The latest reported road casualty statistics for 2019 have just been released by Transport for London. They show an increase in the number of people killed on London’s roads from 111 in 2018 to 125 in 2019. They also show a (4%) fall in the total number of people killed and seriously injured from 4,605 in 2018 to 3,905 in 2019. This is the first time that this figure has fallen since the reporting method for serious injuries was altered in 2017.
The total number of casualties on London’s roads fell for the second year in a row and now stands at 30,007, its lowest level since 2013. Amongst the different modes of travel, once again pedestrians made up well over half of the number of people killed with 68 pedestrians fatally injured on London’s roads in 2019. This figure is four times higher the total number of car occupants killed on London (17) in 2019. On two-wheels, 31 motorcycle riders and 5 people cycling were killed.
The largest declines in the numbers killed and seriously injured were amongst those in motor vehicles, with year-on-year falls of 19% for bus occupants, 9% for other vehicle occupants, 8% for car occupants and 6% for motorcyclists. By contrast, there were declines of just 1% for people cycling and pedestrians.
So, where do we stand overall in terms of road casualties across the capital? The Vision Zero Action Plan (VZAP) launched by TfL and the GLA in July 2018, set a target that by 2041 no one would be killed or seriously injured on London’s roads. In addition, (as well as separate targets for those killed or injured in or by London buses) there were interim targets that a) by 2022, 65% fewer people would be killed or seriously injured against the average for the 2005-09 period and b) by 2030, 70% fewer would be killed or seriously injured against the average for the 2010-14 period. We are now just 3 years away from the 2022 targets, so how well is London doing now that the 2019 casualty statistics have been released?
The data as outlined in the graph and chart above show two main themes.
Firstly, for vehicle occupants across all modes (cars, taxis, buses and goods vehicles), TfL is well on track to meet the 2022 target. The numbers of car occupants who are killed and seriously injured each year are already below the 2022 target level; for other vehicle occupants (goods vehicles, taxis), the target is within reach. TfL has set a specific target for casualties for buses and coaches (of a 70% reduction by 2022) and again, with the particular focus of the TfL Bus Safety Standard, this target appears achieveable.
Secondly, the chances of TfL achieving the overall 2022 target are low owing to the far smaller declines in the numbers of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists who are killed and seriously injured. Business as usual will not deliver the 2022 target and a significant increase in activity to reduce the risk for these modes of travel is now needed. Below we set out proposals to attempt to get London back on track to meet this 2022 target (of a 65% reduction in the numbers of people killed and seriously injured from the 2005-09 average) and to reduce dramatically the numbers of casualties amongst pedestrians, people cycling and motorcyclists. The good news is that the policies that are needed fit closely with many of London’s other strategies around sustainability at this time including: improving air quality, reducing climate changing emissions and the public health goals of getting more people walking and cycling.
Achieving the 2022 Vision Zero Target
Clearly much of what TfL had planned to do has been thrown into doubt by the funding crisis that followed the collapse in public transport usage during the lockdown. Although TfL has shown that changes can be made to London’s streets and roads with relatively small amounts of funding through its Streetspace for London plan, significant funding is required over a sustained period to deliver the Vision Zero Action Plan. The safety of people walking, cycling and motorcycling needs to be given especial focus and, as we set out below, this requires investment in a range of initiatives including enforcement, cycling infrastructure, safer junctions and 20mph speed limits.
How to reduce the numbers of people killed and seriously injured in London
Overall. To reduce overall road danger and get Vision Zero back on track in London, we need:
Speed. To ensure that TfL guidelines to boroughs (LIP3) enables all currently non-20mph boroughs to be able to adopt a 20mph default speed limit (with appropriate exceptions for arterial roads); to accelerate delivery of the TfL Lower Speeds Toolkit/Town Centre Pedestrian Safety schemes in high-risk town centres and high road/street locations and to develop interventions which limit general traffic to a maximum of 20mph; to prioritise the roll-out of 20mph on the 37 TLRN locations identified in the VZAP (Action 1.b); mandatory Intelligent Speed Assistance on all publicly-operated vehicles (as is being fitted to all new London buses).
Reducing traffic. The expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in October 2021 should be quickly extended to all 33 London boroughs and as soon as possible Smart Road User Charging should be adopted across the capital for all private vehicle journeys.
Road Design. To reduce danger at source on neighbourhood streets, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods should be rolled out across the capital. Indicative designs for this approach and which areas should be prioritised appear in the TfL Strategic Neighbourhood Analysis of June 2020.
Enforcement. The new safety camera programme that is set out in the VZAP (Action 2.b) should be delivered; enforcement should be priority against road traffic offences which pose the greatest risk to others, including speeding, red light running, mobile phone use by drivers, careless and dangerous driving, drink and drug driving as well as uninsured drivers.
For Individual Modes.
Pedestrians. To improve junction and crossing safety through a comprehensive programme of actions which are needed to make crossing the road safer for people on foot.
Cycling. Safe cycling requires the delivery of a) network of protected cycle routes, b) the development of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and c) 20mph default speed limits.
Unless swift action is taken now, there is little chance that this key Mayoral target will be reached in 2022 and the value of the Vision Zero programme which TfL have made great efforts to embrace will be undermined. It is vital that London’s politicians give TfL and the GLA the tools that it needs to get the Vision Zero programme back on track. For far too long, London like almost every other city in the world has failed to restrain motor vehicle use and dominance and give the fullest protection to the most vulnerable on our roads. As we have seen since the lockdown ended, bold and transformative policies can be delivered that improve London’s streets. We now need the same political will coupled with significant funding to create streets and roads that are safe for all of their users.
 In detail, this would be: Addressing the a) 239 signalised junctions across London where there is no pedestrian crossing provision, b) the 902 out-of-date Pelican crossings, c) continuing to roll out Countdown Indicators (currently provided on only 1,400 (out of 6,400) signalised crossings) and d) signalised junctions where one or more arms do not have pedestrian crossing facilities (unknown number). Reducing ‘wait times’ for pedestrians at signalised crossings and implementing the new, more accurate DfT assumed walking speeds to crossing timings of 1 metre/second (m/s) rather than the current 1.2 m/s. Ideally the speed would be 0.8m/s, however, in order to provide safe crossing facilities for people with limited mobility. Ensuring roads are easy to cross through a) frequent/regular provision of formal crossings (signalised/zebra) throughout the length of busy roads, b) direct and single-phase (rather than staggered) crossings and c) consideration of innovations such as i) closing off side road junctions to motor traffic (filtered permeability), ii) zebra crossings at side road junctions (Manchester Beelines), iii) Copenhagen crossings (continuous footways) and iv) the creation of pedestrian crossings adjacent to bus stops (where there is no other formal crossing nearby).