Welcome to my personal website. I’m Dr. Rachel Aldred, Reader in Transport at the University of Westminster. I teach on Westminster’s MSc Transport Planning and Management. I also sit on the editorial board of Transport Reviews.
I am a Reader at the University of Westminster who specialises in active travel. I have published many peer-reviewed papers on issues including road safety, and I am currently running an 18-month project on cycling injury risk funded by the Road Safety Trust. In this brief response I will highlight some headline themes related particularly to walking and cycling, but I am happy to provide further information and/or speak to the Committee in person, if wished. As much of my response relates to the need to re-frame road safety debates, I begin by briefly outlining relevant context, which is however not widely known.
Walking and cycling are several times riskier than in some other European countries
The injury risk gap for people walking or cycling, compared to car users, has widened
Motor vehicles represent the main threat to people walking and cycling
Figure 1: road deaths by year, selected modes (source: Stats19)
As noted by the Committee, decline in road deaths has halted since 2009-10. Figure 1 contrasts changes between 2005-17 for pedestrians, cyclists, and car occupants. By 2017, deaths of car occupants had declined by 55% compared to 2005 (most of the change happening between 2005 and 2010). However, for people walking or cycling, the reduction was less: 30% and 32% respectively. Only around half this gap is accounted for by changes in distance travelled for different modes. DfT Table RAS53001[i] which normalises for distance travelled between 2005-15 finds that risk per km travelled for car users declined by 54%, but for people walking or cycling by 37% and 41% respectively.
So not only has there been a levelling off, but the prior decline in risk benefitted people walking and cycling less than car occupants. If we examine rates of change in the most serious injuries (‘KSIs’) and use Census data for exposure, between 2001-2011 risk per commuter fell by 49% for motorists but grew by 4% for people cycling[ii]. People cycling are now 5-6% of road deaths, and 10-11% of injuries, despite only making up 1% of distance travelled. People on foot, with 3% of travel distance, are 25-26% of fatalities, and 11-12% of injuries.
Figure 2: Comparing risk fairly across countries – use the right-hand graph to control for exposure. Source: Christie et al 2007
When we compare our current performance to other European countries, we are far from the best, although not the worst. How we measure matters. There is no point comparing our cycling fatality figures per head of population with those of the Netherlands or Denmark, because cycling rates are so much higher in those countries. An article by Christie et al[iii] shows how a population-based metric hides the relatively high fatality risk experienced by 10-14-year olds who cycle in the UK, which is notably worse than the risk experienced by children cycling in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand (Figure 2).
A more recent, pan-European comparison (per person, per km) by Castro et al[iv] found people who cycle in the UK are 2.6 times more likely to die per km travelled, and pedestrians 2.3 times more likely to die, compared to the Netherlands. If our roads were as safe as Dutch roads for those walking and cycling, 266 pedestrians and 62 cyclists would not have died on our roads in 2017. Note that in practice, the road safety gap for cycling is even wider, because the Dutch cycling demographic contains many older people who are more vulnerable to severe injury in a collision or fall, whereas cycling in the UK is skewed to younger adults[v].
Finally, the ‘road safety’ problem for people walking or cycling is fundamentally about motor vehicles. ‘Research worldwide consistently finds that the higher the traffic volume, the greater the frequency of pedestrian injuries’[vi]. Similarly, for people cycling, the higher the volume of motor traffic with which they must share space, the higher the risk of injury[vii]. Of people killed cycling on the roads between 2005 and 2017, 88% died in incidents involving a motor vehicle. For pedestrians the figure is 99%, although these two figures are not comparable as unlike cyclist falls, pedestrian falls are not included in police injury data[viii]. Thus, the pedestrian figure tells us that few pedestrian fatalities stem from a pedestrian-cyclist collision (or a collision with another non-motorised user e.g. horse). Even for less severe injury incidents, such as those self-reported by National Travel Survey participants, motor vehicle collisions are the major cause of injury for people walking or cycling, followed by falls (pedestrian-cyclist collisions come far behind, for both groups)[ix].
Figure 3: Comparison of numbers of injuries in different types of incident, National Travel Survey data (Aldred 2018)
My key response points stem from the context above. ‘Business as usual’ approaches seem to have stopped working, and even when they did work, the reductions in injury risk that we achieved have benefitted people walking or cycling less than people in cars. This year, we will again see several hundred people die while walking or cycling on our roads, who instead could still be alive if our roads were as safe here for walking and cycling as they are in the best performing European countries. Not only is this morally unjust, it counteracts our attempts to get more people walking and cycling, and to cut unnecessary car trips.
A shift in approach is needed, with four key components, which all help re-frame the policy debate and which lead on to specific policy ideas, which due to space constraints can only be signposted here:
1. Vision Zero/Safe Systems. Road injuries are often triggered by someone making a mistake – whether the victim or another road user. While we need to reduce careless and dangerous driving behaviour (see below) we also need to change road environments such that mistakes do not lead to death or serious injury, many of which could be prevented[x]. There are many ways in which risk has been designed-in to our road network. For instance, we allow large HGVs with multiple ‘blind spots’ into city centres despite the high risk they pose[xi]; we have a default urban speed limit of 30mph despite higher motor traffic speeds being associated with higher pedestrian injury risk[xii]; and our typical junction designs build in ‘left hooks’ by not separating people cycling from conflicting motor traffic flows[xiii]. These and other factors are choices that can be changed, if we are serious about reducing unnecessary deaths among people walking and cycling.
