Professor John Whitelegg
Recently, I have been discussing the “Bless This Road” event by telephone with one of our expert advisors, Professor John Whitelegg in the United Kingdom. While John has provided some written comments below to guide our deliberations, I will first summarise what we discussed in our telephone conversation. (I should note that John has had a great deal of professional experience in Australia so we should listen to his words with careful attention.)
“Drowning in Inactivity”
John felt that in our workshop, we should focus on what the field of road safety can learn from the Belevlander and Langheinrich deaths and our survivor mission campaign to highlight the dangers of this stretch of Kyogle Road. He feels that often local municipalities are “drowning in inactivity” and that a wake-up call is in order.
He noted that if there had been four deaths in plane crashes in the same spot, it would be a scandal. We’ve become terrifyingly complacent about road deaths.
We need to explore how local government deals with road deaths. We need a much more joined-up system. We need to find ways to plan our road infrastructure in rural areas so that these sorts of tragic incidents do not happen again. John felt that perhaps there was a role for an independent road safety advisor. (I commented that I was shocked to learn after Karl died that “nobody seemed to be minding the shop” when I learned how the NSW Coroner’s recommendations had been ignored or watered down after the Bevelander crash that killed two people in early 2015.)
John feels that we will need “institutional formality” to bring about the sorts of reforms he envisages. There is a desperate need for current and high-quality information. Within institutional environments, we need opportunities to interrogate high-quality data and — in this way — hold everyone accountable.
Sadly, he feels that Australia has turned its back on Vision Zero when we look at local road planning.
Here are the words he sent for our Bless This Road workshop:
The World Health Organisation has a very clear view about road traffic accidents and death and injury in the road traffic environment “All road traffic deaths are predictable and preventable”. This conclusion from the most prestigious scientific body on the planet working on health is very significant and it has not been taken on board (in the UK and elsewhere) by engineers, road safety professionals and police. The message has been reinforced by another WHO publication in July this year “the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity”. See: http://www.who.int/ncds/prevention/physical-activity/gappa/
The Global Action Plan has been sent to every country in the world and it recommends 20mph speed limits on all residential roads and the adoption of Vision Zero and it is Vision Zero that delivers the reality and potential of zero deaths in the road traffic environment.
We can do so much better on road safety but in most countries there is still a cultural belief that “accidents happen” and that the “cause” is “mistakes” made by drivers, cyclists and children hit by a car. All of us must now work as hard as possible to reject this unethical approach to road safety. We must have root and branch Vision Zero which means all of us must do as much as possible to eliminate road traffic fatalities. This is on the same scale of significance as other cultural shifts through history e.g. the provision on public health grounds of clean drinking water and mains sewage treatment in all UK cities in the 19th century. There are no excuses for not adopting Vision Zero. If there is one death on a stretch of highway anywhere the full force of scrutiny, analysis, action, funding and remediation must be liberated and it is never acceptable that steps are not taken to make as sure as any human being can make sure of anything that there is no repetition.
This will require community activism, challenge and zero tolerance of inaction. I commend what you are doing to make this happen
World Transport Policy and Practice
I would like to publish an account of what you are doing at your workshop on 30th September( and what you would like to happen next) in the next edition of our journal, World Transport Policy and Practice (http://worldtransportjournal.com/).
The content would be up to you.
Best wishes for all your activities,
Here is a PowerPoint that John has sent us for our workshop:
Professor John Whitelegg BA PhD LLB, Associate, Zentrum fuer Mobilitätskultur in Kassel in Germany, Visiting Professor, School of the Built Environment, Liverpool John Moores University.
John is a Visiting Professor in the School of the Built Environment at Liverpool John Moores University (UK). In addition to a PhD in geography he has a law degree (LLB). In recent years, he has held professorial appointments at Lancaster University (Geography), Roskilde University (Transport), Essen University (Geography) and York University (Sustainable Development). He is the editor of the journal, World Transport Policy and Practice (now in its 23rd year of publication), a member of the International Advisory Board of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Energy and the Environment (Germany) and a member of the Advisory Board of the Chandradeep Solar Research Institute (CDSRI) in Kolkata (India). He is a member of the Board of Directors of the US organisation.
He has worked on sustainable transport projects in India, China, Australia, Germany, Sweden and Slovenia and on the same subjects with the European Parliament and European Commission. He is the technical author of the world’s first technical standard on reducing demand for private motorised transport and published by the British Standards Institution. He is a member of the World Health Organisation expert group on physical activity which has produced a global strategy for improving health (reducing non-communicable diseases such as cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and obesity) that gives strong support to walking, cycling, spatial planning and urban design.
John has written twelve books. His most recent book is “Mobility: A new urban design and transport planning philosophy for a sustainable future”. In this book he strongly advocates a “joined-up” approach to achieving 3 zeroes, all of which need the same set of measures and interventions: Zero carbon, Zero death and injury in the road traffic environment, and Zero air pollution.