Tag Archives: Road Danger Reduction

250 hours community service for killing a cyclist – A Fair Tariff?

The ridiculously lenient sentence handed down to a driver for killing cyclist Peter Brown, at the Aust roundabout, again raises questions about how the law deals with such cases.

  • Given that the cyclist was clearly visible to the driver’s passenger and the driver of the car behind, why was Philip Bridges, the killer driver, not charged with dangerous driving, which would have attracted a marginally higher sentence?
  • Why, especially in the light of his previous drink driving conviction, was Bridges not given a lengthier driving ban than 15 months?
  • How can anyone suggest that 250 hours community service is any sort of punishment or deterrent for killing an innocent person?

Our sympathies go out to the widow and family of Peter Brown. They said “He has left a huge gap in our lives that will never be filled. He was a very active man who cycled 150 to 200 miles a week and had years ahead of him.”

Induced Traffic and Traffic Evaporation

The recent debate on the proposed Callington “Relief” Road has brought the concept of “induced traffic” back into the limelight. And also the the related and much neglected evidence for “reduced traffic“, or the delightful concept of “traffic evaporation”. So what do these terms mean?

Induced Traffic

As car ownership and use have increased over the past 30 years the reaction to the pressure created by additional traffic demand has often been to increase the level of supply, in other words, provide additional road space. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that the benefits of creating additional road capacity are not as significant as was previously believed. In many cases, the provision of new road links simply increases congestion problems. This occurs through a process that is known as traffic ‘induction’. In 1994, the UK Government-commissioned Sactra report provided evidence on the impact of new road building on traffic levels in the area of the scheme. The report revealed that when new road capacity is provided, overall traffic levels in the vicinity of the scheme actually increase. The evidence does not offer a reliable means of predicting the extent of this traffic increase but case studies suggest that it is typically around 10 % in the short term, and 20 % in the longer term. In our cities, such as Bristol, there is an additional reason as to why the provision of additional road capacity is problematic for city planners — there is simply a lack of available space in which to expand.

Two recent reports from the Campaign to Protect Rural England on “the Impact of Road Projects in England” and “The End of the Road, Challenging the Road Building Consensus” discuss the latest evidence on the failure of road building projects to do anything more than attract more cars, increasing noise, air pollution and accidents. There is also is sound research evidence to back the benefits and impacts of pedestrian improvements and road closures as set out in the new website from the UWE Centre for Transport and Society.

Traffic Evaporation

So if building or widening roads causes more traffic, what happens when capacity is restricted or redirected? Chaos, surely? Well the evidence points to something else, something that unexpected, a phenomenon that has been called traffic evaporation, disappearing traffic, traffic suppression, or, more generally, reduced demand. The fact is that some traffic is displaced to other modes, and some simply vanishes, with no seeming inconvenience or disruption.

Case Study – Wolverhampton Town Centre

This case study examines a response to intense traffic congestion, worsening environmental conditions and declining economic activity in Wolverhampton in the face of competition from other shopping centres in the city of Telford to the west, and the Merry Hill complex to the south-east, and additional planned retail centres. In 1986, the local authority commissioned ‘The Black Country Integrated Transport study’ which concluded that building more roads would not solve the growing transport problems.

A more effective strategy would be to give greater priority to public transport and to put greater emphasis on improving the urban environment by creating an attractive physical space that would meet the public’s expectations. The response was a four-stage strategy, central to which was the removal of approximately 8 000 through-traffic cars per day from the city centre. The predicted traffic congestion did not occur. A significant percentage of traffic appears to have disappeared from the city centre, a result which could not be solely explained by displacement to other routes.

Below we’ve put together a short storyboard showing how the theories of induced traffic and traffic evaporation play out in reality.

The concept of “Induced Traffic” and “Traffic Evaporation”

Download our handout from the Callington Road meeting: 

Induced traffic and evaporation



News on Road Justice from meeting with police, June 2017

The Bristol Road Justice Group met senior Avon and Somerset Police officers at the beginning of June to discuss ongoing concerns as to police road traffic law enforcement and other work to reduce the dangers posed to cyclists by dangerous driving. The meeting was timely following the publication last month of the detailed report ‘Our Lawless Roads‘ from the national road victims’ charity RoadPeace, which reports an alarming drop in traffic law enforcement and in traffic policing numbers (a 60% reduction in Avon and Somerset from 157 to 62 officers). Here’s the view of Cycling UK on this important report.

Read more ...

What are the police doing about collisions resulting in injury to cyclists?

Cycling road casualty numbers appear to have stabilised with collisions per million km cycled having dropped. But the police still recorded 250 incidents* of injury to cyclists in 2015 1 with 38 being detained in hospital 2. So what are the police doing about this?

Well the answer is, as far as enforcement action is concerned, not much.

Bristol Road Justice Group has been monitoring the police’s response to incidents. We looked at three areas of enforcement:

  • Incidents involving serious injury
  • Incidents on the Gloucester Road, one of Bristol’s busiest cycle routes
  • Car doorings 3

In the first two areas, we looked at a sample of cases in 2015 where the injured cyclists had been hit by a car or van manoeuvring, e.g. pulling out of side roads, crossing the carriageway or parking, or where the vehicle hit the cyclist while overtaking or from behind. In all cases the police report of the incident suggested the driver was at fault.

