Speech

Safer streets for London

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Safer streets, safer vehicles and safer people means more choice, makes transport more efficient and makes London more liveable.

Stephen Hammond

Good morning everyone.

I’d like to thank Transport for London for inviting me this morning and Isabel for that kind introduction.

I’ve lived in London for most of my life and I am extremely proud to represent a London constituency in Parliament.

That’s why I was delighted to be invited to attend today (11 July 2014).

Because when you find out that 80% of the public space in the capital is comprised of our streets. You understand immediately why it is important they are as good as they can be.

They are needed by everyone.

The motorist.

The pedestrian.

The cyclist.

The citizen.

Road safety

I want London’s streets - and every street across this country - to be as safe as they can be. I’d like to pause for a moment to remember why that is so important.

Just a few weeks ago one of my constituents, a 91 year old man, sustained critical injuries in an accident while the crossing the road on his way to the shops.

I know his death was a tragic loss for many people - his friends and his family - and last year 48 children died and a further 1,932 were serious injured on Britain’s roads.

Each and every one of those accidents came at a terrible cost. Each and every life lost is one too many.

Thanks to the hard work of the people in this room, and many others across the country, Britain’s roads are much safer than they have ever been. They are among the safest in Europe. But we cannot - and will not - become complacent.

The reason fewer people are killed or injured overall on the road today is because we are seeing the effect of deliberate decisions that have been taken to make streets safer.

London’s streets are also getting safer but vulnerable road users are increasing proportion of casualties. So we can and will do more.

I’d like to highlight just a few of the steps we are taking.

Safer vehicles

First, safer vehicles.

We know that there is a particular problem with Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) and cyclists. HGVs account for 3% of traffic but were involved in 46% of cyclist deaths in London between 2008 and 2012.

In September 2013 we announced a taskforce with Transport for London to raise awareness of safety among HGV drivers and we are targeting enforcement action against potentially dangerous operators, drivers and vehicles. About three quarters of the lorries stopped by the Task Force have been found to be non-compliant, so drivers should be warned, we will not rest until these dangerous vehicles are taken off our roads.

We have also been working on lorry design.

From the 29 October 2014, all new goods vehicles will have to comply with revised European rules on sideguards which permit fewer exemptions than the current legislation. We are also proposing to require some of the goods vehicles that are currently exempted from having to use side guards to have to use them. And we will also consult soon about having some of the goods vehicles currently exempted from testing and operator licensing brought into the process.

Technical provisions for improvement to the driver’s view around their HGV have been agreed, but still require implementation in the EU. We want these to be in place as soon as possible.

And in Brussels, a town where treacle wading has long been the main sport, I am very pleased to say we have also been making progress with changes needed to the rules that govern the weight and dimension of vehicles to enable safer lorry designs. We are keen to see these new vehicle designs developed and implemented as soon as possible.

As ever, TfL have already been leading the way. The Standard for Construction Logistics: work-related road risk is improving road safety for cyclists and other vulnerable road users. I’m delighted Crossrail their supply chain have signed up and I want the department to keep a close eye on the evaluation that’s being undertaken. As this will be exactly the kind of persuasive evidence we can take back to the Commission.

I know TfL will be pressing ahead with plans for a new London wide safer lorry zone. And I want to reassure you that we will consider any necessary changes to the law required very carefully.

Safer people

Second, we are taking steps to make people safer.

We are cracking down on the minority of motorists who put people’s lives at risk by creating a new offence of ‘causing serious injury by dangerous driving’. We have also increased the fines for careless drivers to tackle poor driving skills and behaviour. And we are introducing new tests to help the police catch people who drive while under the influence of drugs.

One of the best ways to stop injuries on the roads is to prevent them through education.

That’s why we have fully supported the award winning Think campaign. And more than 1 million children have received bikeability training and I am very pleased that we have secured £24 million to train over half a million more.

We will be working closely with the boroughs to ensure London’s young people receive the training they need.

Safer streets

Third, we are also making our streets safer.

Cycling in London is increasingly popular.

Long may that continue. It helps keep you healthy, get around more quickly and it helps make our city more liveable.

We want to help encourage more people to get back on their bike.

TfL research shows that the number 1 reason people don’t cycle is that they don’t feel it is safe to do so. So we’ve got to change that perception.

That’s why we have more than doubled spending on cycling to £374 million between 2011 and 2015.

We have also recently consulted about revising the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions. We’re proposing to introduce new low-level signals for cyclists, new types of crossings and new designs of advanced stop line. These will help enable TfL to put into place the exciting plans announced this week to make the popular cycling route through Vauxhall safer.

We also plan to trial new dedicated cycle streets. This will give councils the opportunity to put cyclists on an equal footing with motorists on popular cycle routes by banning overtaking. Do let us know if you are interested in piloting these in your Borough.

The majority of collisions on London’s roads are on residential streets not trunk roads and 1 in 5 of these involves a driver that has exceeded the limit.

That’s why we have also cut the red tape that discouraged some local authorities from introducing 20 mile an hour limits and zones and I’m pleased to hear that many councils have been using these powers to respond to their residents’ concerns.

You might have seen recent reports that 20 mile an hour limits and zones are actually making the roads more dangerous.

According to the statistics, it’s also true that Jimmy Anderson has a higher Test batting average this year than Kevin Pietersen.

That’s because he’s had more opportunities to score runs.

And, similarly, the evidence is that there are more 20 mile an hour limits in operation. We want to understand what is happening behind the headline statistics. That’s why my department is conducting research into the issue. But it is equally important that we don’t leap to conclusions in the meantime.

Motorists/cyclists/pedestrians

The recent coverage on the 20 mile an hour limit also highlights another important point.

I started off by saying our streets need to work for everyone. But all too often that point gets lost in the debate.

These issues are portrayed as a zero sum game. For example, the BBC described cyclists as being at war with motorists. Or others claim that making our streets safer means making car and lorry journeys slower.

In the vast majority of instances, that’s simply not the case.

There are more vehicles than ever on our roads. Partly as a result, rush hour traffic in central London isn’t moving any faster than in the middle years of the last century.

So the truth is making more people feel safe enough to walk and cycle more actually cuts congestion for everyone else.

And the fact is most people who cycle, also drive a car. And the concerned parent who is terrified after their child had a near miss on the way home from school is also the careful driver that has slammed on the brakes after a child has suddenly stepped out from between two parked cars.

So we need to take care to explain carefully, that safer roads, safer vehicles and safer people - benefit everyone.

In conclusion, today’s event is not only about a very important topic.

It also highlights another important point.

Making our streets safer will not happen if we work alone. We’ll be publishing a Cycling and Walking plan over the summer that will set out our plans for the next ten years including how we intend to make the Prime Minister’s ambition for cycling a reality.

Like everyone here we want to see safer streets, safer vehicles and safer people in London.

It will give people more choice, make transport more efficient and make our capital more liveable.

For that to happen the Mayor, the boroughs, central government, business and the many others represented here will need to work together.

I look forward to our discussion about how we can best do so.

Thank you for listening.

Published 11 July 2014