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What level of scary traffic discourages active modes, and beating congestion with powered 2-wheelers

27 June 2016

A survey to mark Brake’s 2016 Giant Walk has revealed that many people feel frightened when they make journeys on foot or by bike. It also shows most people think far more families would walk and cycle to school, if they felt it was safer to do so.

  • 72% think more children would walk/cycle if routes to school were safer
  • 38% scared of traffic in their neighbourhood
  • 65% think school routes should be made safer for walkers and cyclists
  • 67% want more walking paths and dedicated cycle paths 

Brake’s annual Giant Walk in June this year, supported by Ageas, saw thousands of children from schools across the UK holding walking events to support road safety and highlight the benefits that walking and cycling can bring for both individuals and the planet as a whole. The children will also be reminding people that fast and dangerous driving can put young lives at risk, and encouraging drivers to slow down and look out for people on foot and bike.

In a similar modal shift initiative, Ride to Work Week (20th to 26th June) highlights the benefits of commuting via motorcycle and scooter, which is being actively encouraged by Northamptonshire County Council. The Ride to Work team has produced a video showing why this decision makes sense.

John Spencer, Team Leader of Road Safety and Travel Choices, Northamptonshire Highways says: 'As part of our modal shift strategy Northamptonshire County Council intends to embrace motorcycles and scooters as a sustainable transport mode within the future countywide transport programme. Greater use of motorcycles can bring environmental, congestion and accessibility benefits, particularly on journeys made for commuting to places of employment or education.'

The UK has a poor record for protecting children on foot and bike compared to many of our European neighbours, says Brake. Half of our children are driven to school, resulting in more danger to vulnerable road users in the area, damage to health and the environment from a rise in pollution, and the increased health risk associated with a sedentary lifestyle.   

38% of those questioned in the study told Brake they have felt scared by traffic while out walking or cycling in their neighbourhood. 65% of people believe more should be done to make routes to schools safer for children on foot and bike. More than two thirds of those questioned (67%) said they would like there to be more paths, cycle paths and crossings in their neighbourhood that they could use to get about more easily.

Slower speeds are especially important for protecting children. In 2014, 53 children under 16 were killed and 2,029 were seriously injured on British roads: that’s almost six children seriously hurt or killed every day. The majority (80%) were on foot or bicycle at the time[ii]. Research has found that children cannot judge the speed of approaching vehicles travelling faster than 20mph, so may believe it is safe to cross when it is not[iii].

Another recent study for Brake[iv] saw 44% of drivers admit they have broken a 20mph speed limit by at least 5mph in the last year, with one in five (20%) confessing they do it every week.  

Brake wants more people to choose to walk or cycle, if they can, and to encourage people to do this, we must have lower speed limits, dedicated cycle lanes, wide pavements and safe places to cross the road. 

Lowering traffic speeds limits to 20mph, specifically, is known to reduce casualties and create a safer road environment, especially for people on foot and bicycle. Analysis of 75 20mph-limit sites in Scotland found casualties dropped 42%[v]. 20mph or 30km/h limits are recommended by the World Health Organisation as a key measure to improve pedestrian safety and save lives[vi].

Almost six in 10 people (58%) think the best thing we can do to keep kids safe on the way to school is more designated walking and cycling routes.

Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns, says: “Brake’s Giant Walk is a great way for schools to highlight the need for safer roads in their communities to enable children to be able to walk or cycle to school without fear or threat from traffic. Every year as part of this fantastic event, schools use resources and support from Brake to run lessons across a variety of subjects around the theme of road safety and active travel.

“Brake’s Giant Walk is a terrific opportunity to educate children about the importance of road safety and what advantages there are in  walking to school for their own health and the environment. It is also a call on local drivers to make a big difference by slowing down to protect children on foot and bike. We’re urging schools to sign up now to take full advantage of the resources and support Brake offers to help schools get involved.”

Natalie Shale, Head of Communications at Ageas, said: “Ageas is delighted to be partnering Brake as part of our continued commitment to road safety.  The Giant Walk is a fantastic initiative benefitting young children and communities, and helps us to further increase awareness of the importance of road safety to peoples’ lives.”

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