Parliament urges EU to do more to reduce cyclists and pedestrian deaths

As policymakers scramble to tackle climate change and air pollution, we are often encouraged to cycle or walk instead of driving. As it turns out, this may not be as safe as we thought.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

12 Jun 2015

A new report, published by the European transport safety council (ETSC), reveals that 7,600 cyclists and pedestrians died as the result of a road traffic accident during 2013 - the equivalent, says the Brussels-based NGO, "of a commercial airliner full of passengers being lost every week".

They go on to highlight that, "unprotected road users need special attention because the numbers being killed are falling more slowly than those for vehicle occupants". Over the last 10 years, pedestrian and cycling deaths fell by 41 and 37 per cent respectively, while vehicle occupant deaths fell by 53 per cent.

The report's authors suggest that there is evidence to show that there is indeed "safety in numbers", explaining that, "increases in cycling and walking can reduce the risk to walkers and cyclists as motor traffic becomes more used to sharing the road, and could improve overall safety if car travel were replaced by walking and cycling".

ETSC executive director Antonio Avenoso said, "Despite the health and environmental benefits, people who cycle and walk are not getting a fair share of improvements in road safety in Europe."

"This year, the EU has a very powerful weapon at its disposal, namely the review of safety requirements for new vehicles - it should not shy away from mandating those changes that can save the most lives".

The group are also encouraging local authorities to introduce 30km/hour zones in residential areas and areas regularly used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Commenting exclusively on the report for this website, the chair of parliament's transport and tourism committee Michael Cramer said, "The EU must keep its level of ambition on road safety and reinstate clear targets for less road fatalities and less serious injuries. Cyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users and they need special attention in our efforts."

"A default speed limit of 30km/hour in cities is a very effective means to make our roads safer. The European parliament has already recommended this measure by a large cross-party majority".

However, the German Greens/European Free Alliance deputy also underlined that, "cities should be allowed to decide for themselves on which main roads the 50km/hour limit is appropriate for, and on which other roads [they believe] the 30km/hour limit is the safest choice for".

Lucy Anderson, a British Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) MEP who has campaigned on cycling safety, told us, "This report highlights clearly that we are not doing enough across the EU on road safety for cyclists and pedestrians."

"This is especially the case in cities and urban areas. For example, all six fatal cycling accidents in London this year involved lorries. More extensive actions must be taken to regulate the use of road space and control lorry and other larger vehicle access where appropriate".

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