2. Move from a reactive, to a pro-active approach to injury prevention. At present, ‘road safety’ too often means waiting for one or more deaths to change a crossing that is believed to be dangerous. We do not take account of evidence of problems, when we could do more to collect data and act on it. Regular UK cyclists may experience one ‘very scary’ near miss incident on a weekly basis[xiv], and such incidents may tell us about where injury collisions might happen if this is not prevented. We do not take a reactive approach to air or rail safety.
But we do not need to wait for near miss data to be pro-active on road safety. Research confirms the kind of changes that are needed to road infrastructure for keep people walking and cycling safe[xv]. Fundamentally, these are based around protecting pedestrians and cyclists from motor vehicles, by (a) reducing the numbers of interactions with motor vehicles (providing protected space for those walking or cycling; or in locations with sharing, reducing the number of motor vehicles), and (b) reducing the risk posed by those interactions that remain (by making vehicles safer, reducing speeds, etc.) Specifically, research suggests building separated infrastructure for people cycling could reduce injury odds as much as nine-fold on busy roads with car parking[xvi]. My own recent study in London found reductions in cycling injury risk associated with 20mph zones and streets with very low levels of motor traffic, highlighting the safety potential of measures that reduce motor traffic speeds and volumes in neighbourhoods[xvii]. While more data is always useful, the evidence base is there to implement infrastructure changes that protect people walking and cycling, before deaths happen.
3. Road Danger Reduction. A road danger reduction approach (adopted by Transport for London[xviii]) complements Vision Zero by targeting the most dangerous road users, rather than the victims. It involves measuring and seeking to reduce risk posed to others. A paper I am working on suggests that on urban minor roads, HGVs are associated with 8-10 times more third-party fatalities per km than cars, vans, or taxis, and 30 times more third-party fatalities per km than bicycles[xix]. There are further interesting variations in mode-specific risk posed by age and gender. Such data should be part of the mix when we discuss road safety, but usually is not. Part of the problem, as TfL have identified, is that those responsible for dangerous vehicles (e.g. construction firms) do not ‘own’ that responsibility. Instead, a pervasive public discourse blames pedestrians or cyclists for injury collisions and minimises driver culpability[xx]. This is despite evidence of widespread law-breaking by people when they drive. Around half of car drivers exceed speed limits on motorways and on 30mph roads[xxi]. A recent study found that 1–2% of drivers overtaking a person on a bicycle came within 50 cm, behaviour that carries a high risk of injury for the rider, given the slightest misjudgement on either’s part (or if the rider wobbles over a pothole, for instance).
Policy should avoid contributing to this failure to correctly locate responsibility (for instance, the word ‘accident’ is problematic), and further, should actively seek to challenge it. A study by TRL found that for cycle-motor vehicle collisions where an adult cyclist is injured, the police are more likely to attribute ‘contributory factors’ to the motorist[xxii], who is however unlikely to have been injured themselves in the collision. This illustrates the imbalance between risk and consequences, which needs to be challenged by ensuring that use of motor vehicles is not seen as a right; but as a dangerous activity which entails a duty of care to others, a privilege that can be revoked. For instance, rather than only increasing prison penalties for offences with more serious consequences, we should also do more to remove driving licences from unsafe drivers before they kill someone.
4. Linking Safety to Health. While road danger is primarily created by use of motorised vehicles, walking and cycling in themselves are safe and healthy. Although injury risk and severity rise as people get older, the health benefits of walking and cycling grow faster, due to the benefits of physical activity[xxiii]. It is important in our metrics to build in support for more walking and cycling. For walking and cycling, we should benchmark injury risk rates against safer countries, such as the Netherlands and Norway, and not see a decline in injuries as a ‘good thing’ if it is due to less walking or cycling.
5th March: presenting with my colleague Georgios Kapousizis on our work on cycling injury risk at the Road Safety Analysts conference
6th March: Propensity to Cycle Tool training workshops
12th March: presenting on gender and cycling for a Sustrans stakeholder workshop event in Edinburgh
15th March: presenting on research impact and stakeholder engagement to a day conference at Cardiff University
16th March: presenting on transport and equity for Labour Cycles national active travel summit, in London
21st-22nd March: presenting in Brussels on infrastructural interventions & active travel uptake (at an event as part of the lead up to European Mobility Week)
26th March: presenting at an afternoon event organised by my colleagues at Westminster in Social Sciences on sustainable transport governance
27th March: presenting a history of cycling policy for DfT’s internal seminar series
4th April: Propensity to Cycle Tool training workshops
10th April: presenting at Transport Scotland event in Edinburgh (Vulnerable Road Users expert workshop)
16th April: Maidstone Cycle Campaign forum event
13th May: invited speaker at the National Cycling Congress in Dresden, Germany (on near miss research)
Late May-early June: various research events in Mexico City TBC
A few upcoming talks this month and next… London, Birmingham, Hertford and Madrid!
