Intended for healthcare professionals


War on the roads

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 03 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:277

Major change is needed in politicians' and developers' attitudes

  1. J Gordon Avery, retired public health physician.,
  2. Penn Avery (
  1. The Beeches, 56 Kenilworth Road, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire CV32 6JW
  2. 241 Lower Road, Great Bookham, Surrey KT23 4DH
  3. BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transportation), Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6B 1L8
  4. University of Ulster, Newtownabbey BT37 0QB
  5. University of Bordeaux 33076, France
  6. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA
  7. The Mill House, Wantage, Oxfordshire OX12 9EH

    EDITOR—The articles about war on the roads in the journal of 11 May1 have given prominence to the plight of vulnerable road users and the need to return the streets to the people in poorer countries.2 They have given less prominence, however, to similar needs in developed countries.

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    The United Kingdom has for many years had one of the best records in the world for reducing road traffic crashes. The one big anomaly has been in accidents to pedestrians. Steady progress has been made in reducing deaths and injuries to child pedestrians since the early 1970s, but the country is still placed only 15th out of the 29 countries listed in the most recent edition of Road Accidents Great Britain 2000.3

    The reason for its poor position lies mainly with the design of the urban environment. Although some good progress has been made—most notably with the development of “home zones”4—the United Kingdom still falls a long way behind its European neighbours in making its urban environment safe for children.

    Some 20 years ago we described the enlightened approach being taken by the Scandinavians and the Dutch in creating urban environments that were friendly to vulnerable road users.5 The Dutch had “living streets,” while the Scandinavians had mini village complexes with walkways and cycleways, green belts, play spaces, crèches, and shops all within easy and pleasant access (free of motor vehicles) of the residential areas.

    In contrast, the United Kingdom has continued to build tightly packed housing estates with fast moving vehicles and potential walkways and cycleways blocked off for security reasons. It has signs saying “no ball games” on the sparse green areas and playgrounds sited out of sight. No wonder our children spend most of their time watching television. When they come …

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