Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member and Green Party 2012 Mayoral candidate, warns cutting spending on road safety schemes could reverse the capital’s trend of reducing road accidents and fatalities.
I wouldn’t have expected it to happen this fast, but it appears that the Mayor’s cuts to the road safety budget are already leading to a rise in the total number of road casualties in London.
Between 1999 and the current Mayor being elected we had year on year falls in most types of road casualties. In 2008, this record of success started to change.
The number of people slightly injured has increased for the last two years, as has the total number of pedestrians killed or injured per annum. These figures might be dismissed as an aberration, except the pedestrian casualty rate had previously fallen every year since 1989. All my instincts tell me that something has changed and something is wrong.
One definite change has been the lack of priority given to road safety by the current Mayor. The previous Mayor was patron of the road victims charity RoadPeace and he appointed me as his Road Safety Ambassador in 2002.
I inherited a budget of around £20m & pushed it up to around £58m by 2008. London achieved most of the 2010 national targets for road casualty reduction by 2005 & I persuaded Ken Livingstone to raise the London targets even higher.
Transport for London & the boroughs spent the money and that enabled us to save lives & stop injuries. So called road accidents don’t just happen, they are mostly acts of social neglect.
People being killed or maimed on our roads are mostly preventable deaths and preventable injuries. In 2010 there were 685 less children killed or seriously injured on London’s roads than in the nineties.
That is 685 less children this year in graves, or the critical units of A & E departments. If we hadn’t spent the money we did and made the changes we did, then I’m sure that many of those 685 would not be walking, running and skipping around today.
Once elected, the current Mayor cut £10m from the road safety budget, ahead of the spending review. He was even going to allow the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement unit to close, as TfL withdrew their funding for the specialist police who work to stop cyclists being squashed by lorries.
Further cuts have followed and this year London will be spending less than half what it did on road safety than when he took office. A decline from £58m in 2008/09, to £24.5m 2011/12.
There may be other reasons for the rises. For example, a similar rise in the total number of cyclists injured is probably due to the increased numbers, although there were several years under the previous mayor when the number of cycle trips rose by an average of 8% per year and the number of casualties still fell.
It may be that the Mayor’s agenda of smoothing traffic flow is to blame, with major changes being made to the timings of pedestrian crossings? I really hope it isn’t the policy of taking away guard railings, which is something I have supported for years, but if it is then we need to know. We need to examine if there is any pattern to the increase and deal with it.
For all of these reasons, I will be asking the mayor to reverse the cuts to the budget and to immediately commission Transport for London to investigate why slight injuries and pedestrian casualties are increasing. The Mayor needs to shake off his usual dither, delay and denial, which has led to him failing so badly on air pollution and to act swiftly for once.