Our response to the Road Harm Reduction Strategy consultation

Filed under: Consultation

Our response to Birmingham City Council’s Road Harm Reduction Strategy consultation. If you agree with it and want to support it, include a link to this page in your response to the consultation on Birmingham Be Heard before 5 April 2024.

Before we set out our response, which was automatically scheduled yesterday afternoon, we learned of yet another serious collision in one of our local centres. We do not yet know how many people were seriously injured or killed. This serves as a critical reminder that while we consider long-term strategies, families and communities are being torn apart.

This strategy is a pivotal proposal to change the Council’s approach to road safety measures.

It’s clear why change is needed: too many people are killed and seriously injured on our city’s roads. Each death destroys families as well as communities, but is not inevitable. These collisions are preventable.

Better Streets for Birmingham has been clear that the current approach to road harm reduction has been wholly unacceptable.

We are pleased with the proposed strategy. Particularly the recommittal to Vision Zero, as well as adopting the Safe System and Healthy Streets approaches.

Safe System applies a system approach to reducing the chance of death and serious injury on roads. We know that Transport for West Midlands and other authorities in the region are adopting this approach.

The Healthy Streets Scorecard will reduce road harm, make our streets more accessible, safer, healthier and happier.

Our city has been steadfast in its car dominance since post-war developments. Today, this manifests in neighbourhoods and local centres through obstructive pavement and verge parking. It is often difficult to walk around your neighbourhood, especially for people with wheelchairs, mobility scooters, prams and particularly for blind people using a cane. 

We need a Birmingham where “cars are guests” and people can get around without a car. We believe this strategy, along with the Birmingham Transport Plan, is foundational in achieving this.

We wholeheartedly support the draft Road Harm Reduction Strategy.

We do, however, have specific concerns about funding and the amount of time it will take to retrofit our vast quantity of streets to meet healthy streets standards.

The Healthy Streets Fund will combine existing funding pots, and addresses our previous concern that the current ‘Brum Breathes Fund’ means very little to residents. However, it potentially fails to rectify a serious issue with current funding streams, such as the Ward Minor Transport Measures (WMTM) fund; we have found that it can achieve very little in a year due to the sheer cost of interventions and associated legal costs with Traffic Regulation Orders.

As the amount of money per councillor is not set out in the strategy, we would expect the amounts to allow Councillors to make genuine interventions rather than tinkering around the edges. Giving residents agency in improving the safety of their neighbourhood through lobbying their local councillors could significantly improve community engagement with such schemes.

We also require assurances that interventions made by Councillors using the Healthy Streets Fund will build towards an overall vision. While we understand that plans will need approval from Transport Planning, it might be helpful to work backwards from an overall target state of neighbourhoods between arterial routes.

Another consideration is whether there is an opportunity in future highways maintenance contracts to adopt the Dutch approach of retrofitting infrastructure to streets whenever works are planned, such as resurfacing and junction equipment upgrades.

We also wish to raise the issue of highway engineers designing WMTM interventions that diverge from LTN1/20 standards and current practice. We would like assurances that engineers have been sufficiently trained on LTN1/20 and Healthy Streets.

Further to this, many Councillors do not know how to engage with residents about road safety issues they’re facing, and acceptable interventions are available as part of the proposed strategy approach. For example, speed humps and pillows are the last resort of a Healthy Streets approach, yet are commonly raised as a solution by residents and councillors.

We understand that as a result of this strategy, a ‘menu’ of changes will be made available. This is a positive step. If we might suggest looking at successes other councils have had in this area. Bristol City Council created a website ten years ago called Traffic Choices to help explain interventions in plain English, with pros and cons, supported with evidence. This would be a sensible approach for helping Councillors and residents to understand the options available.

And finally, we are concerned that many Council employees and Councillors will need to take Healthy Streets training and question whether this should be delivered by Healthy Streets as opposed to someone internally.

When this excellent strategy is adopted, it is crucial that all areas of the Council and our authorities work urgently on updating their practice to implement the new approach. Lives depend on it.

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Better Streets for Birmingham

Better Streets for Birmingham is a community group which campaigns for changes to our travel and planning infrastructure to improve the sustainability, efficiency and safety of our streets. We believe that through connecting Birmingham to reduce car dependency, we will make it a more pleasant place to work, live and play.