Tuesday 22nd January (tomorrow), a talk to Herts County Council staff on the potential and impacts of transformational change in how we travel.
Thursday 24th January, I’m speaking on qualitative research on perceptions of driving and cycling (completely new presentation, based on a paper from the People & Places study) as part of UDL’s Cycling Review.
And in February, my first talk in another language! I’ve been making a serious attempt to learn Spanish since September 2017, and figured it was time to give it a go and start trying to use my Spanish for professional activities. Madrid, Casa de Vacas, 14th Feb at 6pm.
Based on a soon-to-be-published Journal of Transport and Health paper: to follow.
There are various problems with transport appraisal when it comes to walking and cycling schemes. Our scheme appraisal systems developed in the age of the car, hence their metrics focus on delivering benefits for motorists – particularly ‘time savings’ benefits. This has created a two-fold problem for walking and cycling. Firstly, because these modes have generally been ignored or marginalised within modelling and appraisal: in the UK, most area-wide transport models still simply treat active travel as a residual (i.e. what’s left over after motorised trips have been calculated and allocated to routes).
And secondly, because the focus on benefits for existing users ignores the main aim for many active travel schemes: attracting new usage. The Department for Transport’s health economic benefits calculator (part of Active Mode Appraisal guidance) relies on users inputting the amount of new walking and cycling, as does the World Health Organisation’s similar HEAT tool.
Yet we struggle to predict and to measure the effect of schemes on walking and cycling. Mostly, what’s used for prediction (sanctioned by transport appraisal guidance) is a ‘case study’ approach. People look at examples that we have data for, which they think might lie in the same ballpark (not very scientific, and limited by the ambition and success of what we’ve done before) and then say ‘well maybe this scheme might have a similar impact’.
Things aren’t always much better when it comes to measuring new usage from actually built schemes. Transport authorities do often collect pre- and post- counts for walking and cycling, even for small schemes. But on their own, counts don’t tell us about new usage. A post-scheme increase in foot or cycle counts could come from:
Mode shift (often we would like this to come from the car, but it could come from other modes)
Completely new trips (e.g. people walking more around their local area, some of which might be more for leisure than travel; from a health perspective it’s all good)
People diverting an existing walking or cycling trip to take advantage of improvements made. This could mean a longer trip – if people detour to walk down a newly improved street; but might conversely mean a shorter trip – if people had previously been avoiding the now-improved street, and now feel able to take a more direct route.
People changing a trip destination to take advantage of the improved conditions: for instance, cycling to a different market, grocery shop or supermarket to do the food shopping, because it is now served by a better route than their previous destination. As with (3) this could lead to an increase or decrease in trip distance.
Clearly, (3) and (4) are good things. They are a vote of confidence in the scheme – people are changing where they go in order to benefit from increased ‘journey ambience’ (as appraisal calls it) – and result in people having more choice about where to go. However, they do not necessarily result in any more walking or cycling: the journeys made are not new and distances may go up or down. To measure the additional amounts of walking or cycling (which is what leads to health benefits), we need to separate (1) and (2) from (3) and (4).
However, we can’t do this on count data alone, which by including (1)-(4) will overestimate the amount of new walking and cycling. One study of a scheme in Copenhagen found that most newly counted commuters were existing users diverting (3). This doesn’t mean the infrastructure was a failure – as well as some mode shift, the study found a substantial increase in existing user satisfaction, relative to the control site. But relying on count data alone would not have allowed the researchers to identify the level of new usage.
This is especially a problem in relation to smaller schemes, for which there is less research and where we know less about likely impacts. For large schemes and programmes – like TfL’s mini-Holland programme – we should be investing in ‘gold standard’ methods, such as ‘natural experiments’ comparing change over time among an ‘intervention group’ with change among a ‘control group’. But these methods are expensive. Even cut to the bone they cost £100,000+, and often much more. Getting a decent sample in these days of survey fatigue can be particularly difficult and resource-hungry, for instance, but is crucial for our ability to detect change.
If it’s hard enough to get many transport authorities (thank you TfL!) or research funders to invest in high-cost evaluations for major schemes, it’s well-nigh impossible to expect them to pay out large amounts of money to evaluate schemes where the intervention itself costs a fraction of the cost of a longitudinal study. Hence, my interest in doing ‘good-enough’ evaluation, which could dovetail with what authorities are already doing, and build up an evidence base allowing us to generalise on – for instance – the impacts of different ‘healthy streets’ type indicators. If we build up a dataset of results from different contexts (e.g. a historical riverside street versus a postwar housing estate; an area with high walkability versus a more suburban location; somewhere with lots of cycling versus somewhere with very little, etc..) we can hope to recommend different interventions or packages of change in different contexts.
If we remove most motor traffic from a street, are we likely to see new walking trips? What about if we put in a pocket park, or replace some car parking with cycle parking or with benches? Which interventions are really crucial to getting more local trips made by active modes? And which are nice-to-haves, but possibly not the first thing you’d do if you had limited funding, or if they might prove difficult to agree?
