Understanding attitudes to priorities at side road junctions

A b s t r a c t
Junctions are places of interaction and hence conflict for all road users. Two thirds of all
collisions in built up areas occur at junctions, with pedestrians and cyclists being most
at risk.
The aim of the research is to investigate the attitudes to change, and likely behaviour at
junctions, of all types of road users, were a general and unambiguous duty to ‘give way on turning’ to be introduced in the UK context. Q-methodology was used because it is good at capturing and describing divergent views and also consensus.
Q-mode factor analysis was used and revealed five groups with common perspectives, as
follows: optimistic experienced drivers, pessimistic regular cyclists, realistic multi-modals, altruistic pedestrians and the pragmatic sustainably mobile. Differences between groups centred on which road user types should be the prime focus of junction improvements, the relative importance of safety and time saving, and the amount of effort required to implement change. There was a strong consensus between the groups that no level of injury and death at road junctions is acceptable, and that regulation changes should be made. Funding for awareness raising, and supporting any regulation change with concomitant design changes to the physical layout of junctions is also important.
There is a consistency of opinion across all groups of road users that the lack of alignment between design and regulation, and lack of compliance with the regulations are not acceptable. Each grouping of respondents thought that it is appropriate to make junctions safe for all, and more attractive and convenient for those that are currently the most at risk. There are practical changes that policy makers and practitioners could and should make. Change in regulations could be undertaken, but it would need to be supported by the following: public awareness raising campaigns; infrastructure design changes; funding; and enforcement.

© 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

You can read the full article here: https://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S136984781830809X

junction

(Picture from Rule 170 of the Highway code: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/using-the-road-159-to-203)

Don’t cross the line!

tape

For many years I worked in international development and travelled the world evaluating long-term development programmes, While my children were still at primary school I visited a school in Vietnam. In the middle of the area of baked mud that served as a playground there was some yellow and black plastic tape fluttering in the wind. I asked what it was and was told that the cordoned off area was still mined (from the Vietnam/US war) and the tape was a warning to the children not to cross the line. It worked and the children played happily around it. I pondered at the time how that would work in the UK if children were told not to cross the line….

More recently my work, research and attention has returned to the UK and particularly to urban streets. It is interesting to note that our regulations and and driver behaviour assumes that pedestrians will not suddenly step into the carriageway, but will compliantly remain on the footway, that section of the highway for their exclusive use. Those pedestrians will include infant school children like those in Vietnam and our society trusts them to not cross the imaginary line, because if they do death is a matter of centimetres away. Cars pass at 20mph if they are fortunate, 30mph is more likely and in the suburbs or villages it could be 40mph or even 50mph. One breach of the rule will almost certainly be fatal, but we see it as an acceptable risk.

Not only are there the risks from being hit at speed, but we know that driver perception is impaired by speed as this diagram from ITDP shows (click for the full free resource):

driver perception2

So why is it acceptable to drive at a speed )nopt necessarily breaking any speed limit) and in a way that assumes that no one will step out across the imaginary line? People get distracted and children occasionally fail to follow instructions. We need to change our perception of streets. To do so is multifaceted as it involves speed, design and changing the norms of behaviour. At 50kph/30mph the focus is the carriageway & at 20kph/12mph it is the whole street. If we were to follow the example of Belgium, France, Switzerland and Luxembourg and adopt a “Street Use Code”  that would help.

To end with, another example. Health and Safety laws (HSE 1998, section 11) would not allow glass and metal objects weighing a tonne and moving at more than 10m/s, with exposed moving parts to pass within a metre of unprotected workers. So why is it an accepted norm to allow this scenario thousands of times a day? In our world the pedestrians are not all responsible adults, but include distracted five year olds and unaccompanied eight year olds. So perhaps the Vietnamese red and white tape is more than enough protection after all. I have never heard of a Vietnamese school child being killed in a playground where the location of the landmines was clearly marked. By contrast there are daily cases of children being killed and seriously injured on our roads.

Tackling bad cycling and driving through regulation changes

The UK government is currently carrying out a cycling and walking investment strategy safety review, including a consultation on whether to introduce new cycling offences including the offence of causing death by dangerous cycling. Some may wonder what a cyclist would have to do in order to cycle dangerously in the light of cases where motorists are cleared of dangerous driving. In a recent case in Brecon killing someone while driving on the wrong side of the road after texting was not deemed to be dangerous.