We therefore expected that in most cases police enforcement action would have followed. Instead we found:

  • In 18 cases we looked at resulting in serious injury to cyclists the police only prosecuted 4 drivers, while a further 3, despite the consequences of their dangerous driving, were simply allowed to attend educational courses 4.
  • In 11 cases of injury to cyclists on the Gloucester Road, the police only prosecuted 1 driver 5.
  • In 16 cases of injury to cyclists caused by the careless opening of car doors, the police only prosecuted in 1 case and that was unsuccessful. You could be forgiven for thinking that their lack of action has effectively decriminalised the offence 6.

The police have responded to our concerns, claiming that they bring enforcement action in all cases where the victim wishes them to and where there is the evidence to support such action.

However, it is worth looking at these prosecution rates in the broader context of overall enforcement rates. There has been a huge reduction in the number of fixed penalty notices issued for the use of mobile phones while driving, down from 1,601 in 2011 to 276 in 2015. Even the police’s recording of incidents seems to have declined. For example, the number of pedestrians the police recorded as being killed or seriously injured on Bristol’s roads has reduced significantly. But hospital admissions have in fact remained almost the same. In 2011 the police recorded 59% of such hospital admission; by 2015 this number had fallen to 43% of admissions.

These figures would seem to suggest that the continued low rate of prosecution of motorists causing cycling injuries is more to do with resources and priorities than with difficulties in securing evidence.


P.S. Please remember – whilst these injury numbers are serious, cycling is overall a safe activity, with cyclists being healthier overall than non-cyclists – despite the dangers imposed by motorists. The number of people injured by a motorist whilst cycling in Bristol is about the same as the number of people injured by a motorist when out walking around the city.

*Incidents in the central (Bristol City Council) district of the Bristol conurbation only.


1.   Interpreted Listing of Police Road Traffic Incident Reports 2015 – BCC Strategic Transport
2.  Bristol Emergency Admissions to hospital due to transport related accidents 2003 – 2015
3.  Under Section 42, Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence for a person to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person.”
4.  FOI response 16 September, 2016
5.  FOI response 07 October, 2016
6.  FOI response 27 September, 2016

Police start a ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ initiative to tackle near misses

Avon & Somerset Police officers went to a seminar last week by West Midlands police on their award winning ‘Give Space, Be Safe’ initiative (Best Practice Education and Enforcement in the West Midlands). Since the initiative began last September in West Midlands it is credited with halving the number of incidents of ‘close passing’ reported by cyclists in Birmingham.

We’re very pleased to hear that the scheme is coming to our area (Undercover police WILL target Bristol drivers who pass cyclists too close). Near misses are the main issue identified as stopping people (particularly women, children and older people) from considering riding a bike. It’s an issue our Road Justice group has been working on with the police Police Near-Miss Reporting Figures to April 2016 Released.  This was also one of the key issues identified in our Manifesto for Police & Crime Commissioner Candidates at the May 2016 elections:

Low level intimidation from motor vehicles is an everyday experience for most people cycling and for many pedestrians. Two thirds of people say they consider the roads too dangerous to consider cycling due to the behaviour of traffic. In any other area of life this fear of crime and anti-social behaviour would not be tolerated. Will you ensure that policing the roads is prioritised according to its impact on the lives of most people?

Can @ASPolice confirm officers attended @Trafficwmp event on #ClosePass works? twitter.com/i/web/status/8…”
13/01/2017, 23:03
@BristolCycling @Trafficwmp We did indeed ??
16/01/2017, 08:37
Excellent. Can we have an update on what you’re thinking? “@ASPolice: @BristolCycling @Trafficwmp We did indeed ??”
17/01/2017, 20:50

In a very insightful blog post by West Midlands Police Traffic Unit they discuss the effective use of stick instead of carrot:

The only way to change driver behaviour and concentrate minds on looking out for vulnerable road users and change driving habits is through enforcement, and the resulting fear of being prosecuted. Now for those who will no doubt be spitting out their finest percolated roasted bean brew at this moment screaming “what about the cyclists !” well…….statistical analysis shows they aren’t to blame, innocent in the majority of KSI collisions it would be a waste of our time, and thus public time and money to concentrate on cyclist behaviour. The figures speak for themselves…….driver’s don’t let your prejudices get in the way of the truth…….

The fact is that EVERYONE benefits from active intelligence-led traffic policing, and in particular the vulnerable road users walking and cycling who bear most of the risk. There are other benefits as well Essential Evidence on a page: No. 99 Intelligence-led traffic policing: Motoring Offences and Other Offences

Top line: Most motorists are not criminals but most criminals are motorists. Intelligence-led policing following up traffic violations can be a cost-effective means of addressing other criminal activities

Now, about speeding… Essential Evidence on a page: No. 52 Is speeding a “real” anti-social behaviour?

Top line: Speeding traffic is rated as the greatest antisocial behavior in local communities. On the basis of results reported in the British Crime Survey police could argue that any enforcement programme currently operating is compatible with public concern.

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