Modal filter, Hackney
If we can measure walking and cycling uplift in relation to smaller-scale interventions, we can start to develop estimates of health benefit, and to look at these in relation to costs of implementing interventions, and potentially other quantified costs and benefits. Given £100,000 in a given context, what streetscape changes might have most effect?
The good news is that there are ways we can start to develop this evidence base. I’ve got a paper accepted in Journal of Transport and Health, which will be out soon and proposes a method. Basically, it involves using pre- and post-count data (often routinely collected) alongside a low-cost intercept survey to estimate what % of walkers and cyclists who have changed behaviour are ‘really’ new (1 or 2 above). This % is then used alongside the change in count data to estimate how many new walk and cycle trips have been generated by a scheme, and hence calculate health economic benefits (using the WebTAG Active Mode Appraisal Health Economic Benefits spreadsheet tool). Doing an intercept survey also means you can collect some useful perceptions and qualitative data at the same time, as well as look at where mode shift is coming from – which has implications for e.g. changes in emissions.
In the case study example, an intervention with physical measures costing under £10,000 was associated with in the region of £500,000 of health economic benefits, calculated using a standard twenty-year appraisal period.
It’s not gold standard data, but for low cost interventions, I think it is appropriate – and much better than only collecting count data. And if we do this in a standardised way across a number of smaller schemes, with careful records of what was done where and in what context, we could scale-up: analyse the aggregated data and use the results to adopt a more scientific approach to appraising and hence prioritising streetscape interventions, in terms of their impact on walking and cycling. The case study I’ve done relates to a specific street context and results elsewhere may be different; with tens of similar studies we could start to tease out the impacts of (for instance) modal filtering in different types of location, with different existing travel patterns.
I am an academic working in the field of active travel who has published over 25 peer-reviewed journal articles on topics from injuries and near misses, to impacts of interventions, to equity and potential for growth. I am happy to provide more information or appear in person before the Committee to discuss my own and other authors’ research on the topic (including not yet published findings).
Please find below a brief summary of my initial thoughts on each area of interest, followed by selected references to published academic work:
1. The benefits and risks of active travel, and the extent to which they are properly understood by the public and Government
Risks are higher for people walking and cycling than they should be. Many urban areas breach air pollution limits, largely due to motorised traffic. Per-km risks for walking and cycling are several times higher in the UK than in the Netherlands and some other Northern European countries. Cyclists and pedestrians currently face similar risks of dying per km travelled (as cycle trips are longer, the per-trip risk is higher for cycling). For injuries, particularly minor injuries, the risk for cyclists is greater.
Near misses are a further deterrent to active travel. My research found that a regular UK commuting cyclist might experience one ‘very scary’ near miss each week, with rates higher for newer cyclists, women, and those cycling more slowly. I would also note that (i) cyclists have not seen the injury risk reduction benefits enjoyed in recent decades by users of other modes, hence the injury risk gap has widened and that (ii) in the UK the cycling cohort is relatively young (unlike for instance the Netherlands) and thus the age-adjusted risk will be higher than the raw risk figures suggest, as young people are less vulnerable to injury. Thirdly, there are important demographic inequalities that are both unfair and may discourage active travel among vulnerable groups. Notably, my analysis of National Travel Survey data found disabled pedestrians face very high per-km risks of being injured by a motor vehicle, compared to non-disabled pedestrians.
Despite this, on a population level, there are substantial health benefits from increased walking or cycling, because most people are insufficiently physically active and regular walking or cycling could ensure they get the exercise they need. Benefits are highest for the currently least active, and for older people.
Risks and benefits are poorly understood, particularly for cycling. Many members of the public (and some decision-makers) believe cycling is inherently risky. As noted above, risks for people cycling are higher here than they should be. However, most injuries, particularly the most serious, are caused by interactions with motorised transport. Many could be prevented (or their severity reduced) by reducing the amount of interactions between cyclists and motor traffic, particularly heavy motor traffic, and reducing the speeds at which the remaining interactions take place. More dedicated, high quality infrastructure is crucial for safety and perceived safety. A report for TfL found that at least a third of a sample of very serious injuries could have been prevented by high quality infrastructure separating cyclists from motorised traffic. This is backed up by a Canadian study by Teschke et al which found that protected cycle tracks had one ninth the injury odds of busy main streets with car parking.
The risk cyclists pose to others is perhaps most poorly understood. My current qualitative research is finding that the public will often excuse poor driver behaviour (despite the risk it poses to others) while tending to stigmatise all cyclists based on the poor behaviour of some. Yet Scholes et al found that it is safer for others if people drive rather than cycle. In making this comparison it is important to stratify by age and gender. Young men are the most dangerous drivers, and while they may also be less careful cyclists than (for instance) older women, it is notably safer for others if they cycle rather than drive. Pedestrian-cyclist interactions do carry some risk for both parties (as do, for instance, conflicts between joggers and walkers), but these interactions are low risk compared to interactions involving motorised vehicles, especially larger vehicles. Of course, there are also multiple other benefits when people walk, jog, cycle, scoot etc. compared to using cars.
