Election manifestos: Victims’ Law, Vision Zero and more

The parties have released their manifestos ahead of the general election on December 12th, and RoadPeace has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Party manifestos to understand better how each party might tackle road danger, and improve the justice system and support victims. 

As might be expected, it’s a mixed bag in terms of what they are promising. 

CONSERVATIVES

The Conservative’s manifesto promises to improve cycle infrastructure:

“We will support commuter cycling routes, so that more people can cycle safely to work and more families can go out together. We will create a new £350 million Cycling Infrastructure Fund with mandatory design standards for new routes. We will extend Bikeability – cycling proficiency training – to every child. And we will work with the NHS to promote cycling for healthier living.”

The commitment to ensuring more families can go out together is key. Studies have shown that children are significantly more likely to cycle if segregated routes are in place. The question is what the ‘mandatory design standards’ would entail. Boris Johnson’s ‘Cycle Super Highways’ under his mayoral term in London were not segregated.

In other good news for cyclists, the Conservatives are the only party to mention potholes:

“We will launch the biggest ever pothole-filling programme as part of our National Infrastructure Strategy – and our major investment in roads will ensure new potholes are much less likely to appear in the future.”

However the bulk of the transport promises within the Conservative manifesto are not cycling or walking related, and nowhere is harm reduction mentioned. Whilst the promise to invest 1 billion in “completing a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles of a rapid electric vehicle charging station.” is commendable, RoadPeace does not consider the introduction of more electric vehicles as the solution to reducing road danger. Certainly the environment will benefit, but RoadPeace wants to see targets to reduce the number of people being killed on Britain’s roads.

In terms of their approach to victims, it’s encouraging to see that a Conservative government would pass and implement a ‘Victim’s Law’. RoadPeace has called for and supported this along with Claire Waxman, London’s Victims’ Commissioner. A Victim’s Law would mean that the current entitlements under the Victim’s Code of Practice would become statutory rights – ultimately resulting in victims being treated in a better way by the justice system, and guaranteeing improved levels of support. 

LABOUR

In contrast to the Conservative’s, Labour’s manifesto directly tackles road danger:

“We will adopt an ambitious Vision Zero approach to UK road safety, striving for zero deaths and serious injuries. Labour will invest to make our neglected local roads, pavements and cycleways safer for the everyday journeys of both drivers and vulnerable road users.”

Vision Zero has been adopted in London, resulting in bold initiatives to eliminate death and serious injury. RoadPeace fully supports it becoming a national strategy, and spoke at a meeting with the shadow Road Safety Minister to discuss including Vision Zero in the manifesto earlier this year.  

The commitment to Vision Zero is coupled with a focus on walking and cycling:

“We will increase the funding available for cycling and walking. We will bring together transport and land-use planning to create towns and cities in which walking and cycling are the best choice: safe, accessible, healthy, efficient, economical and pollution free. We will help children’s health and well-being by ensuring street designs provide freedom for physically active outdoor play and by introducing measures to ensure the zones around our schools are safer, with cleaner air.”

Equally encouraging is a commitment, albeit vague, to increase police numbers and training:

“We will ensure better police training on domestic abuse and offences arising from coercive control, as well as historical abuses and other crimes neglected by the reduced forces operating under Tory austerity.

There has been a decline in traffic police numbers – one would hope that traffic offences would fall within the category of ‘crimes neglected’, and therefore be addressed under a Labour government. 

Like the Conservatives, Labour promises to introduce a Victims Law. Where they differ in terms of justice is on prison sentences. Whilst the Conservatives would introduce longer ones, Labour has promised: 

“The Ministry of Justice’s own evidence shows tens of thousands of crimes could be prevented if robust community sentences replace short prison sentences. We will set new standards for community sentences and introduce a presumption against prison sentences of six months or less for non-violent and non-sexual offences. 

A Labour government will halt court closures and cuts to staff, and undertake a review of the courts reform programme. We will facilitate a more representative judiciary while upholding its independence, and review funding for the Crown Prosecution Service.”

RoadPeace is supportive of alternative sentencing, read more in our blog here http://www.roadpeace.org/2019/02/28/smart-justice-needs-to-work-for-road-crime-victims/

And increased resources within the justice system are greatly needed. 

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

The Liberal Democrats manifesto is less comprehensive than the Conservative’s and Labour’s.  

Whilst their transport strategy includes “Placing a far higher priority on encouraging walking and cycling – the healthiest forms of transport”, there is no mention of reducing the numbers of people being killed and seriously injured on the roads. 

Not only is there no mention of harm reduction, there is also no mention of victims and their rights. The justice part of the manifesto is very much concentrated on rehabilitating offenders. Like Labour, they are in favour of alternative sentencing which RoadPeace is supportive of. It is nonetheless concerning that the Victims Law is not mentioned. 

GREEN PARTY

As might be expected, the Green Party’s manifesto is significantly more preoccupied with active travel and reducing road danger. Like Labour, they promise to introduce Vision Zero nationally. However the steps and approaches they outline are more specific and more radical:

“Our Green New Deal for transport will invest in public transport, walking and cycling so wherever people live they are not forced to use a car, by

  • Spending £2.5 billion a year on new cycleways and footpaths, built using sustainable materials, such as woodchips and sawdust. 
  • Making travelling by public transport cheaper than travelling by car, by reducing the cost of travelling by train and bus. Coach travel will also be encouraged, with new routes for electric coaches provided across the country.
  • Civilise our streets by making Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (in which rat-running is blocked) the norm for residential areas and making 20 miles per hour the default speed limit. These changes would reduce traffic, carbon emissions and danger to people walking and cycling. They would restore our streets to all people. They would also form part of a wider commitment to the core principle of the Vision Zero campaign – that there should be no fatalities or serious injuries as a result of road traffic collisions.
  • Make 40 miles per hour the default speed limit in non-residential areas except on major roads.
  • Ensure through the planning system that all new housing is served by high quality walking and cycling routes and much improved bus, tram and local rail services. New residents must not be forced into car use.”

The commitment to reducing speed limits and the number of vehicles on the roads is what would ultimately lead to less deaths and serious injuries. Whilst Labour also commit to Vision Zero – the extent to which they would tackle the danger posed by vehicles is not known.

The Green Party’s approach to the justice system is fairly encouraging. They have a similar approach to Labour and the Liberal Democrats in reducing the number of short term prison sentences. However there is no mention of the Victims’ Law. 

CONCLUSION

It’s a sign of progress that Vision Zero is mentioned in two of the manifestos. Clearly calls by RoadPeace and other organisations are getting heard. Equally the mention of the Victim’s Law by Labour and the Conservatives is good news for victims of road crime. Active travel is on the agenda for all the parties, which in turn would lead to a reduction in road danger. 

Ultimately without real strategies and policies in place, it is impossible to say which party would reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads the most. However, commitments to Vision Zero and active travel are indicators.