If drivers are convicted of a driving offence they may be banned from driving. Minimum driving disqualification periods currently apply under the Road Traffic Offenders Act (1988): 2 years for causing death or serious injury, 1 year for
causing death by careless driving. Should new cycling offences ban cyclists from cycling? This is not a straight forward question and might lead to unintended consequences. Currently drivers are banned from driving, not from going in a car (as a passenger). Would a ban from cycling mean that cyclists could not be a rear rider on a tandem? That would not make sense. It would also not make sense if a cyclist was banned from riding and so turned to driving as a result which is inherently more dangerous. There is some indication that banned drivers turn to cycling.

So returning to the case in hand, should new laws be introduced such as causing death by dangerous cycling?  I think that since the introduction of the Road traffic Act (1956) and the development of road traffic regulations separate from other civil and criminal laws there has been a proliferation of different offences, but rather than increase convictions rates each legal amendment has resulted in the penalties for convicted drivers lessening and the likelihood of drivers being found guilty decreasing. Why mimic a set of new rules for cycling on ones that don’t work effectively for driving? The whole area (including driving) needs to be reviewed.

 

One problem with the current system is that most jurors, judges and police
officers are drivers that can have a level of sympathy with drivers. The same will not be true of cyclists while it remains a niche activity in the UK. So there could potentially be some inconsistencies for sentences between driving and cycling offences as a result. Both for cycling and driving it currently makes little sense that dangerous driving/riding (and lesser offences) are not treated as harshly if no-one is killed or injured as a result. It would make more sense to target the law at bad cycling and driving to improve the safety of all road users rather than focusing on the few that result in injury and death. Let us help to stamp out bad cycling and driving with the help of any proposed changes in regulation.

 

What are you – automobyl carnivore or actimobyl vegan?

When I was born people typically bought a car as soon as they could afford one as it seemed to be the easiest way of getting around. At the time more people used public transport to get to work than commuted by car, which was still an aspiration for the majority. Similarly, people ate what they liked with little thought to either the planet or their health. Times have changed, and the global population has more than doubled to over 7 billion in that time. We now know that the way most of us live is not sustainable and how we get around and what we eat is contributing to climate change, pollution and poor health. So am I going to stick my head in the sand and be an automobyl* carnivore, make an effort and be a multimobyl reducetarian, or go the whole hog (perhaps a bad metaphor) and become and actimobyl vegan?journey to work

[Note this table has been compiled from two different data sources and using different methods. 1890-1999, data was sourced from 12,439 journeys to work in 1,834 life histories; statistics are calculated for the decade in which a particular journey to work started (Pooley and Turnbull, 2000); 2002-15 uses Department of Transport data (2017)]

*automobyl – someone whose default mode of transport is a private motor vehicle

omnimobyle – someone who uses different modes of transport, but still frequently uses a private motor vehicle

multimobyl – someone who uses different modes of transport and tries to limit or ration their use of private motor vehicles

sustamobyl – someone who only walks, cycles or uses public transport to get around

actimobyl – someone who only gets around under their own steam (eg walking or cycling)

Can our cities get back in shape?

Our cities are out of shape. They have become bloated. The congested city slows down and comes almost to a standstill. It chokes and splutters, having difficulty breathing. It is a growing epidemic like obesity. Some of the causes are in the genes that have been dealt; the distance between the buildings is not going to change. However, most of it is down to lifestyle choices. The city could be fit and healthy, but we have collectively chosen a city that does not function effectively. We have chosen to use and allocate space and priority in ways that mean that at times we can hardly move. Very few are content with the status quo. Who wouldn’t want an end to congestion? Who wouldn’t want healthy streets that were pleasant to move through or linger in? There is a catch though. For the city to change, I must change. If I want the city to flow, to breath, then I need to give up some personal freedom for the benefit of all. I may have to give up the right to drive alone, anywhere, at any time. I may need to be more active, more often, in the choices I make to get around. That won’t be easy, and getting healthy won’t be quick, but it could mean that the city can work for everyone. Anyone could walk anywhere at any time in pleasant surroundings. Anyone could get anywhere quickly and on time using the public transport network. Anyone could cycle anywhere at speed and in safety. Everyone will be able to access their homes by car if they chose. Deliveries will be possible to all businesses and homes, with time and other restrictions as required. The remaining capacity could be allocated to other private vehicle journeys. Look at the turn around in Copenhagen over the last 20 years. The Danish capital was unfit then and everyone was unhappy and now it has been transformed (figure from Bristol’s Draft Transport Strategy  showing people unhappy with the level of congestion). What is stopping your city doing the same?

