Safe driving and safe speed limits

There are 3 of the 18 recommendations grouped under this topic (click on links for the background and official Government response to each):

Introduction

Cycling is a safe activity –especially when compared to the health risks of physical inactivity.

Yet there are collisions and deaths on our roads. These are tragic and avoidable.

Fears over safety are a major barrier to getting more people cycling. Evidence from the UK and elsewhere show that places with high cycle use are the safest places to cycle: more cycling leads to safer cycling, and vice versa. More cycling and less motor traffic also creates safer streets for everyone else too. Heavy Goods vehicles are disproportionately involved in deaths and serious injuries, despite some excellent work by some freight organisations.

We support the widespread extension of 20mph speed limits as the default value on urban streets, with exceptions (whether higher or in some cases lower) being determined by positive decision at local level. We accept that roads used largely as the main conduits for through traffic will continue to have higher speed limits, and where this is decided, alternative cycle provision should be provided.

Although roads going through rural areas may not be suitable to a general approach such as this, there are many rural lanes where speed limits of 40mph or less are entirely justified on general safety grounds, and we support the successful implementation of these.

We are very concerned that the Police seem not to be interested in enforcing the law when it comes to speed limits, and a tacit acceptance that enforcement of such limits is mainly a matter of design and education, and outside the scope of ordinary policing, penalties, and courts. This undermines respect for the law, reduces its impact, and costs lives.

Similarly, the courts and justice system too often produce trivial sentences even when avoidable deaths and injuries are caused by drivers. This sends a damaging message. Equally, cyclists should of course obey the law when cycling.

Recommendations

9 » Extend 20 mph speed limits in towns, and consider 40mph limits on many rural lanes.

10 » Improve HGV safety by vehicle design, driver training, and mutual awareness with cyclists; promote rail freight and limit use of HGVs on the busiest urban streets at the busiest times, and use public sector projects to drive fleet improvements.

11 » Strengthen the enforcement of road traffic law, including speed limits, and ensuring that driving offences – especially those resulting in death or injury – are treated sufficiently seriously by police, prosecutors and judges.

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