2. Recent trends in walking and cycling and factors contributing to these trends
At a national level trends in walking and cycling are disappointing. Our 2025 targets seem unlikely to be met. Cycling journey stages are meant to double yet have remained steady for the past 15 years. Walking has recently increased but remains (measured by stages) around 2005 levels. However, we have seen growth in active travel in contexts with ambitious policy and infrastructure changes – especially some cities. This suggests that there is potential to use policy to grow active travel, yet this remains patchy and localised, too often dependent on key local figures putting in unsustainable amounts of time and effort.
Indeed, increasing evidence connects policy and infrastructure change to active travel uptake, including studies from the UK and other countries. My own longitudinal study has found an increase in active travel at one- and two-year time points in Outer London areas that have seen mini-Holland interventions. This is likely to be in response to modal filtering (= closure of residential streets to through motor traffic) and cycle tracks. Interestingly, the increase in walking has so far been greater in absolute terms than the increase in cycling. While potential for modal shift to cycling is high, there is strong potential for more local walking, particularly if motor traffic volumes and speeds are reduced in local streets, making walking (and lingering/playing) more pleasant. More people walking locally can then in turn provide ‘place’ benefits, making streets feel more welcoming.
3. The effectiveness of the Department for Transport in setting the strategic objectives for active travel and in working with other departments that have relevant responsibilities
For some years now there have been welcome warm words for active travel from DfT and other departments. Yet in practice support for active travel has not matched aspirations, and targets are repeatedly missed.
There is increasing interest in the relationship between transport and health, and more could be done to prioritise health objectives within transport at a national level. Health is still seen as an add-on to consider only when ‘walking or cycling’ schemes are proposed, rather than something informs transport planning at all levels.
We still see walking and cycling marginalised within major rail and road schemes, frustrating given that the additional budget involved both to safeguard existing routes, and to use the opportunity to provide new routes, would be minimal in the context of such major schemes. It would also help if other Departments whose remit covers other benefits of active travel (e.g. local economic benefits as people walking and cycling may spend more at local shops) did more to press for active travel to be considered in local plans and strategies.
4. The balance of responsibilities for active transport between central Government and local bodies and whether the current arrangements achieve an appropriate balance
There is a three-tier system within England for active travel. London has had the political leadership, the devolved governance, and the funding to lead, although there is still far to go. Other cities and city-regions, such as Greater Manchester and Cambridge, have been able to leverage funding and/or political support, and are also seeing major changes.
However, smaller cities and towns, and rural areas, are falling far behind, lacking expertise and access to the dedicated funding streams available to some cities. Many smaller cities and towns have many short trips and hence substantial active travel potential. They could realise this via high quality cycling and walking infrastructure on busier roads alongside measures to reduce motor traffic volumes and speeds within neighbourhoods. However, this is not happening, and is unlikely to happen unless national government takes more of a lead on this.
One example from an unpublished MSc thesis: the student looked at a large village lying three miles out of a medium-sized town with a train station. Three miles is a perfect cycling distance, yet virtually no one cycled to town, with most commuters driving to their jobs either in town or accessed via its train station. Looking at the cycling environment (involving at least a mile along a busy and dangerous rural A-road, with no cycle track or even footway), I would not have cycled either. A relatively small amount of cycle infrastructure would make that journey possible: yet nothing is likely to happen. People (quite understandably) will continue driving, increasing congestion and air pollution, despite calls for them to travel actively.
The unevenness across the country suggests more is needed from Government to explain the scale of change needed for substantial uplift in active travel and to help transport authorities deliver this Change is unlikely without more of a national lead, apart from in areas with strong transport planning capacity and leaders with strong personal commitment to active travel.
5. Implementation of the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) so far, including in relation to the Cycling Ambition Cities; and the adequacy of funding associated with CWIS
The LCWIP (Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan) guidance takes the correct approach of asking authorities to plan for growth in walking and cycling, and hence focus on potential rather than only current trips. Having ambitious but specific plans is an important first step and it is good to see DfT encouraging this.
However, progress needs to be tracked. I have heard that some authorities are struggling and are not allocating even the relatively small amount of funding needed to create LCWIPs. 78 authorities applied for DfT support to produce LCWIPs and 36 were allocated this. Did other areas feel confident without support, or were they not interested? What will happen to the 42 authorities who wanted support in producing LCWIPs, but were unsuccessful?
We need to know what will happen once authorities have produced LCWIPs. An obvious next step would be for DfT to make dedicated (match) ongoing funding available for plans reaching a certain quality standard. This will involve a substantial uplift in investment in active travel; however (good quality) active travel infrastructure is both excellent value and much cheaper than new road schemes. The current revision of Cycle Infrastructure Design (LTN 2/08) will help in this, as this was previously outdated and encouraged some poor design even in leading authorities.
The Cycling Ambition Cities represent some of our leading authorities in active travel planning. However, they are (i) already authorities with relatively high transport planning/bid-making capacity (many smaller authorities have little or no transport planning capacity) and (ii) have been supported by dedicated funding from DfT. In two of the most successful areas, Bristol and Cambridge, this funding started in 2009 under the Cycling City and Towns programme. Unlike most of the country, they have had ten years of funding for active travel that approaches the amount invested in many other Northern European countries.
