London has gone a long way in addressing the critical problem of traffic safety in London’s city center with a “congestion charge” for vehicles other than bicycles, motorcycles, buses, and taxis. The congestion charge is in place Monday through Friday between 7:00 and 18:00. Since the start of the charge in 2003, some have despised it and some have appreciated it, but there’s no doubt it has been quite effective on a number of fronts.
It has clearly increased safety, for example. London has enjoyed a significant decline in accidents because of the reduced congestion. The website for the congestion charge shows the daily charge is £11.50. (If you are driving a vehicle within the charging zone between the above hours, of course).
Jamie Doward of The Guardian writes:
“Research to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference later this month found that traffic accidents have fallen in the capital by an astonishing 40% since 2003. The work is the first study of its kind and is likely to be examined closely by other cities that have flirted with the idea of imposing a similar charge.
The £5 charge was hailed as a triumph of economics that forced those contributing to congestion to pay.”
There was an adjustment period noted for bicyclists that initially rose, then leveled off and dropped lower. ” ‘It could be partly because there was an increase in inexperienced riding in urban zones,’ said Professor Colin Green, who suggested that the charge would not have the same effect on accident rates in all cities.” For example, cities lacking good public transport systems would see little improvement.
One initial concern of the congestion charge was that, as fewer cars were on the roads in central London, those motorists could go faster. However, a research team led by Professor Colin Green of the economics department at Lancaster University found that, in spite of this possibility, the charge resulted in “a substantial reduction in the number of accidents and fewer fatalities.”
Making sure of the credibility and quality of this study, the economists decided to also look at accident rates in the most populous 20 cities in Britain outside London. The findings were an unmatched reduction in traffic accidents in central London.
If you really want to be safe while commuting, remember that if you ride the bus, you are about 60 times safer than in an automobile in the US, according to analyst Todd Litman’s findings published recently in the Journal of Public Transportation. If you travel via commuter or intercity rail, you are about 20 times safer than in an automobile. And if you hop on the metro or light rail, you are about 30 times safer. “The Truth Of How Safe Transit Is Compared To Driving“ undoes some common misconceptions about transit safety (and automobile safety).
Of course, other solutions to increasing auto safety are autonomous vehicles & smart cities.