Congestion

Bristol’s transport Strategy Consultation

You can have your say on the strategy until 2nd November 2018:

https://bristol.citizenspace.com/growth-regeneration/bristol-transport-strategy/

It is positive, but in my opinion does not go far enough. You can read my thoughts below.

Something radical needs to happen

I am broadly supportive of the strategy. However, I have some reservations. There seems to be a great reluctance to address the issue of over use of single occupancy vehicles head on. The strategy is clear that something radical needs to happen and yet it lacks that radical cutting edge. Many people who currently drive alone will have to change modes, just to retain the current unacceptable levels of congestion (due to planned growth to 2036). Even that assumes that nothing else changes, but if more road space is allocated to walking, cycling and buses then even greater reductions in driving alone would need to be made. Some potentially unpopular measures (eg road charging and parking levy) are proposed, but combined these would not yield a big enough reduction in private car use to keep the status quo (pp71-72).

Many people who currently drive alone will have to change modes, just to retain the current unacceptable levels of congestion

 

Unapologetic about benefiting the most deprived

The strategy needs to be up front with the fact that the needed changes will be unpopular with many of those that will have to leave their cars and change modes. The strategy fails to address this head on and is even apologetic to this group (the minority on some of the corridor routes such as Gloucester Road, p61). The strategy needs to be unapologetic that it is going to propose radical solutions that will benefit the ‘most deprived’, most of whom walk, bus or cycle to work and challenge the current mode of the ‘most privileged’ who mainly drive to work but can afford other options (p26). We need a proudly more equitable city. If BCC is going to spend £7million a year to maintain the road network (p33) then why not unashamedly turn more of that network over to walking, cycling and public transport, vastly increasing the highways’ capacity and vastly reducing the wear, thereby saving money and benefiting ALL and not just a privileged minority? Why not shout out loud that the strategy explicitly aims to eliminate many of the 300 early deaths caused by pollution in the city (p43)? The strategy should proudly provide a solution for low paid shift workers in the city to not feel they cannot afford not to have a car if they want a job, especially in places like Avonmouth (p46); low paid, part-time and shift workers pay disproportionally more for their transport to work and have fewer options. If they are forced to own a car then their low wages are drained further. The strategy should be unashamed to seek to eliminate road deaths and minimise casualties. Already the strategy mentions that walkers and cyclists are most at risk, accounting for 70% of the 135 injuries on the Gloucester Road over a 3-year period (p61), despite representing only 19% of users.

turn more of the network over to walking, cycling and public transport, vastly increasing the highways’ capacity and vastly reducing the wear, thereby saving money and benefiting ALL

 

Start with simple solutions

The strategy suggests that solutions for corridors like Gloucester Road are difficult and expensive. However, if the first mode choice for local journeys that the strategy promotes is walking then solutions don’t have to be too difficult, too costly or take up seemingly unavailable carriageway space. Continuous (or Copenhagen style) footways across the mouths of the priority junctions (side roads) in Gloucester Rd would be a huge enhancement to walking, giving it the priority the strategy is suggesting. At the same time it would make it clear to vehicles turning in and out of side roads that they need to give way to crossing pedestrians and if configured correctly could also give the same protection to crossing cyclists, making improvements for cyclists too, thereby potentially eliminating the vast majority of these collisions. UWE has recently completed research on Simpler, Safer Junctions for All and has produced a fact sheet (see previous post or contact me for details).

solutions don’t have to be too difficult, too costly or take up seemingly unavailable carriageway space

 

Put walking first

Finally, although the suggestions for walking, cycling and public transport are all good it would be better to put them up front and central. Walking objectives should be first and walking solutions the first to be addressed in the city. Cycling should be next, then public transport, then delivery solutions and finally, managing the remaining highway capacity for private single occupancy cars. Bristol has plenty of highway capacity for all to travel at speed on foot, on bike and by bus if access by single occupancy private cars is limited during peak hours so that it does not impinge on these other modes (which are already used by the majority in Gloucester Road and other corridors and would be everywhere if using these other modes were the best way of getting around). The strategy needs to bite the bullet and make this clear.

Bristol has plenty of highway capacity for all to travel at speed on foot, on bike and by bus

 

Jonathan Flower

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