‘Safe’ routes to school – no pavements and unlit at 60 mph?

5 Sep

Rural roads without pavements and 60mph speed limits are apparently officially considered ‘safe’ for children to walk to and from school on as long as the section without a footway is less than 3 miles long (2 miles long for under 8s). To quote the guardian todaySchool transport spending cuts mean that from this week many pupils will be walking to school along unlit 60mph roads without pavements … The current guidelines presume children will be accompanied by a responsible adult, meaning councils can declare routes up to three miles long (or two miles for under eights) safe even if they are unlit, have 60mph speed limits, no pavements or step-offs, and are used by heavy commercial traffic“. I believe that this is the road illustrated in the article as shown on Google Streetview.

Walking to school along 60mph roads with no pavements

Of course if drivers were to travel at a speed where they could stop within the distance they could see and ensured that pedestrians could walk safely along the edge of the carriageway then this might be sort of OK, but in current conditions where pedestrians are frequently forced to climb onto the verge for their own safety then it is not. Do check out my recent post about what happened to the father who wanted to ensure the safety of his child walking to school along a road that is probably very similar to the ones being discussed in this article who was threatened with arrest if he ‘willfully obstructed’ the traffic again.

Incidentally, in 2009 the Department for Transport proposed dropping the speed limit on many rural roads to 50mph estimating that this would cuts deaths by 250 per year but the idea was soon dropped. Rospa noted in 2010 thatAround one third of pedestrian fatalities occur on rural roads and the other two thirds on urban. Pedestrian injuries in rural areas are more likely to be fatal however, and the figures from table 2 show that 5% of all recorded pedestrian injuries resulting in a fatality, compared with urban areas where fatal casualties are 1.5%” and proposed lowering speed limits to 50 mph on some rural roads. Brake proposed it again earlier this year after commissioning a survey which found that one in eight drivers admitted overtaking on single carriageway roads when they could not see if it was clear.

3 Responses to “‘Safe’ routes to school – no pavements and unlit at 60 mph?”

  1. David Hembrow September 6, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    While Britain is reluctant about reducing speed limits to 50 mph on roads like this, the Netherlands reduced speed limits on most rural roads from 80 km/h (50 mph) to 60 km/h (37 mph) several years ago. However, it’s very rare that anyone is expected to walk or cycle on these rural roads.

    Either they have separate cycle paths or they are not through routes for cars.

    As a result, there are no school buses. Children travel by bike, independently from an average age of 8.5, up to 20 km in each direction to reach school where there are cycle paths and where there are not, including through the winter on paths cleared for them.

    There is nothing about this that Britain could not also do. These are simple quality of life issues, not anything difficult. It’s not even expensive.

    • Peter Miller September 6, 2011 at 8:27 am #

      Thanks for that Dave. It is great to get your perspective from Holland.

  2. Caroline Russell September 6, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Drivers should assume they will encounter pedestrians and drive in a way that ensures pedestrian safety (slowly). The excuse “sorry I didn’t see him/her” is no excuse. Perhaps those involved in sentencing drivers should spend a few hours a month as pedestrians on rural roads?

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