Urban Safety Management in Europe

An overview of current practice in nine countries in the context of the DUMAS project.
Wouters, Drs. P.I.J
The present study concerns the initial stage of the DUMAS project: ‘Developing Urban Management and Safety', a project of the research programme of the Directorate General for Transport of the European Union. The objective of DUMAS is to produce a framework for the design and evaluation of urban safety initiatives and its first stage has been devoted to preparing a state-of-the-art review on existing practice and experience in the field. The report offers an overview and an analysis of the national state-of-the-art reports of each of the nine countries involved in the project: Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It focuses on ‘local' traffic safety related problems. ‘Nation-wide' problems like age and gender related problems, drinking and driving, etc., are firstly to be dealt with at the national level. The report addresses four subjects on which the national reports the requested to gather information. These subjects are: -Problem analysis and problem statement: ‘what are the safety problems and how have they been stated ?' -Policies: ‘what policies and/or strategies are entailed and applied in dealing with such problems ?' -Design and implementation: ‘into what measures and/or tactics are such policies / strategies ‘translated' and how are such measures or schemes implemented in practice ?' -Evaluation and monitoring: ‘how are the safety effects of such measures assessed and monitored (product evaluation) and how is the urban safety initiative appraised (process evaluation) ?' The extent of the safety problem differs considerably among the countries involved in the study, as does its development over the last decades. These days, traffic results in a yearly toll of 35,000 fatalities in the nine countries in this project. The number of fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants varies among these countries by a factor 3. In the last 20 years, the number of fatalities decreased in most countries by some 30 - 45 %; it increased however by 50 - 80 % in the Czech Republic and Greece. In each of the countries, between half and three-quarters of all injury accidents occur in built-up areas. For understanding and, thus, for effectively treating the urban traffic safety problem, however, quite an effort still has to be made in creating, organising and applying databases which offer reliable information on the local situation. In that respect administrative improvements seem a major requirement. Knowledge on virtually all traffic safety management policies and specific measures turned out to be widespread among the countries in the study and applied in practice, albeit sometimes on a minor scale. So, lack of knowledge ‘as such' cannot solely explain differences in accident records. However, reviewing the national reports, the central role of policy and decision-making became obvious. After all, it is at this level that problem solving is getting priority, legal embedding, funding and implementation, the ‘top-down' raising of public awareness, etc. Adequate organisational structures are part of it. They play a key role in structuring and organising the co-operation of the many different partners to be involved in safety initiatives, in monitoring the processes, the information transfer, and so on. The strategies of ‘sharing interests' and of ‘goal setting' turned out to be successful safety policies. At the same time, they appeared to be effective in getting and, if necessary, keeping the traffic safety issue on the political agenda or priority list. In the ‘sharing interests' strategy, common goals of different policies are intended to be achieved by combined and attuned efforts. The forming of such coalitions was especially successful in alliances with environmental and well-being policies. In the ‘goal setting' strategy, the responsible authority commits itself to achieve a fixed traffic safety target within a certain period of time. The strategy turned out to be effective in achieving previously set targets. Indirectly, some other results of the strategy seem to be at least as important, for they will have a profound impact on future safety initiatives, in setting the scene and conditions for their approach. The strategy requires, among others, long-range comprehensive action programmes, reliable organisational structures, monitoring procedures and information transfer. Importantly, the role and responsibilities of all actors involved also have to be established. ‘Safety audits' and ‘safety impact assessment' - in which the impact on road safety should, like the environmental impact, be systematically assessed at the decision stage - might be supportive to both aforementioned strategies. Some urban traffic safety concepts have been developed over time and have become generally accepted. In this context, the ‘area-wide safety approach' is of particular interest. The approach, being an integrated traffic safety management philosophy, embeds past beneficial experiences in the field of traffic safety, taking into account other local interests and related policies as well. New developments regard the so called ‘sustainable traffic safety concept' and the ‘zero-vision approach'. The starting point of the ‘sustainable traffic safety concept' is the principle that man is taken as the reference standard. The probability of accidents