Saturday, 7 October 2017

Road safety UK-Thailand - where the rubber meets the road?

Khun Sirinya’s article on Car-Free Friday “Time for some road justice” is packed bumper-to-bumper with interesting insights for UK as well as Thailand:

Bangkok with some of the world's worst traffic congestion and, as with London grave air pollution problems - 50,000 deaths a year in UK, is best-placed to seek way to improve traffic whether commuting or sightseeing.

How many tourists must have considered never returning given the frenetic traffic of the Big Mango? And Khun Sirinya can't be the only commuter worried about being late for work as the traffic slows to a snail-pace - hopefully British buses with aircon and wifi and who knows even a seatback somtam pouch could make the journey easier even enjoyable for many Bangkokians.

A Smart City grid of traffic lights and streetlights would help the freeflow of traffic - and increased solar power ensuring free energy.

Pedestrians and cyclists and street food stalls must surely have priority over transport at least one day a year, and buses over cars. Modern nations like UK and Thailand can hardly consider it rocket science to implement cheap if not free and comfortable and timely public transport? Bangkok's Skytrain and Thai rail almost do it anyway as do London’s excellent integrated Tube and Bus system. The Oyster card and BTS Rabbit surely ripe for coordination between the transport and tourism authorities?

While former Deputy Ambassador to Cambodia Bryony Mathew sketched out STEM structures for schoolgirls engineering a Skytrain and hispeed rail future in Phnom Penh.

UK as a Road Safety Superpower - and its world-class Olympic public transport work - has taken part in last week's #Project EDWARD - the European Day without A Road Death on 21st September. That road programme with the aim of achieving zero road deaths in each European state. Eire quickly achieving that target although the results aren’t in as yet for every nation, and Lincolnshire Police active also on #Fatal4 activity as well as all-terrain vehicles for rural crime.

Unfortunately Kent announced its annual road safety statistics earlier in the week with a promising fall in deaths from 54 to 45, but a disturbing 40% increase in serious injuries to 887 although that may be due in part to - as with the Fire Brigade -to adjusting the statistics to standardised EU data.

Khun Natcha of TDRI citing Thailand’s road deaths not just for the horrific carnage of over 20,000 dead and 100,000 seriously injured, but a downturn on the Thai economy equivalent of 6% of GDP or half a trillion baht. Imagine if just a fraction of that sum was re-geared to road safety work. The Return on Investment for Thailand not just in funeral costs or hospital beds but longer working lives would be astronomical:

Weak KCC council advertising - to nervous passengers?? - and normally another excellent facet of UK road safety - must surely face demands from Chief Constable Alan "The Chief" Pughsley, due back from his Spring-Summer holiday this week, and Kent Road Police to be coordinated by the police themselves who after all are the ones experienced at picking up the pieces from accidents.

And it's no laughing matter if Sweet Joke's appointment as Thailand Tourism Police chief doesn't fast-forward UK-Thai tourism safety activity. UK has much to learn: no dedicated tourist police, no telephone hotline (bizarrely 2 Foreign Office emergency numbers appeared during the Caribbean Resilience crisis to further confuse stranded UK residents and tourists) or website, few translators and many walk-in police stations closed.

Kent Police forecast to be over 90% accurate and separate details on road safety eg the 5 highest speeding cases between 111mph and 150mph (c.200kph) on Kent roads.

As an aside, the new developments by nearby Surrey University with Netherlands Forensic Institute and Intelligent Fingerprinting (surely a CCU University Broadstairs campus -the Hendon of the South partnership in the offing?) in cocaine detection in seconds through just a fingerprint test must be useful for both police forces and even adapted for yaba amphetamines.

UK tourism inbound visitors up 6% year on year in July with 4M visits. And UK residents pulling on their Union Jack shorts for 6.9M visits abroad just 2% down on 2016 even with sterling down 14% on the euro since the Brexit referendum last year. Nothing it seems deters visitors to Britain or Brits from going abroad.
But how would a Thai tourist - or the police cope - in a road accident or street robbery or losing a passport? In London or Manchester or Glasgow?
While Kent's Janet Street-Porter, the feisty and dynamic journalist and talk show host - often walking from Whitstable to Buenos Ayres (Buenos Ayres Margate not Argentina) probably the most beautiful coast walk in the world. Reculver. TS Eliot's Wasteland. Plum Pudding Island. Everything. And of course Broadstairs and, England's first town, Ramsgate and through to Dover's White Cliffs.

Janet has raised the issue of 100 cycling deaths in 2015 (and 3,000 injured) and horrific 400 pedestrian deaths each year - exactly the type of activity CarFree Bangkok highlights.
The recent death of Kim Briggs a mum of two crossing the street in London by Charlie Alliston on a bike without a front brake designed for Olympic tracks raised forensic examination of UK road safety laws. Bizarrely the prosecution had to rely on an 1861 law for "wanton and furious driving" designed for horses and stagecoaches. And even that Victorian effort resulted in just an 18 month jail sentence.

Yet dangerous driving almost on the Red Bull copkiller case scale.

Janet also citing the problem of cycling on pavements and pedzones as here in East Kent, with illegally parked cars almost begging for a police clampdown once Chief Pughsley is back. Rumours abound of Deputy Chief Paul "Marlon" Brandon back in Vegas to boost the police budget in The Golden Nugget. Perhaps not.
London gangs of mopeds purse-snatching and phone-grabbing an updated version of highway robbery.

Janet mentions how the abuse in suggesting cyclists should wear helmets and a mini-MOT and test resulted in months of abuse form the cycling lobby. In my Police Commissioner campaign – my erstwhile rival Henry Bolton also defeated and gaining the booby prize now of UKIP leader - I can vouch that the cycling lobby and gun lobby were by far the most vociferous and organised. Luckily they hadn't merged into a gun and cycling lobby or nobody would be safe.

Certainly as with the astonishingly successful La Vuelta Spanish cycling race and Tour of Britain it raises issues of how best to promote cycling.
While Latvian friends mentioned how their road safety laws require hi-visibility sashes for pedestrians after dark - that ensuring the clothing and bag sashes became fashion items as well. Strangely, with 400 pedestrian deaths each year, I can't think of anywhere in UK where to buy even basic hi-visibility sashes. Schools? Supermarkets? Surely an East Kent-East Europe project in the making.

While an August Bank Holiday crash killing 8 people made national news headlines simply because such incidents are so rare - that the worst accident in decades. Without being UKIP-racist about it, there certainly is a problem in Frontline Kent, and lack of effort so far, with Eastern European HGV drivers awake at the wheel from Moscow to Manchester - even watching television. 8,000 road deaths in Thailand so far this year, framed at over 4x UK levels have expedited political consideration of how best to work with Thailand on road safety.

A TH-UK Road Safety Group meeting quarterly? Janet Street-Porter would be a terrific keynote speaker on cycling and pedestrians.
Certainly a Car-Free Bangkok is too great an idea to only do once a year.

Time for Change

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