Walking is an excellent way to get about and provides a wide range of health and environmental benefits. Unfortunately, it also carries a certain amount of risk, and so we need to ensure that more walking does not lead to more pedestrian casualties.
Every year in Britain, around 23,000 pedestrians are killed or injured in police reported road accidents, including over 5,000 who are killed or seriously injured. Some groups are particularly vulnerable, such as children and young people from the most deprived backgrounds and older people.
Along with the risk of injury, air pollution affects pedestrians, contributing to around 40,000 early deaths per year. If more walking and cycling is achieved by reducing motorised road journeys it could reduce air pollution.
The key is to create a safe walking environment, improve driver, cyclist and pedestrian attitudes and behaviour towards each other, and to produce safer vehicles that reduce the risk to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Busy urban roads, junctions and high-speed roads without adequate consideration of pedestrian facilities increase the likelihood that pedestrians will be injured or killed while walking alongside or crossing the road.
Two general approaches create a safer physical environment for pedestrians:
- Introducing a ‘safe system’ approach to road design that reduces the risk of crashes occurring, and the severity of any that do occur, making fatal injuries unlikely
- Reducing motor traffic volume
Although infrastructure can improve the safety of all road users, most road crashes are at least partly caused by human error, which can range from simple mistakes and misjudgements to deliberately dangerous and illegal behaviour. Creating a safer pedestrian environment will also help to improve the behaviour of all road users, by making it easier for them to behave responsibly and safely.
Education (including training and publicity) and enforcement are also key approaches to improving road user behaviour, and to helping everyone share the road safely together. However, all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, must also take responsibility for their own choices and behaviour.