Lord Dubs, chairman of the Road Safety Foundation this morning hosted a reception in the House of Lords for MPs and road safety practitioners unveiling a report 'Saving Lives for Less' which maps the relative safety of motorway and 'A' roads and recommends the improvement of major roads for safety reasons. It all sounds highly laudatory and I am sure the sponsors of the event, the Refined Bitumen Association, are motivated by philanthropy.
There are two problems though; first the Transport Budget is under severe presure and any money devoted to improving Motorway and 'A' roads will necessarily diminish even further the money available to maintain local roads, fill potholes, improve cycling facilites, improve the attractiveness of trains and other public transport and the many other demands on the transport budget.
Second, the problem of risk compensation. If you improve the roads people will drive faster or otherwise modify their behaviour to restore the risk/convenience balance. You may achieve a reduction in accidents by making such roads so fast that they are a complete 'no-go' area for cyclists and pedestrians in effect turning all such roads into motorways.
Improvement in major roads for motorists to try and overcome, rather than tackle at source, poor motoring skills seems to me to be a questionable use of limited resources.
I would rather a little bit of money and care was put into roads like this (The Causeway, Staines) where a skinny cycle lane far too narrow to satisfy natioanl road planning guidelines has now been turned by recent road resurfacing (concentrating it seems on the part of the road used by cars and ignoring that used by bicycles) into an unattractive gutter.