European figures show danger of urban roads

13/06/2019
Dominic Browne

New data from the EU has revealed that road deaths on urban roads decreased at around half the rate of those on rural roads over the period 2010-2017 and pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists – the three most vulnerable user groups – represent 70% of those killed and seriously injured in urban areas.

A new report from the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) called for the widespread use of 20mph zones in residential areas, a roads hierarchy focused on vulnerable users and a 'safe systems' approach to design to tacke the issue.

It also called for road safety targets to be introduced, something that was removed in the UK under the former Coalition Government.

Other recommendations included:

  • Adopt a local road safety strategy based on the Safe System approach, set road safety targets and dedicate an appropriate budget.
  • Include road safety as an essential component in developing and implementing Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs).
  • Adopt and promote a policy of modal priority for road users, the hierarchy being based on safety, vulnerability and sustainability. Walking should be at the top of the hierarchy, followed by cycling and use of public transport.2
  • Establish clear urban road hierarchies which better match road function to speed limit, layout and design based on the principles of the Safe System approach.
  • Adopt 30 km/h zones supported by traffic calming measures in residential areas, areas used by many pedestrians and cyclists and on the way to schools.
  • Introduce vehicle safety requirements, such as direct vision, Intelligent Speed Assistance, Automated Emergency Braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection and alcohol interlocks in public procurement requirements for city services (e.g. waste trucks, public transport buses).
  • Urgently apply to use the remaining funds from the EU’s 2014-2020 budget for improving urban road infrastructure safety.

It also called on member states to:

  • Involve city representatives in the setting up of national road safety strategies, road safety targets and their implementation.
  • Encourage local authorities to adopt zones with a speed limit of 30 km/h supported by traffic calming measures in residential areas, areas used by many pedestrians and cyclists and on the way to schools.
  • Develop and encourage cities to apply safe infrastructure design guidelines, such as guidelines for traffic calming measures, intersections, pedestrian crossings or cycling infrastructure design. Renew the guidelines regularly based on the latest research and innovation.
  • Design and implement walking and cycling safety strategies which include targets and infrastructural measures to improve safety of cyclists and promote cycling. Nominate ambassadors and set up centres of excellence for knowledge sharing at national level.
  • Earmark national funds for improving urban road safety.

Dovile Adminaite-Fodor, lead author of the report, commented: 'As long as people don’t feel safe walking and cycling in our towns and cities, many will be discouraged from using the most sustainable modes of transport. This can create a vicious circle because people who take the car instead put all the vulnerable road users around them at greater risk.

'Over the next ten years, we want to see the EU and all European countries investing in urban transport in a way that prioritises the most vulnerable road users. This is not just about safer infrastructure and setting safe speed limits but also better enforcement of speed limits as well as reducing drink driving and distraction.'

Among the countries that monitor levels of speed compliance on urban roads countrywide, between 35% and 75% of observed vehicle speeds in free-flowing urban traffic are higher than the 50 km/h limit. 

European figures

Mortality on urban roads is highest in Romania with 105 road users killed annually per million urban inhabitants – four times the EU average. 

Around nine people per million urban inhabitants are killed on urban roads in Sweden, 11 in the UK, 13 in the Netherlands and 14 in Ireland and Spain.

In terms of recent progress, Latvia, Greece, Portugal and Poland are the EU countries that made the most progress in reducing urban road deaths between 2010 and 2017.

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