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Blair challenged over high UK road death toll

Institution news

PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair has been challenged by the Institution of Civil Engineers and Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to take action on road deaths by funding an investigation into the UK's poor pedestrian and cycle safety record.

ICE president Mark Whitby, in a joint letter with RIBA president Paul Hyett, urges the prime minister to fund a programme to determine why the UK lags so far behind the rest of Europe in terms of pedestrian and cycle safety.

The letter cites recent Department for Transport statistics which, it claims, demonstrate that a pedestrian in the UK is three to four times more vulnerable than in Sweden or the Netherlands. Walkers in Germany and Denmark are twice as safe, and cyclists in mainland Europe around 50% safer.

The proposed study would highlight differences in physical design and social attitudes between the UK and other European countries.

'We, as an institution, were given our charitable status to serve society, and I firmly believe that we have a duty of care to that society, ' said Whitby.

The study would also seek to identify the changes to design standards needed alongside any programmes to promote greater cycling and walking, and would look to agree appropriate benchmarks against which future improvements can be monitored.

'It is immoral and totally irresponsible to promote walking and cycling as alternatives without introducing significant measures to improve the safety and environment in which to do them, ' Whitby said.

Yellow card verdict

INSTITUTION OF Civil Engineers president Mark Whitby has likened government's inactivity over its failure to do more to tackle road deaths, to a reinstatement of the death penalty.

'I offer the government the yellow card because my loyalty, and the loyalty of many, is being tested.'

Whitby referred to recent Department of Transport figures revealing that the number of children killed on the UK's roads rose by 14% in 2001, while the number of children killed in cars soared 50% .

'These are shocking statistics against which we should be measuring governments, ' Whitby said.

He urged MPs, Lords and civil engineers to unite and lobby the government hard.

'I cannot overstate the importance of this. There are thousands of children's lives that can be saved between now and the next government.'

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