If you are a long-time reader of LTT’s letters pages like myself, you will notice - in among the relatively arcane topics for transport professionals - the letters from members of the extremist Association of British Drivers. Whether denying the existence of man made climate change or opposing any part of a sustainable transport policy, we can expect ABD members’ letters to provide distraction from the latest hot debate on, say, guided buses versus trams or the problems of public transport accessibility modelling.
In the Nov 22 issue I took up the theme – suggested by an ABD member – of treating motorists as adults. I noted that much of highway and motor vehicle engineering is based on the assumption that motorists are either incompetent or unwilling to drive properly. I suggested that if we have to think of motorists as being incapable of driving properly, and that if motorists do indeed want to be treated as responsible adults, that we introduce the practice (as found in much of Northern Europe) whereby collisions involving pedestrians or cyclists and motorists are considered as offences of strict (or “defined”) liability with the onus of responsibility resting on the motorist. This was described by the ABD’s policy advisor in the next edition of LTT (Letters LTT 6 – 19 December) as “a twisted diatribe of venom against motorised road users”.
That doesn’t worry me. What does concern me is that so much of mainstream transport opinion is similar to that of the ABD.
To take the example of highway design I discussed in my letter: most of the news coverage in your 6 December issues back page is about the “Star rating roads for safety UK trials”. This report, supported by the Highways Agency and the Institute of Advanced Motorists, is about how “road design affects an accident (sic) once it has occurred”.
The basis of this report, couched in neutral language, is that roads have been designed badly or “dangerously” if they have not been built or modified to cope with the safety of motorists who are unable or unwilling (or insufficiently “advanced”) to keep their vehicles from going off the carriageway or on to the other side of the road.
As with increasingly crashworthy vehicle design – similarly based on the presumption that motorists are bent on illegal or rule breaking behaviour leading them into crashes – we have a “road safety” establishment which colludes with violent rule or law breaking. Since this is unlikely to change, it would seem that the minimum for a civilised approach to the safety of road users threatened by motorists’ danger (including those vehicle occupants still at risk from it) is replacement of the current lenient (or absent) enforcement and sentencing that occurs by something rather more robust. Why this points to the model of some other European countries was carefully explained in my letter.
In overall transport policy we have Government promoting high-carbon transport - more roads and runways - despite lip service paid to avoiding climate change and health problems associated with motor vehicle use. One could give plenty of examples of the pursuit of non-sustainability in official policy and practice to please the ABD.
Finally, I note in your feature on climate change the concern of LTT’s editor that the community of climate scientists may simply be working within paradigms, rather than adhering to properly scientific principles. I suggest that transport professionals review the increase in motor traffic and CO2 emissions during the Prescott years, the demise of measures such as the Road Traffic Reduction Act and the National Cycling Strategy, continued lenience in law enforcement and sentencing, etc, etc. It would appear that it is we who are working within a paradigm – and it is one of continued support for increasing motor vehicle use.