lunes, 1 de octubre de 2012

Sustainable Security. Prevention and road security in the Netherlands (english version)

Homo omnium rerum mensura est.
(Man is the measure of all things).

The Netherlands have been working since 1991 in a new sustainable security concept.

What is sustainable security?
As “Sustainable Security” we can define the totality of measures for the prevention of traffic accidents that cause important injuries or deaths. We refer ourselves to a secure traffic system with infrastructures adapted to the human limitations, vehicles equipped to simplify driving and the protection of persons and users with the necessary education to dissuade individualist and inadequate behaviour.

Simplifying we could say that the central axis of sustainable security rests on the famous quote of Protágoras: “man is the measure of all things” referring itself to mankind in general and not to a specific individual. It recurs to the perception of the antique Greek philosophers about the “Homo mensura”, but is adapted to a new form of traffic planning.

What are the principle accomplishments of the new concept of sustainable security?

If we take as a fundamental assumption of this security policy that the user is the centre of the road network; the infrastructures, the cars and up to the manner of driving should adapt themselves to the limitations of each user: the human beings. This central idea is based on three elements:

  • Protection of the vulnerable users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorists)
  • The design auto-explanatory roads, which induce the users to a more secure driving style
  • Establishment of a hierarchy of the urban and interurban roads of the complete road network according to its function and usage

For this reason specific actions were defined in order to obtain a secure traffic system:

First of all a reclassification of the road network according to its functions was carried out. With a first level for traffic flow at high velocities, large distances and big traffic volumes; a second level for the distribution of traffic with disperse destinations and a third level for those roads which give access to any place of the territory.

Secondly, a stricter speed control was exercised in the system in line with the defined function in the hierarchy of the road network. As an example, in the Dutch transport system two thirds of the lanes have a residential function and are candidates to convert themselves in traffic calmed zones with speed limits of 30 h/km. In 2001 half of their road network was already subject to those speed limits.

The Dutch transport system is centred in the coincidence of the function and the use of its roads, for which reason the infrastructures have to be designed with consideration of the human limitations and according to its usage, the vehicles have to assure protection (with active and passive elements of security). Also special attention is put on instruction in order to mitigate the dangerous attitudes of the drivers circulating on the public motorways.

How was the sustainable security system implemented in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands have been working since 1991 in a new sustainable security concept, which the public authorities finally signed in 1998. In this same year a programme of sustainable security designed by the Institute for Road Safety Research (Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Verkeersveiligheid - SWOV) with the support of the Dutch Transport Ministry was presented. This security plan converted itself into one of the state policies which the different governments will be obliged to obey during the next decades, with the specification of some concrete objectives until the year 2010, as are: the decrease of deaths on the road in 50 % and of traumatic injuries caused by traffic accidents in 40 % versus the values obtained in 1986.

For the acceptation of this security policy 2 phases were established for its implantation. In the first phase between 1997 and 2001.

  • The road network, roads and motorways were catalogued and a hierarchy was established
  • All give-way regulations were revised
  • Speed limitations were established. 30 km/h for residential zones and 60 km/h for rural zones
  • New give-way preferences were established in the roundabouts to give a higher priority to the cyclists
  • Audits for road security were established

With these measures they accomplished to set the basis for later interventions, which would be developed in a second implementation phase the so-called “National Plan for Traffic and Transport” during the period 2001-2020 which is currently still being implemented.

The Dutch projected road safety as something to be provoked, with the objective to avoid that traffic converts itself into a problem of public health, as happens in other less advanced societies. They realized that the road safety needed the political and institutional support for its successful execution. And so they did by converting it into a state policy. Today we study the Dutch and the Swedish case as best practices for road safety.

In conclusion of this post I mention an example I have found in the blog of Samuel Santos García dedicated to the transport infrastructures, in which the characteristics of a Dutch road are detailed where the speed limits originally have been at 80 km/h with an average traffic density of 3.000 cars, and which has been adapted to the contents defined in the policy of the sustainable security of the National Plan for Traffic and Transport.

The principal characteristics of this road are:

  • Zone 30 and zone 60
  • Elevations at the crossroads
  • Sections with prohibition to drive for circulation of bicycles
  • Width of the lane of 5 m with narrowings and installations of side bollards
  • Sinuous pegging
  • Punctual narrowing of the lanes including road cushions
  • Fixed right-of-way regulation for one lane. No drawing of medial strip
  • Bend of the axis of the road in intersections
  • Central traffic islands in straight parts without intersections


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