Hordes of excited visitors descend on our beautiful corner of the world to enjoy our stunning countryside, award-winning beaches, delicious food and amazing attractions.
As I mentioned in last week’s blog, a big chunk of the South West’s economy is reliant on the tourist industry, so obviously we welcome this inward investment with open arms. However, there are obvious knock-on effects for those living here – not least on our road network.
An increase in visitors means an uplift in the number of vehicles using our roads – but we also see a change in the type of vehicles on our highways, with motorbikes and bicycles more prominent due to the better weather.
Both motorcyclists and pedal cyclists are vulnerable road users, for obvious reasons. Unlike those surrounded in a metal box, they have very little protection in the event of a collision and are also smaller and, consequently, often harder to see.
As you may know, I am the chairman of the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership – an ambitious collaboration between the emergency services, local authorities, NHS Trusts and other statutory bodies to whom road safety is a priority.
All those involved are committed to reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads of Devon and Cornwall. We have set ourselves an initial target of cutting that number by 50% by 2030, but after that the aim is to hit zero deaths or serious injuries.
2022 was a tragic year in terms of the number of serious and fatal collisions involving motorcyclists in our region. Sadly, 16 were killed and a further 187 were seriously injured.
In response to this, the partners within Vision Zero South West have made preventing motorcycle collisions a priority for 2023, ably directed by Cornwall Council who are the partnership’s appointed motorcycle theme lead.
Led by data, behavioural science and a desire to influence motorcycle safety in an holistic way, Vision Zero has crafted several innovative concepts – some of which you may have already seen out and about on our road network.
Over the Easter weekend, Road Casualty Reduction Officers worked hand-in-hand with the Force’s drone unit on Op Cosset, which allowed them to monitor motorcyclists and other motorists from the air to detect dangerous driving.
The first-of-its-kind collaboration, launched during National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Motorcycle Safety Week, saw over 60 motorists detected via drone and spoken to by officers at the roadside – with the goal of promoting positive interactions and the offer of helpful advice.
The innovative operation, which attracted national media coverage, was so successful that it will be repeated throughout the summer at various different locations. I make no apology for supporting the use of tools such as drones in our endeavour to protect the lives of all who use our roads.
Vision Zero is also pioneering several other projects with a focus on motorbike safety. The partnership has worked with the Department for Transport to successfully bid for a pioneering new motorcycle simulator which will be used to provide additional training for bikers across both counties.
The specialist motorcycle task group have also spent the past few months working with the Cabinet Office’s Behaviour Change team to identify common themes in motorcycle collisions and how we can help overcome unhelpful behavioural barriers. The group is also working with Cornwall-based motorbike YouTube influencers RiderCamTV who will be making a special series of videos with the partnership looking at things like helmets, PPE, maintenance tips and more.
So as you can see, there is a lot of time and effort going into this.
Tragically we saw another motorcyclist killed on our roads just last week and my thoughts are with their family and friends at what must be a truly terrible time.
Such horrific incidents sadly prove the continued need for such time and effort, as well as the importance of new and innovative ways to protect lives on our roads.
We start each of our quarterly Vision Zero board meetings with a roll call of all those who have died on our roads since the previous meeting - so rest assured these people will not only be remembered, but will also focus the minds of those in our partnership to the importance of our vision.