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Plan for 20mph urban speed-cam zones touted

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Just when you thought it was safe to go driving again without being repeatedly photographed - with news breaking this week that the government has put national road pricing on the back burner - the nanny state lobby has bounced back off the ropes with ambitious new plans.

The 'casts and sheets this morning are full of a new report from transport safety think tank PACTS, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. That sounds as though it might be an official body, but it's not - it's a private company with charitable tax exemptions which is allowed to operate half in and half out of the Houses of Parliament, like many others.

PACTS has been brewing its report, titled Beyond 2010, for some time.

Its executive director Robert Gifford said (pdf): "We are living in a period when central government appears reluctant to regulate unless absolutely necessary.

"With all that we currently know about urban design, we should aim to design out road use conflicts in the same way as we can design out crime.

"When we also remember that road deaths amount to 82 per cent of all accidental deaths for those under 20, there still remains plenty for us to do.

"Our first hurdle is to persuade central government that a third round of targets [following those set in 1987 and 2000] would be a good idea."

PACTS doesn't care for the government's practice of measuring its success by counting numbers of people killed or "seriously injured" on the roads. The lobbyists say that the definition of seriousness can be fiddled with so as to make it seem that progress is being made, when in fact it is not. Gifford wants to see a hard target set for reductions in the number of deaths, and no fooling with injuries.

"A road death is much less equivocal than an injury. A specific target for deaths would concentrate minds," he tells the Times.

"Our aim should be to make our roads as safe as possible for all classes of road user... we should also take some account of equity: those who pose the least risk to others and who are themselves most at risk from others should be afforded the highest levels of resource and priority."

What he's on about there is sorting out the roads to be safer for cyclists (and probably pedestrians too). British bike lanes and paths, as anyone who's used them much knows, are rubbish. Their layout almost always prioritises the convenience of motorists over that of cyclists; pedestrians and drivers ignore them most of the time - without fear of so much as a harsh word from the cops - and they are often conspicuous by their absence just when you need them most.

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