Deriving and validating performance indicators for safety mobility for older road users in urban areas
thesisposted on 15.11.2013, 11:27 authored by Lucy Rackliff
This thesis derives and validates Performance Indicators for Safe Mobility for Older Road Users in Urban Areas. Performance Indicators are objective, auditable parameters, which when used as a set can provide additional information to decision-makers about the operation of the transport system. Great Britain, in common with many countries across Europe has an ageing population. The proportion of older people who hold a driving licence and have the use of a car is also expected to rise, with future generations of older people travelling further and more frequently than previous generations. Older road users are already over-represented in traffic fatalities, particularly in urban areas. Measures to protect older road users from risk in traffic will be of crucial importance as the population ages. However, against this background the need remains for them to access key facilities such as shops, leisure activities and health care. Maintaining independent mobility is essential in maintaining mental and physical health. Traditionally, outcomes-based measures such as accident or casualty figures have been used to monitor road safety. Techniques such as hotspot analysis have identified locations on the road network where accident numbers are high, allowing modifications to road infrastructure to be designed and implemented. Using outcomes measures alone however, it is difficult to ascribe improvements in accident or casualty figures to particular policy interventions. Moreover, the effect of road safety interventions on other related policy areas mobility being one is impossible to assess without access to detailed, disaggregated exposure data. To make fully informed policy decisions about infrastructure design and how it affects older users, a better understanding of the linkages between safety and mobility is required. Performance Indicators offer the possibility to look at these linked policy objectives within a single framework. Focus group data was used in conjunction with the results of previous studies to identify the infrastructure features which present a barrier to older users safe mobility in urban areas. These included factors which increased risk, such as wide carriageways, complex junctions and fast-moving traffic, and factors which hindered mobility, such as uneven or poorly maintained pavements, poor lighting and traffic intrusion. A thematic audit of infrastructure in a case study city (Coventry) was undertaken, in order that the incidence of such infrastructure could be recorded. It was found that in many areas of the city, safe mobility for older road users was not well provided for, with the majority of locations having barriers to safety and/or mobility for both drivers and pedestrians. The audit data was then used to calculate a set of Performance Indicators, presented via spider graphs, which describe the degree to which the infrastructure caters for the safety and mobility of older drivers and pedestrians. The spider graphs allow for easy comparisons between the different geographical areas, and also between the different policy areas, allowing policy priorities to be identified. The calculated Performance Indicators were validated using case studies collected from the focus group participants. The case studies identified features that affected travel habits by causing a change of route or change of mode, providing evidence of the link between infrastructure design and safe mobility for older users. The results of the Performance Indicator analysis were then compared to accident figures, in order to identify differences between the two approaches, and to understand what policy implications would result from a monitoring framework that used Performance Indicators for safe mobility, rather than outcomes-based measures alone. One implication of the Performance Indicator approach is that it may identify different areas for priority action from those identified by accident or casualty figures. A location which does not have high accident numbers may nevertheless perform poorly on a Safety Performance Indicator measure. This is because older users who feel at risk make different route or mode choices to avoid the infrastructure, the lower accident rate being explained by lower exposure to risk. Conversely, measures to promote independent mobility for older users may increase their accident involvement, not because the environment becomes more risky, but because the exposure of older users to risk increases, because they are willing and able to walk or drive in an area they previously avoided. The thesis concludes that infrastructure design does not currently cater well for the needs of older pedestrians and drivers, and that a framework which incorporated Performance Indicators could make more explicit the trade-offs between safety and mobility, and between different categories of user. This additional information would enable policy makers and practitioners to make more informed decisions about how to prioritise competing objectives in complex urban areas.