Traffic safety was the topic at this year’s Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle-Friendly Cities, Municipalities and Counties in North Rhine-Westphalia e. V. (AGFS) Congress which took place on February 21 at the Essen Exhibition Centre parallel to the public “Bicycle” exhibition.
Around 700 participants, more than at previous congresses, discussed modern transport infrastructure with experts from politics, administration and research. The discussion centred around an infrastructure which ensures more safety, in particular for short-distance trips, along with the necessary legal framework conditions, such as an adaptation of the Highway Code.
A question of money
“Strengthen the municipalities!” This appeal to the German Federal Government and the State of NRW was addressed right at the opening by Frank Meyer, Mayor of the city of Krefeld and Chairman of the AGFS Presidium. Only further financial support will enable cities and municipalities to create infrastructures for a transport policy that will increase road safety and help Germany achieve its climate goals. There were commitments for this from representatives of the State and the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). Safety is a key prerequisite for people to make the transition to riding bicycles. The country spent a total of 2.25 million euros more than last year for the promotion of bicycle and pedestrian-friendly local mobility this year, said the Head of the Department of Fundamental Affairs of Mobility, Digitisation and Networking at the NRW State Ministry of Transport, Dirk Günnewig. The Commissioner for Bicycle Traffic at the BMVI, Karola Lambeck, especially pled for the further expansion of bicycle expressways and pointed to the current ongoing review of the Highway Code to achieve greater local traffic friendliness.
Room for safety
In any case, according to the assessment of one of the Insurers’ Accident Research experts, no significant increase in the safety of short-distance mobility can be achieved with the measures taken thus far. According to the insurance companies analysis, most accidents involving personal injury still occur at intersections and crossings; the reason for this is being the lack of visibility, for example due to parking and parked cars and trucks. Excessive speed and insufficient driving ability are other accident-promoting factors. Safety for pedestrians and cyclists requires more space in traffic than both have been previously granted.
Becoming safety- conscious
The fact that safety in traffic can also be deceptive was demonstrated by research on the influence of the infrastructure on the overtaking behaviour of motorists by the TU Braunschweig. The amazing result: lack of markings lead motorists to comply more often with the legally required minimum overtaking distance of 1.5m.
According to Tilman Bracher from the German Institute for Urban Studies, modern traffic regulations are being urgently sought. According to the traffic expert, § 45 StVO (“traffic-restricting measures”) and, in particular, case-law continue to anchor the privileges of automobile traffic. This should be changed with cleverly amended Road Traffic Regulations (StVO), before an “umbrella law” could be implemented for road traffic planning.
The subjective perception of safety also plays a role in Essen: pedestrians and cyclists are increasingly feeling harried by motorised vehicles, although the relationship between pedestrians and cyclists itself is often not characterised by consideration.
The road safety campaign “Love needs space” presented at the congress wants to change that and addresses the often problematic space behaviour between unequal road users. It is being cooperatively implemented by the AGFS, the NRW Future Mobility Network and the NRW Traffic Safety Board and financed and supported by the Ministry of Transport of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.