Central Government and local authorities need to “dramatically step up” road safety measures if levels of walking and cycling are to be increased without a rise in casualties, according to PACTS.
The claim comes in a report by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) published on the first anniversary (1 April) of the return to local government of responsibility for public health.
The report – Achieving Safety, Sustainability and Health Goals in Transport – comprises a study of expert opinion across road safety, sustainable transport and public health sectors. It concludes that while progress has been made in terms of working more closely together, much more is needed, particularly in the face of further government spending cuts.
The report says that concerns about obesity and poor air quality, the need to reduce carbon emissions and a heightened interest in cycling have boosted investment in local sustainable transport. At the same time, road safety funding cuts and reductions in the number of people killed or injured on the roads have led many local authorities to merge a reduced road safety staff with sustainable travel teams.
The report argues that “road safety needs to be pursued in a broad multi-sectoral context since it cuts across public health and sustainable transport (as well as occupational health and safety) agendas”. It goes on to suggest that more needs to be done “to make people feel safer so that the public health agenda and the public’s aspirations for safer mobility can be fulfilled”.
A summary of the report says: “Despite the statements of common policy objectives, there is still insufficient alignment between these sectors in practice to realise the substantial co-benefits of coordinated action.
“Public health and sustainable transport emphasise the health and environmental benefits of walking and cycling while the road safety profession is concerned that insufficient effort and investment are being made to prevent death and serious injury, and that increases in these vulnerable modes may lead to more casualties. Closer integration and synergy at national and local level is needed.
“While cycling has become the poster-boy of sustainable transport, walking lags behind, despite its much wider potential appeal and benefits. It is also a higher priority for casualty reduction.
“This report calls on the Government to show more leadership and joined-up working at national level and to recognise that the desired changes (healthier lifestyles, more active travel, safer road use) will require long-term planning and investment in physical infrastructure.
“It is imperative that the efforts to encourage walking and cycling are accompanied by safer infrastructure provision, effective speed management and improved road user training.”
The report also calls for the Departments of Transport and Health to jointly publish improved information about walking and cycling journeys and the health benefits and risks of the main travel modes. At local level it recommends a series of measures to improve cross-sector working and understanding.
David Davies, PACTS’ executive director, said: “The return of public health to local government has presented a tremendous opportunity to achieve better road safety, more active travel and healthier people and towns.
“Given the further cuts in local government spending that are on the way, working together may be the only way for these services to survive and deliver results.
“Government has set out policies to reduce casualties, encourage walking and cycling and tackle obesity. But they have not backed them with sufficient action or joined-up working in Whitehall.
“If safety is not improved through safer infrastructure provision, effective speed management, improved road user training and other measures, more walking and cycling may lead to more casualties on Britain’s roads.”
The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) is a registered charity and an associate Parliamentary Group. Its charitable objective is "to protect human life through the promotion of transport safety for the public benefit".