The report, by road safety charity Brake and Direct Line and based on a survey of 1,000 drivers, found that two thirds think that it is often not safe for children to move around by walking in UK cities because of the threat of traffic.

The findings also highlighted concern over the safety of cyclists, with more than seven in 10 drivers stating that it is often not safe to move around UK cities by cycling because of the traffic threat. [1]

Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are the most vulnerable road users with the safety concerns highlighted by drivers borne out by statistics.

The latest Government figures show that the number of child pedestrians (age 15 and under) killed in 2018 increased by 27% on the previous year (from 22 to 28), and that there were 1,276 child pedestrian serious injuries over the same period – an average of more than three every day. Cyclist deaths and serious injuries have increased by 29% from 2008 to 2018 to a total of 3,802, broadly following the increase in cycling traffic of 17% over the same period but meaning that, on average, ten cyclists are killed or seriously injured on British roads every day. [2]

Drivers have appeared to acknowledge the need to take action to reduce the risk to vulnerable road users, with almost half (46%) stating that walking and cycling should be given greatest priority when moving around on UK city streets, compared to just 15% of drivers who think the priority should be given to personal motorised vehicles (cars, vans, motorcycles) - when asked where the priority currently lies, 4 in 10 thought personal motorised vehicles with less than a quarter choosing walking and cycling (23%).

Brake, the road safety charity, is emphasising the support from drivers to call for the transformation of urban transport, enabling people to move around cities in safe and healthy ways with priority given to getting around by bicycle or on foot. The safety campaigners want to see significantly increased investment in cycling and walking infrastructure, safer default speed limits (20mph in urban areas), and public transport made more accessible and affordable with the stated goal of making cities for people, not for vehicles.

Commenting, Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “Walking to and from school or a friend’s house should be a natural, and safe, part of growing up and so it’s hugely concerning that drivers think children walking are at risk due to the threat posed by traffic in cities. We should all be free to move around in safe and healthy ways, whether on foot or by bike, but the dominance of motor traffic is preventing us from doing so.

“It’s time to transform our urban areas into places for people, not for vehicles, and it’s great to see that drivers themselves support this move. More and safer routes for people walking and cycling alongside slower vehicle speeds are vital to help make our cities more safe and healthy places to be – we need cities for people, not cities for vehicles.”

Steve Barrett, head of Direct Line Car insurance, commented: “While much has been done to improve the safety of vehicles and develop infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians in cities, people are still needlessly being seriously injured and killed. Urban areas still need to evolve to enable everyone to travel to their destination safely. Despite the steps that have already been made in developing multi transport infrastructures and layouts in urban areas, still more needs to be done to ensure whichever form of transport someone chooses to use whether car, public transport, cycle or by foot they can do so safely, affordably and efficiently.”

Lilli Matson, Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer at Transport for London, said: “Children should be safe to enjoy their streets, encouraging them to play, walk and cycle. London’s streets account for 80 per cent of the city’s public space, yet too often they are dominated by traffic. This is why we’re focusing on our Vision Zero approach to eliminate death and serious injuries on our roads and transforming streets in line with the Healthy Streets Approach – making them pleasant, safe and attractive places.”

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[1] Survey of 1,000 drivers undertaken by independent market research company, Surveygoo, on behalf of Brake and Direct Line

[2] Reported road casualties in Great Britain: main results 2018, Department for Transport, July 2019