should be reduced in advance, by means of the infrastructural design. And where accidents still might occur, the process which determines the severity of these accidents should be influenced such that death and serious injury is virtually excluded. In the ‘zero-vision approach', it is essential that the traffic system has to be dimensioned in such a way that possible conflicts or incidents which might cause injury, never result in a pre-defined level of unacceptable loss of health to be exceeded. Urban traffic safety concepts have been elaborated into a wide range of measures and schemes, and adapted to and implemented in practice. Themain and generally accepted concept of relevance here is the ‘hierarchical network structure', in which the design of the road and its place in the hierarchy corresponds to its functions of respectively: - rapid processing of through traffic; - distributing traffic for rapid accessing districts of built-up areas; or - providing for local access. Its leading safety principle is that road users are able to recognise the function of the road - and thus the kind of traffic conditions they will have to deal with - enabling them to adjust their behaviour accordingly. With regard to residential areas, the access function of making destinations along a street accessible is combined with making a street as safe as a meeting place. In residential areas the ‘habitat' function of the public space has to be of major importance. Traffic calming measures turned out to be most valuable in residential areas, mainly due to their impact on speed reduction and diminished exposure of motorised vehicles. Among these, the ‘30 km/h speed limit zone' type of measure has been elaborated extensively over the time. Positive experiences in practice were also gained. This most cost-effective traffic calming measure can be considered as ‘mature' and, thus, suitable for further application. Implementation of the hierarchical network structure in the traffic areas of municipalities is often complicated, as it requires taking into account a variety of different interests and aspects. Yet, as shown in many projects, local professionals could maintain basic safety principles in compromises between various considerations. In this context, some more or less specific measures have also been addressed here, especially the use of the ‘urban boulevard' and the application of ‘roundabouts'. Moreover, some aspects of ‘separate' cycling networks have been discussed. Together with walking, cycling is one of the most healthy and ecologically sound travel modes, not causing congestion, parking problems, etc., and - importantly from a traffic safety point of view - not seriously threatening the safety of other traffic participants. So, promoting bicycle use, as well as walking, is often an objective of national and local policies. It demands, however, safe and attractive facilities, given the vulnerability of these categories of road users. Public awareness of the traffic safety problem and public acceptance of traffic safety measures can both be considered as a ‘conditio sine qua non', for awareness is a major stimulus for safety action and measures will not be observed and cannot be enforced either, without acceptance. Involvement of the citizens at the local level is most crucial since the measures are directly meant for their benefit, and at the same time, have an impact on their surroundings. Creating appropriate links between local authorities and the citizens is becoming increasingly complicated in larger municipalities. It is partly a general administrative predicament to be firstly addressed at the national level, but it can be argued that it is also very worthwhile to support this locally as well. Evaluation studies of traffic safety schemes are rather scarce. Yet, evaluation is of importance, for the sake of a scheme itself, as well as for the sake of future traffic safety initiatives. Reliable stated effects and information on it might encourage more widespread application. Studies of this kind do not necessarily have to focus on accident occurrence alone, but studying ‘intermediate' variables for instance might also be of value in appraising objectives of safety action , e.g. speed reduction, less through traffic, etc. The effectiveness of several of these traffic safety schemes have been reported. With regard to traffic calming measures, for instance, evaluation studies showed accident reductions between 15 - 80 %. In the final chapter on ‘Conclusions and recommendations', special attention has been given to what is seen as the crucial general outcome of this review: it is the question ‘how can we elevate the exception - of only applying measures of proven effectiveness on an incidental scale - to the general rule'. In that perspective, the individual outcomes of the review were considered once more and combined. The conclusion can be drawn that the use of Urban Safety Management frameworks is understood but underused. These should be promoted on a national as well as a local level. The value of the DUMAS project is to point out how different national approaches to the issue allow the development of a fairly uniform framework which would assist in encouraging the changes in political decision making which will be required
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Gepubliceerd door
SWOV, Leidschendam


Dit is een publicatie van SWOV, of waar SWOV een bijdrage aan heeft geleverd.