Vision Zero Failing But The Mayor Thinks Otherwise

Transport for London (TfL) have issued a press release on the progress in achieving “Vision Zero” – the plan to achieve zero deaths on London’s roads. See link below for the details. But the progress report makes it clear that since the launch of this initiative in 2018, progress has been negligible. The object of zero road deaths is never going to be achieved based on the reported data.

The chart above shows the trends in Killed and Seriously Injured (KSIs) in the last few years taken from the Vision Zero report. From 2013 to 2019 there was some minor improvement and in 2020 a big improvement for most transport modes probably due to reduced traffic from Covid lockdowns including more working from home. But there was also a rise in cyclist KSIs as the number cycling increased.

It is not at all clear that the policies promoted in Vision Zero are of any benefit at all, particularly the focus on lower speed limits. The latter includes more 20 mph limits and more enforcement by the police.

What is the reaction to the progress report? TfL proposes more 20 limits, more buses to be fitted with ISA to ensure they comply, and more resources for the Metropolitan Police to enable them to enforce up to one million offences by 2024/2025. Unfortunately this is all misconceived and won’t achieve the desired outcome because excess speed above the speed limit is a relatively minor contributory factor based on police reports.

See the most recent figures in the table below published by the DfT which shows exceeding the speed limit is only present as a factor in 7% of accidents and a lot of those accidents might be attributable to criminal behaviour of other kinds.

Spending large resources on speed limit setting and enforcement is arguably misconceived when if that same money was spent on road engineering or driver education there would be more impact on accident reduction.

It is interesting to see the individual London borough figures given on page 13 of the Progress Report. Those boroughs that have shown the biggest improvement in road safety since the 2005-2009 baseline are Kensington, Westminster, Bexley and Bromley while those with 20 limits and speed humps everywhere such as Lewisham are behind. That just shows that the boroughs with a more enlightened approach and less dogma such as Bromley have actually done better.

The Progress Report does contain some interesting comments on the problems of the increases in cycling, motorcycling (mainly for delivering goods), and illegal e-scooters which are contributing to rising casualty rates. It is also suggested that the increase in large SUVs is not helping.

But they don’t seem to be proposing any measures to halt the danger from e-scooters to the riders themselves and to pedestrians on pavements where they ride with abandon.

In summary the press release and the progress report are yet more missed opportunities to improve road safety in a substantial way in London.

Roger Lawson

Vision Zero press release: https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/safety-and-security/road-safety/vision-zero-for-london

Vision Zero action plan progress report: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/vision-zero-action-plan-progress-report-2021.pdf

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