THE BLOG
03/03/2015 09:59 GMT | Updated 02/05/2015 06:59 BST

Roads for the Common Good - Why the Greens Deserve a Voice on Transport

There's something of a pattern emerging - transport hustings with just three politicians on the platform: The UK Cycling Alliance's Big Cycling Debate today and the Guardian's Big Transport Debate on Tuesday just include representatives of the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservative parties.

You would have thought that people attending a cycling debate might be interested to hear what the Green Party has to say. Elected Greens in the House of Commons, the European Parliament and the London Assembly have championed active travel, investment in cycling, safer streets, improved road justice and better infrastructure.

Green Party transport policy aims to create a transport system that tackles health and social inequality and doesn't think in fragmented silos of infrastructure for different transport modes. The way we get about says a huge amount about the kind of society we live in.

Sadly we live in a country with deregulated buses, privatised railways and a car industry that

looks after the needs of the motorist and calls for ever greater subsidies for the private car, despite people who drive having experienced years of relative cost reductions. People walking and cycling have a raw deal in terms of space and time at junctions where signals seem geared to the flow of vehicular traffic rather than the flow of people getting about under their own steam.

We also face health-damaging pollution from diesel particulates and have a horrifying toll of people killed and seriously injured on our roads. Many are pedestrians and cyclists just trying to move around on streets that are dominated by fast-flowing motorised traffic. The apparent acceptance of a certain amount of death and injury on the roads is both inhumane and wrong.

So what do we need to do? We need a step change in road safety. Breaking the speed limit should be regarded as being as anti-social and downright dangerous as drink driving. A greater duty of care should be expected of drivers in reducing injury and intimidation to vulnerable road users and motor vehicle drivers should be presumed liable for injuries to pedestrians and cyclists.

We need to re-think freight. About 50% of the goods delivered by white vans could just as easily be made by cargo bike - at a stroke we could reduce road danger and pollution, cut congestion and create healthy jobs delivering town and city centre goods by bike.

Lorries and buses involved in crashes frequently cause devastating injury or worse. Reducing the risk these vehicles pose is a priority both in town and on the open road. We need measures including lower speeds, near miss reporting, new designs for low cab lorries, mirrors and other safety kit and planning regulations to control construction traffic and reduce the risk it poses to people cycling and residents living near construction sites.

Our streets should be healthy and safe places for people to build physical activity into daily journeys with space reallocated for walking and cycling. We should help schools and workplaces to support active travel to and from work, and encourage local authorities to take active travel and public transport implications into account in planning decisions.

Our cities also need smart regional ticketing systems, road-pricing schemes like the London congestion charge and road user tolls for heavy lorries along with Ultra Low Emission Zones to ensure air pollution reduces to comply with EU limits. Our rural areas should gain carefully planned, coordinated and good quality public transport with buses connecting efficiently to rail. While a car will still be needed for a proportion of rural journeys, Germany, Austria and Switzerland have shown that it needn't be the default option.

I'm describing an affordable transport system that would create savings for the NHS, enable people to access jobs, shops, services and education, while making towns, cities and villages better places to live.

This morning the BBC is carrying a report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health calling amongst other things for 20mph speed limits and saying children's health should be an election issue. The urgency of tackling car dependency and traffic-dominated streets is understood more widely than many politicians imagine.

Tonight I'll be speaking at a vigil for Claire Hitier-Abadie, who was killed near Victoria just over a week ago while riding a hire bike. I have spent too many dark evenings clutching a candle, silently weeping for those killed on our roads. These deaths devastate families and friends but they also impact on police, ambulance services, passersby, people working at Transport for London - the list is endless.

The way our transport system works, with an apparently acceptable amount of death and injury, has to stop. We need serious investment in change. £10 per head per annum on cycling is a drop in the ocean. We need much more than that if we are to turn the juggernaut around and let our cities and cycling thrive.