However, most people in England live in areas where investment in active travel is far below what experts agree is needed. Even considering our more successful areas, we are still at a stage where active travel investment is seen as something special, limited, and short-term, to be implemented only in a few authorities. There seems to be no vision of an England where all major roads by default have cycle infrastructure and fast, direct, and frequent pedestrian crossings (for instance). We need to build up a national skills base: too often, infrastructure is compromised, particularly where some short-term delay for drivers is a likely consequence of allocating space to people cycling or time to pedestrians crossing, for instance. This too entails the allocation of dedicated, long-term funding for the active travel transformation we need not just in major cities, but in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas.
6. Whether the current mix of initiatives to support active travel is appropriate, particularly with respect to safety, and what can be learnt from international approaches in supporting active travel
Here I would point the Committee towards the developing consensus on the step-change in active travel funding we need to catch up with European best practice. In internationally successful cities and countries, substantial amounts are invested (e.g. £20-35 per head) over the long term, largely in infrastructural programmes.
My work on infrastructure and culture in relation to active travel has highlighted that good infrastructure has a cultural benefit. In contexts and communities where cycling is seen as ‘poor man’s transport’ and/or only for the super-hardy and risk-tolerant (this is much of England), the construction of high quality, direct and spacious cycle tracks is not only good cycling provision in engineering terms. Perhaps just as important, it sends a message to anyone seeing it that people cycling matter, and that being a cyclist means having your own comfortable, safe, pleasant and direct route, with wobble room if needed. The same principles relate to walking: if people walking must constantly negotiate damaged pavements, footway car parking, indirect and slow crossings, and so on, this sends a message that pedestrians do not matter, and their interests are subservient to those of drivers. We should not then be surprised if those with choices choose to drive.
As described in TfL’s International Cycling Infrastructure Best Practice Study, cycling infrastructure can vary in type, but all must be inclusive, suiting users from two children cycling to a friend’s house, to a woman on her way to work, to an older person visiting the health centre (for instance). The key is to minimise interactions with motor traffic, and reduce speeds of those interactions that remain, as discussed above. Thus three key route types are (i) routes through green space, entirely away from motorised traffic, (ii) protected cycle tracks along main roads, and (iii) routes through neighbourhood streets with very low volumes and speeds of motor traffic (ideally, these streets will be access-only for motors).
International best practice teaches us that we should consider trialling interventions, monitoring and evaluating their impact, and then deciding whether to make them permanent (and if any changes need to be made when this happens). Given that many of our traditional planning approaches (models and tools) are not helpful in designing ambitious active travel schemes, trialling can be an excellent way of establishing likely impact at a relatively low cost.
Finally, international success tends to be based on a combination of ‘carrot’ and ‘stick’ measures, supporting walking and cycling while discouraging driving. The latter can be controversial, but it is key to remember that for decades, planning systems have advantaged people driving at the expense of people walking and cycling (e.g. convoluted and slow pedestrian crossings, in order not to delay people in cars). Given finite street space (and time) and the multiple benefits of walking and cycling, rebalancing will be crucial to ensure people have a real choice not to drive. Those who still need to drive will also benefit from other people being able to choose to walk or cycle.
7. Whether there are fundamental planning issues which need to be addressed as part of an any approach to active mode travel
Yes! Here due to lack of space I will focus on data, models, and tools. Over decades we have developed sophisticated models and tools to plan for private motorised traffic. We have in-depth simulation models helping us to optimise individual junction design (for private motorised traffic), area-wide models of motor traffic movements, and real-time data on motor traffic speeds and delays. We prioritise collecting data that feeds into these models and tools, and we (still) appraise schemes based largely on predicted changes to driver journey times, even if we now trade off more other monetised impacts against this.
This approach is not fit for purpose for planning for active travel. We need to collect data on metrics that matter for people walking and cycling and use these to target improvements (as we do for motor traffic ‘bottlenecks’). For instance, data already exists on footway widths. This could be measured and mapped, with pedestrian bottlenecks targeted to encourage walking and ensure it is comfortable and inclusive. Increasingly, mobile phone data (including via apps) can be used to measure walking and cycling levels of service. For instance, app-based data could be used to calculate cyclist delays at junctions. Selected metrics could be reported upon nationally, allowing comparisons between authorities, as currently exists for local congestion data for ‘general traffic’.
As mentioned above in discussion of LCWIPs, it is important to plan for future/potential walking and cycling. Increasingly tools can help with this, such as the Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT). To plan for future walking and cycling, we need to know the characteristics of trips currently made by motor vehicle (e.g. how many are relatively short and shift-able). This is an area where local transport models, with their detailed representation of car trips (but often poor treatment of active travel) could potentially help. Summarising this section, we need to develop new metrics, data, models, and tools, as well as making creative use of what we already have.
