Thursday, 27 November 2008

A.A. blames pedestrians for getting run down

More road lobby propaganda on BBC and ITN today (and doubtless in lots of other media outlets). It’s a classic example of flat earth news, as a corporate handout is lapped up and recycled by lazy journalists who don’t ask questions.

It’s a poorly translated pseudo-scientific “report” into “pedestrian crossings”, produced by a motor lobby group, with the involvement of the A.A. You can read it (in PDF format) here. The author of the report seems to think that the term “pedestrian crossings” means zebra crossings, which it doesn’t. It briefly acknowledges “a high level of fatalities on pedestrian crossings” but naturally doesn’t want to investigate why this might be. The report seeks “To force national and regional authorities in Europe to establish relevant guidelines and tools for road designers aiming to secure and build safe pedestrian crossings.”

It’s the usual road lobby argument that carnage on the roads is to do with road design rather than the behaviour of the perpetrators of the carnage. No road lobby hand-out has ever called for changes to car design (such as manufacturing them to go no faster than the maximum national speed limit or the inclusion of an aircraft-style 'black box' which would register speed at the moment of a collision).

In its usual sycophantic fashion BBC News has turned to an impartial third party to assess the report – yes, the A.A., which in fact is involved with it. Even though the report evades the question of responsibility for pedestrian crossing casualties, that odious smoothie A.A. president Edmund King asserts that since U.K. crossings are the finest in Europe,

“This strongly suggests that any problem with London's pedestrian crossings has to lie with their users rather than their design."

In other words, it’s all the fault of pedestrians if they get run down on zebra crossings. King should try telling that to the families of Julie Bishton and David Evans

The design of crossings is largely a red herring. The four key issues are driver behaviour, the risible penalties given to drivers found to be at fault when they hit pedestrians on crossings (all too often they are charged with "driving without due care and attention"), the obsession with prioritising motor traffic flow going at unsuitable speeds for dense residential urban environments, and the obstacles put in the way of local residents who want pedestrian crossings. As in the comment here:

This issue makes me so furious. I am a mother with two young children and feel like I risk my life several times a day to cross at this crossing. I really think it is an absolute scandal. I was only musing to myself earlier today that if anyone with any influence in tfl lived near this junction it would have been dealt with years ago. We've lived here for 8 years and our neighbours who had young children then were campaigning 8 years ago for a pedestrian crossing and were told then that it was going to be dealt with. I was in touch with tfl several times two years ago about this and was told that it was going to be sorted out at the same time as the roundabout. I am ready to take my children and go and sit in the tfl offices until someone promises to do something about it. Does anyone fancy joining me? We don't need any consultation, we just need a pedestrian crossing at a dangerous junction. Is it really that difficult?