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SUBMISSION – National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020

Recently I posted about the draft National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 and the call for submissions on same. Submissions close on February 11, 2011 and I have managed to get mine in time; I hope others have taken the time to express their views. We cannot expect improvements if we do participate in the process.  For those interested my submission, made on February 6, 2011 follows. I welcome comments on it.

Mr Alan Tesch
Chair
Safety Standing Sub-Committee
National Road Safety Strategy
GPO Box 594
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Dear Mr Tesch

I thank you for the opportunity to provide input into the draft National Road Safety Strategy 2011 -2020 and I commend the committee on its work in preparing the strategy.

My interest in the strategy is from a vulnerable road user perspective, i.e., a cyclist and hence the few brief points I wish to make are from this perspective.

1.    Overall I support the Strategy as presented for consultation;
2.    I appreciate the recognition in the key challenges listed on page 9 of the need to “reduce number of serious casualties among pedestrians and cyclists” and hence the inclusion of vulnerable road users in the strategy.
3.    Referring to Section 7. Safe Roads and in particular dot point 4, “FIRST STEPS: Actions for the first three years” which states:

“Target infrastructure treatments and supporting measures addressing safety issues for vulnerable road users, for example: motorcyclists for popular motorcycle routes; infrastructure improvements for older road users; people accessing public transport; bicyclists.

I commend the Committee on raising the importance of infrastructure treatments for vulnerable road users to a first step priority however I do have my concerns about the pre-amble discussion suggesting roundabouts as being one key infrastructure treatment to aid in achieving key outcomes.

I appreciate the role of roundabouts to slow down traffic however from my perspective as a road cyclist, roundabouts are in the main poorly designed with no proper allowance for merging of cyclists with the traffic, no proper allowance for cyclists to proceed safely through and to safely egress particular where a right turn is required in the roundabout.  I would go as far to say that roundabouts are the most vulnerable aspects of road infrastructure that I encounter on my daily commutes.   Notable issues with roundabouts are:

(a)    Motorists perceive that a cyclist will slow them down through the roundabout (opposite generally takes place) and hence at the narrowing of the road at the entry point attempt to force their way through, despite in some instances of the cyclist claiming the lane.  This video on YouTube of a recent instance I experienced illustrates my concern.

 

(b)    Motorists “don’t see” cyclists and fail to give-away to them in roundabouts.
(c)    Motorists frequently feel that they have the right to pass a cyclist in single lane roundabouts and hence try to force their way pass. Trust me that is a very scary experience!

Roundabouts if used for the purpose proposed should be designed to ensure that there is:

(a)    Safe passage for cyclists, e.g., properly designed exit and re-entry paths off the road (not ones that require interaction with traffic entering or egressing from the roundabout) or properly marked on-road bicycle lanes;
(b)    To actually slow down significantly traffic, rather than designing them as chicanes to facilitate the “thrill of speeding through them.” 
(c)    Clear and safe narrowing of entry roads which allow cyclists and motorists to merge safely;
(d)    Clear rules and education programs established to make it clear that cyclists are vehicles and should be allowed to safely pass through a roundabout without being subject to attempts to pass or being forced off the road.

4.    Referring to the dot point found in the same section under the heading “FUTURE STEPS – what else will be considered?” which states:

“Implementing infrastructure measures to physical separate cyclists and motor vehicles on higher-speed roads with significant bicycle usage.”

I support this step in principle but seek that recognition be made that like motor vehicles there are cyclists and there are cyclists and that the likely primary cyclist users on such roads are “road cyclists” who are likely to ride at higher speeds that more casual cyclists, hence the design of such infrastructure should reflect this. That is would you design road infrastructure that reduces or creates dangerous interaction points for motorists? I suspect not, therefore the same principles should apply to cyclists.  Dual Use Paths for example are not solution in such situations.

5.    Referring to section “10. SAFE PEOPLE” and the “FIRST STEPS: Actions for the first three years” box, I bemoan the lack of a step focusing on vulnerable road users and hence encourage the Committee to reconsider this section and to include appropriate first steps that incorporates vulnerable road users.  I suggest that the committee consider the following first steps:

a.    A licensing requirement that requires all those seeking a motor vehicle licence to spend sufficient time riding a bicycle on the road so that they understand that there are vulnerable road users and hence develop both a tolerance for same and an understanding of the importance safe driving practices that allows for vulnerable road users;
b.    Regular re-testing (five years) of all road-users to ensure their awareness of the road code is current and well informed.  We have drivers who have been driving 20+ years since they passed their drivers licence. Is it reasonable to assume that they still have a proper understanding of the road rules? I wonder how many of the committee members for example could pass an online road rules test without re-studying the road code?

In closing I again thank the Committee for the opportunity to input into the Strategy and encourage the Committee in its work.

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