Aldred, R. 2018, Inequalities in self-report road injury risk in Britain: a new analysis of National Travel Survey data, focusing on pedestrian injuries, Journal of Transport & Health, in press
Aldred, R. and Goodman, A., 2018, Predictors of the frequency and subjective experience of cycling near misses: Findings from the first two years of the UK Near Miss Project, Accident Analysis & Prevention,110, 161-170
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He escrito este pequeño articulo para #CienciaenelParlamento. Con disculpas por el mal uso del subjuntivo! Estoy aprendiendo…
En este resumen hablo principalmente de ‘pedelec’ bicis. La UE define pedelecs como bicicletas con asistencia motorizada (eléctrica) que producen ayuda hasta el ciclista alcanza 25 kph y cuyo motor produce una potencia nominal continua máxima de no más de 250 vatios. Generalmente en países europeos, estas bicicletas están consideran como bicicletas normales según la ley, pero otras (par ejemplo, ‘speed pedelecs’ que puedan alcanzar 45 kph con asistencia motorizada) están consideran como ciclomotores. En Reino Unido, por ejemplo, speed pedelecs no se pueden utilizado en los carriles bici, y los usadores deben llevar un casco. Si consideramos viajes de carga, entonces además de pedelecs hay e-ciclomotores y mini-camionetas eléctricas que no discuto aquí. Estos también puedan estar una importante parte de la solución para ciudades, pero algunos retos son distintas: un nuevo informe es a http://www.hva.nl/kc-techniek/gedeelde-content/contentgroep/levv/levv.html.
Las bicicletas eléctricas tienen mucha potencial para viajes personales y de cargamento, pero se necesitan asistencia en política, ley, y infraestructura. En los Países Bajos, un en cada tres bicicletas vendidos son eléctricas. En países como Reino Unido y España, son mucho menos comunes. Pero eso cambiara, y es importante para que los políticos estén listos.
Para viajes personales, la bicicleta eléctrica puede extender sustancialmente la potencial para viajar a bici, especialmente en regiones montañosas y/o rurales, o en países calientes. También puede ampliar la adopción de bicicletas para las personas mayores, personas con discapacitadas, personas que tienen que viajar con niños pequeños o con las compras, o solo gente que quieran llegar a una reunión con una apariencia elegante.
Por ejemplo, nuestras investigaciones muestran que, en la región montañosa y rural de Devon y Cornwall, en Inglaterra, el uso de bicicleta eléctrica podría duplicar la tasa potencial de ciclismo al trabajo que podemos lograr con cambio infraestructura y cultural (pero sin e-bicis), de 10 a 19%: ver www.pct.bike. (Debemos tener en cuenta que el uso de la bicicleta eléctrica no es una alternativa a infraestructura y otros cambios – por contraste, se basa en estas cosas).
Otras investigaciones sugieren que hay una igualmente grande potencial para transportar cargo en ciudades: quizás 15-25 porcientos de viajes con cargamento en Europa que actualmente usan vehículos motorizados puedan usar una bici o e-bici. Las bicis/e-bicis puedan estar especialmente importante para ‘primero o ultimo kilometro’ viajes. También hay potencial para usar bicicletas eléctricas como taxis: pero a menudo en nuestras ciudades ‘pedicabs’ están solo para turistas, y muy caro sin regulación apropiada para el viaje diario. (Hay pocas investigaciones sobre este tema).
Para viajes personales, los investigadores generalmente piensan que las e-bicis beneficien las usadores y la sociedad. En países europeos, las investigaciones sugieran que algunos viajes substituyen a viajes en coche, y que las e-bicis permiten la gente a viajar más lejos, quizás especialmente las personas mayores y las mujeres. Hay un mayor riesgo de lesiones, pero tenemos que considerar los beneficios. Para el individual, hay grandes beneficios de actividad física, incluso actividad física moderada, y estos beneficios se elevan para personas mayores. Para la sociedad, cuando las e-bicis reemplazan viajes en coche, los beneficios incluyen reducciones en contaminación de aire, contaminación acústica, y CO2.
Para llevar cargamento, las ventajas son grandes también si consideramos que, en muchas ciudades, una proporción creciente de tráfico es para cargamento o manutención. Par ejemplo, en Londres durante el quince años pasados ha aumentado el uso de camionetas, mientras que el uso de coches ha disminuido. La mayoría de estas camionetas son y seguirán siendo diésel.
Si podemos substituir e-bicis para una proporción de estos viajes, habría muchos beneficios: congestión, contaminación, y seguridad (especialmente para los peatones y las ciclistas). Hay pocas investigaciones sobre el impacto sobre los trabajadores. Pero conducir todo el día es muy malo para la salud; es un trabajo sedentario y estresante y a menudo los conductores de camionetas son mal pagados y mal tratados. ¿Podríamos también utilizar esta oportunidad para mejorar la calidad de trabajos?
En primer lugar, tenemos que considerar infraestructura, especialmente pero no solo los carriles bici. Generalmente, necesitamos un entorno de ciclismo atractivo para todos. Sabemos que todos, pero especialmente las mujeres, las personas mayores, y los personas que viajan con niños necesitan segura protegida separada de los autos. Estos grupos también están predispuestos a usar las e-bicis. Por eso, las ciudades que quieran realizar la potencial de las e-bicis tienen que construir infraestructura de la más alta calidad para atraer todos.
