Pedestrians: not even an afterthought

In a society that gives priority to keeping the traffic moving at speed (time is money), little consideration is often given to the vulnerability of pedestrians and cyclists. Road safety is still mostly about the safety of vehicle occupants. Yet it is the vulnerable road users – and not the vehicle occupants – that mostly get hurt in a collision.

Margaret Brown writes, in the article We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? (The Conversation, 8 June 2021), that Australian politics leaves pedestrians vulnerable.

There is little political will to discourage people from driving, to reduce speed limits, to prioritise walking (and cycling) infrastructure and to increase public transport funding. All of these measures contribute to mobility for all – including children, older people and people with disability”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

Vehicle occupants are better protected from decades of research in active and passive vehicle safety. As Pedestrians, in comparison, we still have the shell that we evolved with. We break easily.

“Pedestrians, along with cyclists and motorcyclists, are most at risk of injury and death when involved in a collision on the roads. In a crash, pedestrians are four times more likely to be injured than those in a vehicle.”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

There has been some success over the decades improving vehicle occupant safety, but pedestrians have been left out in the cold, with road design and investment prioritising motoring.

“The road toll has decreased over recent decades largely because fewer people in cars are dying. Pedestrian deaths have decreased much more slowly. In the decade to 2019, road deaths of car occupants fell three times as fast as for vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists).”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

Repeatedly when the federal government investigates in road safety it fails to address the needs of the most vulnerable.

“A federal Office of Road Safety was created in 2019. However, the recommended road safety measures usually improve safety for people in vehicles or improve traffic flow. These measures do nothing for pedestrian safety.”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

“While some versions of this approach consider the safety of all road users, including pedestrians, this has not filtered through to government policies.”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

“Australian governments neglect other perspectives such as the right to mobility for all. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by Australia, recognises the right to liberty of movement. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the rights to access to transport and to personal mobility.”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

“Its final report, released in October 2020, contains 22 recommendations. Yet none of these focus specifically on pedestrian safety”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

For at least the last two decades, many interest groups expressed their concern to improve our cities to make the public spaces more pedestrian friendly.

“Recommendations in the Victoria Walks submission to the select committee covered topics such as:

– the design of crossings and intersections
– maintaining footpaths and walking routes
– banning e-scooters from footpaths
– reducing speed limits in residential areas
– increasing investment in public transport
– expanding the range of data collected on pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

The committee’s final recommendations reflected none of these points.”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

Another issue is the them-and-us view – particularly from motorists. Vulnerable road users are alienated and stigmatised. Rather than finding fault with poor infrastructure, the fault is found with the pedestrian, who dares step onto the road. Further, there is little understanding how varied the needs of active travellers can be.

User groups – Pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians are made up of different groups of users that have different values and needs. Pedestrian user groups include walkers, joggers, people pushing prams or strollers and those using wheelchairs, both motorised or non-motorised. Cyclist user groups include primary and secondary school children, family groups / recreational cyclists, commuters, neighbourhood / utility cyclists, and touring and training cyclists (refer AGTM04 Table 4.12).

Active Travel Facilities Design – Municipal Infrastructure Standards 05 (MIS05) (ACT Government, April 2019)

“The Office of Road Safety is yet to release its National Road Safety Strategy. It says the strategy will consider “vulnerable road users” as a whole group. This approach fails to adequately consider the needs of pedestrians separately from motorcyclists and cyclists.”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

After years of neglect, it is time to improve our cities for active travel.

“The previous National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020 did include reducing “the number of serious casualties among pedestrians and cyclists” as one of its “major strategic challenges”.”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.

Those that do not have a car or cannot drive should not be disadvantaged. It’s a form of discrimination that nobody talks about! The presumption that we drive, isolates the old, young, and people with a disability.

“Some government publications recognise pedestrians as “vulnerable road users”. Yet almost no attention is paid to the most vulnerable pedestrians, namely older people, children and people with disability.”

We all have to walk across roads — why aren’t pedestrians a focus of road safety? The Conversation, 8 June 2021.
Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

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