Saturday, 22 September 2012

Reviewing TfL's road safety plan, Part 2: Which target?

This is the second post looking at Transport for London's draft road safety plan, which is out for consultation here until the 28 September. Whether you agree with the draft plan or not I encourage you to respond to the consultation: 2,805 people were recorded as killed or seriously injured on London's roads in 2011 alone, so this stuff matters.

In the first post I reviewed TfL's take on recent casualty trends in London, noting that the target to halve the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured ('KSI', in the jargon) on London's roads was missed, with the number of KSI falling by just18% compared to a 57% drop in overall casualties (see chart below from the last annual report).
TfL argued that this failure was due to the enormous growth in cycling over the same period. Which is largely true - but then why not set a target to reduce the rate of cycling casualties per trip or per kilometre cycled? As I mentioned earlier this month, TfL have recently calculated casualty rates per 100 million kilometres travelled by different modes in London, and the Department for Transport also do a similar calculation by region, so the information is available to monitor such a target. And according to the Road Danger Reduction Forum, TfL have said in the past that they intended to adopt rate-based casualty reduction targets to deal with this problem of absolute casualty targets being affected by changes in trip rates. Finally, the government's new road safety framework proposes rate-based casualty reduction targets at the national and local level (see p.72 here).

These are all good reasons to adopt a target to reduce the rate of cycling casualties per distance travelled, and similar targets for other modes. But TfL have decided against such a target; in fact they have decided against having any target of any kind to reduce cycling casualties. Instead, they propose a target to reduce the absolute number of all KSI road casualties by 40% by 2020 from the base period of 2005-09.

TfL describe this proposed target as 'challenging' (p. 26 of the plan), but when you look at their own chart it doesn't really seem all that challenging.
The number of serious or fatal road casualties in London fell by more than half in the nine years between 2001 and 2010, and reached a low of 2,805 in 2011. TfL are proposing to reduce it to 2,176 by 2020, which would be a reduction of 22% over the next nine years, comparatively a much slower rate of reduction.

So this proposed target sounds distinctly unchallenging, even if you assume, as I think TfL must be doing, that traffic starts growing strongly again during the period. Another partial explanation is offered on the same page, when TfL say that this target "is based on the assumption that the existing road safety programme continues, but does not include the effects of any new measures". In other words, TfL aren't including the effect of any improvements from the junction review or any attempts to 'Go Dutch' in terms of cycling infrastructure. Whether that is because they don't know what to expect from these policies, or know not to expect very much, is not made clear.

All this stuff about targets might seem like fairly irrelevant bureaucracy to some, but I think it does matter, because genuinely challenging targets with a high political priority attached do in practice lead to the re-allocation of resources, and because they can help to focus minds and change cultures within bureaucracies. TfL have recently given hints that they are genuinely changing their policies and practices to reflect a new focus on reducing road danger, but this draft road safety plan and the main target proposed don't seem to reflect any of that. I think if cycling is to get significantly safer in London then we need to focus TfL's minds on reducing the casualty rate, and the road safety plan is a good place to start with that. If you agree, write to them and say so before the 28th.

2 comments:

  1. Jim, you write that TfL propose a target to reduce the absolute number
    of all KSI road casualties by 40% by 2020 from the base period of
    2005-09. And then: "The number of serious or fatal road casualties in
    London fell by more than half in the nine years between 2001 and 2010,
    and reached a low of 2,805 in 2011." Surely this number includes all
    casualties, including slight?

    The problem with including slight
    injuries in the target - if that's what TfL are actually planning to do -
    is twofold. Firstly, what is a slight injury? One man's grazed knee is
    another man's broken collar bone, and yet both are slight injuries. I
    would also wish to draw your attention to the testimony of Steffen
    Rasmussen at the GLA's recent hearing, in which he noted a significant
    under-reporting of injuries by the police in Copenhagen. Secondly, if
    TfL are in fact seeking a reduction of all injuries, including slight,
    they could meet this target and yet still we could see a rise in the
    number of killed and seriously injured, which would obviously be a
    matter of much more concern. Accidents will happen, of course, and
    there's only so much that can be done to lessen them. But killed and
    seriously injured is another kettle of fish, and a great deal can be
    done to reduce these.

    Like you, I cannot understand why TfL are
    not adopting rate-based casualty reduction targets. If cycling keeps
    growing, it would surely be in their interest to do so. Also, most other
    countries use rate-based targets, so it enables much easier
    comparisons.

    What's happening, Jim? Are TfL planning a reduction on all injuries, or only on the number of killed and seriously injured?

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  2. Hi Simon,

    The 2,805 figure is definitely just the fatal and serious casualties. There were another 26,452 slight injuries recorded in 2011. TfL's casualty reduction target also refers to fatal or serious casualties only. I agree completely with what you say about slight injuries being the most open to mis- or under-reporting.

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