Sin embargo, existen necesidades más especializadas. Debemos entender que algunos ciclistas no pueden levantar o empujar su bicicleta. Par ejemplo, hay usuarios de silla de ruedas que puedan también usar una e-bici (alimentado a mano en lugar de pierna). Quizás no puedan caminar mucho o en absoluto – pero puedan ciclar. Por eso, tenemos que evitar pasos en rutas ciclistas. Pero también, los triciclos y bicicletas de cargo (y algunos otros e-bicis) a menudo son mucho más anchos que las bicis tradicionales. Los carriles bicis no deben estar demasiado estrechos, y si cerramos una calle a vehículos motorizados con bolardos, debemos medir cuidadosamente la brecha. La pendiente de la carretera o carril bici también pueden ser un gran problema para bicicletas con tres ruedas.
La infraestructura es importante, pero no es la solo solución. Necesitamos mas ayuda, como subvenciones. Para personas de bajos ingresos, las e-bicis están caras, y también hay e-bicis especialmente caras, como algunos triciclos, o e-bicis para llevar niños. Las ciudades también deben considerar si esquemas de alquiler de bicicletas puedan incluir e-bicis, para hacer estos esquemas – y el ciclismo – más inclusivos de todos.
El costo puede ser también un problema para aparcamiento si la bici es muy cara y su propietario no quiere dejarlo en la calle. Quizás la bici no cabe en el aparcamiento; o el propietario no puede levantarlo. En Londres tenemos orientación sobre el uso del concepto de ‘ciclo de diseño inclusivo’ para planificar las pistas para bicicletas y también el estacionamiento. Y actualmente consideramos si podemos asignar algunos espacios de estacionamiento solo para ciclistas discapacitadas.
Por eso las ciudades y las parlamentas deben considerar la política, incluso normas de ingeniería, política de planificación, y apoyo financiero para individuales y empresas. En esto contexto, es preocupante que la Comisión Europea sugiere que las e-bicis deben tratado como vehiculados motorizados para el seguro. Algunas organizaciones cuestionan el fallo, sin embargo, si se mantiene los estados miembros pueden decidir individualmente si adoptar o no esta posición. Pero creo que es una decisión mala porque muchos estados miembros quieren respaldar ‘pedelec’ e-bicis como una alternativa mucho mejor al coche.
Para viajes de cargamento, hay retos similares y distintos. Las necesidades de infraestructura son similares para los dos, pero hay otros problemas. La industria de ‘pedicabs’ puedan necesitar más regulación para ser más profesional, por ejemplo. Muchas empresas de cargo-bici están muy pequeñas y no sabe como crecerse. Puedan necesitarse ayuda: posiblemente incentivos (por ejemplo, a empresas para usar e-bicis para sus entregas) pero también otra asistencia como crear centros de consolidación y distribución, y asignación de áreas de espera de ‘pedicabs’. O una ciudad podría introducir y organizar un servicio de e-bicis para cargamento sí mismo.
Las soluciones específicas serán diferentes en ciudades diferentes; pero el principio es el mismo. Para los viajes que puedan cambiar (personal o cargamento), tiene que estar más más fácil de usar bici o e-bici en lugar de coche o camioneta.
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This is my first blog post in Spanish. I’ve been learning and wanted to improve my professional Spanish – so thought some occasional short blog posts might be a nice way to do this. Muchas gracias a Gustavo Romanillos por tu ayuda.
Recientemente, analicé los datos de una extensa encuesta británico, la Encuesta Nacional de Viajes (NTS). Estaba interesada en lesiones viales, especialmente lesiones de tipo ‘leve’, casi nunca reportadas.
Desde 2007, la NTS preguntaba a sus participantes si habían experimentado un ‘accidente de tráfico’ en los tres últimos años. Si la respuesta es ‘si’, la encuesta hace preguntas adicionales al participante, por ejemplo, acerca de los otros modos de transporte involucrados.
El conjunto de datos resultante es ya lo suficientemente grande como para poder analizar los riesgos de lesiones y comparar tanto los modos de transporte como los grupos demográficos. En relación a estos últimos, se pueden investigar los riesgos para las personas discapacitadas, algo imposible de realizar con los datos de policía, porque no existe la información necesaria.
Los resultados muestran el alto número de lesiones que afectan los usuarios de la carretera. Estas lesiones son importantes, incluso si son de tipo ‘leve’. Son muestra de la violencia cotidiana de la calle y, en la mayoría de los casos, un vehículo de motor está involucrado. Los ciclistas tienen la tasa más alta de lesiones no denunciadas – siete veces mayor que en los datos de policía (mientras que para los otros, peatones o usuarios de vehículos, es tres o cuatros veces mayor).
En relación a los peatones, los riesgos no son iguales. En Gran Bretaña, los peatones que son más vulnerables también sufren más en nuestros caminos. Por kilómetro caminado, un persona discapacitada tiene cuatro veces más probabilidades de lesionarse por un conductor; un persona sin coche o un persona pobre, tres veces más.
Pienso que esta es una cuestión de justicia y desigualdad. Aunque la encuesta no nos dice las razones, es probable que el entorno de la calle juegue un papel importante. Por ejemplo, los cruces de peatones a menudo no dan suficiente tiempo para que muchas personas mayores puedan cruzar la calle. Y muchos barrios desfavorecidos están divididas por carreteras principales. Con demasiada frecuencia la planificación del transporte da prioridad a los automovilistas, a expensas de los más desfavorecidas.