Data and its role in reducing inequality on UK roads

8th May 2024

Transport for London’s Senior Road Safety Strategy Lead on improving transportation for the most vulnerable members of society.

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By John Challen

CIHT’s March Masterclass was focused on how data could be used to identity issues with – and then improve – road danger for the most vulnerable members of society. With the right data, transportation professionals can better shape policies, infrastructure and services and ultimately reduce inequalities.

One of the participants in the Masterclass, Amy Pidwell, Senior Road Safety Strategy Lead, Transport for London (TfL), has seen first-hand the impact data can make. Work undertaken by Pidwell and her colleagues has helped create the Vision Zero Inequalities Dashboard to highlight the variations in road traffic data by borough in the capital.

“Data is absolutely at the core of everything we do to understand and tackle road danger. We know a lot about the locations where people are killed or seriously injured, thanks to police reports, which means everything we then do is evidence-led,” Pidwill explains. “The interesting thing about our inequalities work is that we're expanding our data analysis, complimenting our traditional way of looking at road danger (who’s been killed, where, and who was involved) to examining more systemic structures and the way cities work.”

“This approach gives us a different lens to understand road danger, and potentially also a different audience. This is something really valuable for me and my team; for decisions on where we intervene to tackle road danger and where we target our advertising campaigns and behaviour change programmes.”

The data led to some interesting conclusions around the scale of inequality. “We looked at both where people were injured (collision location), as well as looking at casualty demographics, including their home postcode.,” reveals Pidwill. “When we looked at where people were injured, we saw that the more deprived the location, the higher the risk of injury. The same was also true for the location people live, the more deprived the area, the higher the risk of injury. 

“As a result of this analysis, we now have additional information to help us plan our road danger reduction interventions and continue to work towards eradicating deaths and serious injuries from London’s roads."

Pidwill says that the use of the data also broadens the debate around road danger and suggests that people who are interested in it should also be aware of the inequalities, particularly when talking about public health. “Road danger is a public health issue, as well as a specific ‘roads’ issue,” she reasons. “You're talking about the population and the risk involved, which all feeds into that goal of more active travel and making better spaces in our city.” 

Outside of London, there is plenty of work going on around social inclusion in cities. “Transport Scotland has been working in this area and it has a target to try and narrow the gap between the most and least deprived areas for road danger,” says Pidwill. She adds that the Department for Transport (DfT) has also shown an interest on a national scale. “London is fairly representative of other cities, with many of the same issues.”

With the data output at hand, Pidwill says TfL will be looking at what improvements will be made to narrow the inequality gap. “We’re evaluating our pipeline of investment and asking if we are investing in the right areas,” she confirms. “We will also be looking at where we target our behaviour change marketing campaigns and educational campaigns to make sure that those are targeted to the people who need them the most, in the locations that need them the most.” 

Monitoring progress will be done by measurements on an annual basis, enabling Pidwill and her team to see which elements are working best.

“From a wider perspective, we have been broadening the narrative nationally and internationally, so that people know inequality is one of the issues we need to tackle,” Pidwill concludes. “If we want to redress this balance, we need to invest in areas of high deprivation all across the country, not just in London.”

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