Month: September 2016

When halving means only 10%

In June 2015, as TfL proudly announced that their target of reducing road deaths in the capital by 40% from the 2005-09 baseline by 2020 had been achieved six years early, discussions focused on a new target.

Some people, including members of Transport for London’s board, argued that a Vison Zero target should be set, recognising that no preventable death was acceptable.

TfL is reluctant to set a target of Zero because it mistakenly thinks that any deaths will be blamed on them. That is not correct: every death is a failure, and it is imperative to learn from failures; to really do that one must detach the learning from the blaming. [A cynic may say that managers’ bonuses cannot be linked to an “unachievable” target]

So a compromise was reached and this headline was paraded on TfL’s website:

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Anyone reading the headline would assume that the new target would be 50% of the 127 people killed on London roads in 2014. That would still mean that TfL expects 63 people to be killed in 2020, more than one/week. At present ratios, 38 people would be killed while walking or cycling.

It now transpires that TfL does not think that such a reduction of preventable deaths is achievable. They have kept the old baseline of 2005-09, so the so-called halving is actually a reduction from a 40% reduction target to a 50% reduction target, i.e. only 10 percentage points.

This is a trick that TfL has employed before, namely when they set the 40% target in the first place.

The 40% target was announced in June 2013, in the Safe Streets for London report. The Executive Summary on page 10 states:

TfL will reduce KSIs by a further 40 per cent by 2020

When they say “a further 40%” one would expect they mean from the 2012 figures. Wrong, it was from the 2005-09 average. Now the 2012 figures already showed a 17% reduction from the 2005-09 baseline. Therefore TfL’s target was only a FURTHER 23% reduction from the baseline.

That 23% reduction was reached in 2 years rather than 8 years as planned. Great.

Why then not try to achieve the same rate of reduction in the next six years?

This chart shows how timid the new target actually is:

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You can see that a real halving of KSIs by 2020 using 2014 as a baseline (orange line) is consistent with the trend of the previous seven years (green line) (it actually is less demanding).

The new TfL target, which they call “challenging”, effectively expects 900 more KSI in 2020 than could be achieved if present trends continued.

When I challenged TfL about their lack of ambition, I received this reply:

The annual Casualties in Greater London report is published each spring and currently these figures are compared against the 2005-09 baseline. At this time, within the context of the ambition set by the ‘Safe Streets for London: Road Safety Action Plan for London 2020’, we feel it is appropriate to retain the same baseline period.

With regards to using 2014 as the new baseline; we set our casualty baseline over a number of years instead of just one. This is in line with the Department for Transport’s position. This controls the effects of short-term, statistically insignificant variations in data and gives a robust comparison period for the target.

We remain confident stretching the target from a 40 per cent to 50 per cent reduction over the life of the Safe Streets for London Plan is challenging but achievable, representing significant additional KSI reductions to the period to 2020.

I then asked Simon Bradbury, Head of Road Safety at TfL, whether he found it acceptable that in 2020 more than 100 people would be killed on London roads. Again he defended these scandalous targets.

We asked Valerie Shawcross, Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee and TfL Board member Michael Liebreich to comment on the misleading headline and the cowardly target. They all refused to respond, showing lack of manners and decency.

This is not about numbers; it is about the lives unnecessarily destroyed by traffic violence; the area between the red and the orange line represents 2544 people who will be either killed or seriously injured by 2020 because of the cowardice of Transport for London and those who should oversee it.

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