Road Safety - 60 mph? 40 mph? 20 mph? Safe or not?

Mar 07, 2019

Just who makes these decisions about speed limits? It’s strange isn’t it? We have a professional driving and motorcycling industry in the UK, yet, decisions about speed limits are taken by those that apparently have little or no knowledge of driver and rider behaviour. Their decisions seem to be led by emotion rather than facts, frequently led by some perceived popular opinion, and sometimes led by individuals who have found themselves in a position of power, with the obscure and unrelated position of being able to make decisions about road safety in their local areas. Something has to change before these decisions bring the country to a standstill or worse, increase avoidable pedestrian, cyclist and other fatalities. What then I wonder?

 

Serious misunderstandings about road safety
Road safety: Roads carry the traffic. Pavements carry the pedestrians. Where do the children learn and play? Politicians have lost sight and perspective of genuine road safety. It's time for change.

A number of circumstances in recent years immediately come to my mind about the serious misunderstandings that occur in relation to speed limits, personal responsibility and genuine concern for road safety. This is my view and experience, based on more than 30,000 hours of teaching on the roads. There are many tragedies and anything I say is entirely respectful of those but if we are to truly address road safety, the standards of motorcycle training, driver training, along with cyclist, driver, rider and pedestrian behaviour, we need to start changing our attitudes and changing very soon.

Politicians, mayors and cheap shots

We often hear of tragic situations where the families of individuals involved in terrible road traffic incidents are moved to campaign for a change in the speed limit on the relevant stretch of road. Sadly, the families of those who have lost someone seem to have nowhere to go except to campaign for these changes.

We say that politicians and mayors have let them down – persistent rallies about speed limits for political gains are merely paying a scant lip service to the real problems of road safety, and can be regarded really as no more than cheap shots with individual or political objectives. They have been sending the wrong messages about speed limits – creating the idea that traffic is the enemy and speed is the root cause of all collisions. This predominant viewpoint silences other very valid campaigns which could actually have a greater effect of reducing fatalities, even if they involve more input and a change in approach.

Politicians need to properly engage with professionals

Now, unless attitudes change, even more of the wrong measures will be put in place. We say that those in the positions of power should be engaging with professionals to find out what could really be done to make a change. In my 17 years in the industry, their consultation with those who teach, understand and deliver road safety is pitiful. They have shown that they just prefer to run with their own ideas irrespective of what they're being advised.

Could we reduce road casualties if we pressed for greater enforcement of the existing road traffic legislation – prosecuting people who are using ‘phones while driving (an act which puts motorcyclists and cyclists at a very high risk of being killed), or imposing more significant sentences on individuals who drive through red lights while under the influence of drink or drugs in the early hours of a Sunday morning, or seriously punish the just plain and simple reckless behaviour by those who think the laws don’t apply to them, whether on foot, driving or riding?

Where do the children play?

Let’s look at this from the sensitive perspective of genuine road safety for all those that use the roads and pavements. For the prevention of such future grief for other families, it’s really important to look at this dispassionately.

We question the availability of suitable facilities for children to learn to ride their bikes in a safe environment. Today’s pushbikes are a far cry from the 3 speed Sturmey Archer and there is nothing more exciting for youngsters to receive such a lovely gift from their adoring parents. There are also a lot more young cyclists. Could the manufacturers do more to assist the learning process for children? The multi-geared bikes now available are great but they take time to learn properly.

We say that children should have proper places to play, so that their learning and development does not need to take place by the side of a road. We say that more should be done to send effective messages to all road users, including pedestrians, about the Highway Code, and how road safety is an important personal responsibility for us all.

Young cyclists

To learn the gears whilst learning balance, steering and use of the brakes, is far too much for a young child to grasp without proper practice, and particularly dangerous near roads. We have designated sites for learning to ride geared motorcycles and adults find it hard enough to cope in the early stages of their CBT courses; let alone thrusting quite complex bikes into the hands of children who have yet to learn the true perception of speed and develop as well their co-ordination skills. Indeed, should they be on the roads at all before they’re 12 at least?

And, have we as a society, forgotten that not so long ago, we all cycled on the pavement no matter the fact that it's illegal and as such is highlighted in the [Highway Code?](https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code) This for the very reason that it was recognised a long, long time ago, that cyclists are a potential risk to themselves and everyone else whilst riding on a pavement. Are we, the adults, communicating this information sufficiently well at schools, in particular at primary schools?

In light of these points could the councils extend their commitment to providing properly constructed cycle paths to enable families to ride together safely, without carrying the fears of all parents as they watch their children develop the right cycling skills for their safety? Surely, these are far more productive and beneficial to society than punishing road users who may face a lifetime of grief for running over a child, or an adult for that matter.

Political gains at the expense of people's lives

We must do more and take proper account that reducing speed limits is not a satisfactory resolution to people’s safety on the roads. There are plenty of other ways, if only those in their privileged positions would take note of the professionals. We all know that banging our heads on the road at a speed of 40 mph or 60 mph will result in life changing injuries or death. Do we really need this explaining to us? Why then is such thinking being perpetrated that banging our heads on a road at a speed of 20 mph will be fine? It won’t be!

The tragedy I’ve highlighted shows only a glimpse of the hundreds of other ways to reduce casualties on the roads. Let’s start focusing on the real areas of safety, for everyone’s sake. It’s time for politicians and mayors to stop making political gain out of others’ grief and to stop perpetuating the idea that we’ll all be safe because a speed limit is lower.

Twenty is Plenty! ; THE misleading headline of the century

Where did the idea come from that being tossed up in the air and landing on a road with our heads is ok? Twenty is Plenty – a line rolled out for political gain. Twenty is Plenty – for what? To incur a significant injury or death. It’s time for change. We have to remember that roads carry the traffic, pavements carry the pedestrians. Let’s find somewhere safe for children to learn to ride their push bikes and to play.

We'll be safer with faster moving traffic

Let's get back to the fundamental basic principle of road safety that the best way to save lives is to separate moving vehicles from pedestrians and cyclists particularly. Roads are for traffic, pavements are for pedestrians. Consider this next point as a way of illustration that an arbitrary speed limit is generally a very flawed way of assessing safety for road users: if the traffic in the High Street was all moving at 50 mph, would you step out in front of it? Of course not. Road safety in this country has been lent to careless hands. The government needs to get control of local authorities who are intent on running with their own whims and misplaced speed limit campaigns. The Green Cross Code for children has all but disappeared. Why? Because the wrong people are now making decisions about the road safety for others.

We offer our sincere condolences to all those personally affected by very serious traffic incidents. We are doing what we can here to get the road safety message across. We can only hope that unusually, somebody is listening.