This article, written by Cllr Amy Foster, vice-chair of the London Road Safety Council, was first published by Local Government First.
We know that decarbonising transport is critical to achieving net zero, but it is imperative that we do not overlook the need for safer roads as we work towards a sustainable future.
Perceptions and realities of road danger remain a significant barrier to realising sustainable development ambitions.
Greener Transport Solutions, a not-for-profit organisation, has estimated that there needs to be a 25 per cent reduction in the number of miles driven on the UK’s roads for us to reach our net-zero targets – yet, each year, nearly 30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads.
I recall the horror I experienced when a fellow, newly qualified teacher in Southwark told me how their school community had been traumatised following the death of one of their reception children on the way home from school, only yards from the school gate. The child lived on a local social housing estate and was from a migrant family.
This is just one example of the humanity behind the data – data that shows that our most marginalised communities, and particularly children from these groups, are most at risk.
However, as local authorities, we have considerable power to reduce road traffic fatalities in our communities by:
- designing for people, not vehicles, and using data to target disadvantaged communities and those most vulnerable to road danger
- targeting those most likely to develop dangerous driving behaviours with education programmes – for example, young, newly qualified drivers and delivery riders
- working with partners to break down the silos that can exist between public health, planning and transport teams
- lobbying for legislative changes to deter repeat offenders through highways policing, zero-tolerance approaches to drug driving, and speeding fines linked to income.
There is no single solution. It is only by implementing a suite of measures that explicitly targets the real and perceived dangers communities face when walking and cycling that we will be able to deliver the scale of change needed to achieve our net-zero – and public health – ambitions.
06 February 2023