manning speed cameras – as if they were the answer. Speed doesn’t kill. It’s inappropriate speed, or speed in the wrong hands that can kill. Policy always treats symptoms, never the cause.

We met shocking-pink-haired campaigner Clare Mercer, whose son Jason was killed on the hard shoulder of a “smart” motorway. Did we meet the perpetrator(s) of this act of corporate manslaughter? Not on your nelly. The programme was content to whimper, and failed to name, shame or call policymakers to account.

Next the programme discussed another old chestnut: drink driving. Along with less roads policing and fewer working speed cameras, we learned there are fewer drink driving checks. The programme claimed  240 deaths a year are due to drink. As a percentage of 2000 deaths and 23,000 serious injuries, it’s appreciable, but by contrast, Westminster City Council’s safety audit reveals that 44% – nearly half – of personal injury accidents occur at traffic lights. None of the remaining 56% is examined through the lens of priority.

There is always a blame culture at work in the field of road safety. It’s always a road-user’s fault, never the fault of the rules or design of the road, or an inadequate driving test, or, above all, the fault of the architects of the dysfunctional system which costs lives and costs the earth – in both senses.

On his trip from Land’s End to John ‘O Groats, reporter Richard Bilton led us to the A82, portentously stating that with 90 deaths a year, it’s the UK’s most dangerous road. We learned about an accident in which an entire young family died. “Who is to blame?” asked an earnest Bilton, leaning in. “No-one,” said the grandmother. “It’s the road.” Clearly the loss was appalling, but how can you blame an inert thing – a road?

John Barrell of the Road Safety Foundation blamed the lack of speed cameras for “accidents” on the A82. How about better education? How about allowing only advanced drivers on the road? How about a driving test that teaches us to drive by context instead of numbers? None of that was discussed. Brake! would claim that driving by context is a licence to drive without due care and attention. No. It’s a blueprint for driving with true care and attention.

A prerequisite for a driving licence should be cycling proficiency and a rider’s licence. Then we wouldn’t need to be told to THINK BIKE! We’d know!

“We must have targets,” said usual suspect, Edmund King of the AA. “Without targets,” he said, “road safety won’t be a priority.” Bilge! Actually, Ed isn’t a bad guy, though rather conventional in his thinking. It’s possible he said more useful things which didn’t make it into this disappointing programme, misleadingly entitled, Killer Roads.

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Increase in road accidents is due to …

Panorama tonight is to feature commentators who blame the increase in road accidents on cuts in traffic police and speed cameras. Will they mention the inadequate driving test and counterproductive traffic regulation? Doubtful.

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London’s lethal air quality

The advice from Greenpeace and Sadiq Khan is to avoid wood-burning stoves and non-essential driving. They miss what is arguably the chief cause: coercive traffic control. By making us stop, idle and restart, endlessly, needlessly, the system maximises emissions, brake dust and fuel use. As I wrote in this 2007 piece, freedom to filter at low speeds and low revs would cut emissions by 75%. Could the main culprit, which costs lives and costs the earth, be the traffic control system itself?

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The cult of traffic control

On File on 4 (23.11.21), Dr Alexandra Stein of the Family Survival Trust, a charity which supports victims of cults and coercive control, defined cults as having “an authoritarian leadership group, an isolating and steeply hierarchical structure, an absolute belief system, and [using] brainwashing. The outcome is that you have controllable and exploitable followers.” – The parallels with our coercive traffic control system are striking.

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No surprise

As well as damaging heart, lungs, bloodstream and brain, exhaust pollution also affects mental health. Guardian coverage here. The research was led by Ioannis Bakolis of King’s College, London.

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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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