An RSA campaign targeting car use reduction would amount to ‘shaming’, claims CEO

— Senator says it’s not about shaming, high levels of traffic has knock-on impact for climate and safety.

When asked if the Road Safety Authority would run a campaign on car use reduction for both safety and climate reasons, the CEO of the authority said that it “does not single out any one particular user or try to shame one particular user into doing less or more of something”.

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The comments by RSA CEO Sam Waide were made at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport last week when he was responding to a question by Senator Pauline O’Reilly (Green Party), who asked about the link between safety, climate change and reducing car use.

While Waide’s comments can be seen as a gap in the road safety plan, there are measures to reduce car use included in the Government’s Road Safety Strategy 2021 – 2030, which the Road Safety Authority (RSA) drafted.

The Road Safety Strategy states: “Actions under safe and healthy modes of travel within the 2021–2024 action plan will include a core focus on provision of safe infrastructure (e.g., segregated walkways and cycle lanes) and speed management. Traffic reduction measures, such as the potential for pedestrianising and car-free streets will also be explored.”

The gap between what is in the strategy and the answer from the RSA’s CEO will likely raise further questions.

At the Committee last week, Senator O’Reilly said: “The fewer the number of cars moving around, the fewer deaths there are. We also know that the lower the speed limit, the greater the number of people cycling and walking. We also need to think about the fact that making it slightly uncomfortable for road users who are in their cars can have a knock-on impact in taking people out of their cars and putting them into cycle lanes and onto buses and getting them walking. That modal shift must be part of this conversation. Is this RSA campaign aligned with another campaign around reducing car use?”

Responding directly afterwards, Waide said: “At the heart of the road safety strategy is road safety. It is outcome-based. It aims to reduce serious injuries and fatalities by 50% by 2030. We have developed this strategy cognisant of wider policy strategies, including the climate change challenge and the transport strategies developed with industry players and others. The road safety strategy has been developed with all those in mind.”

He said: “For the RSA, road safety does not single out any one particular user or try to shame one particular user into doing less or more of something. It is encouraging, facilitating and enabling all road users to share the road respectfully and that includes vulnerable road users.

He added: “On climate change and the reduction in emissions of vehicles being used, the RSA, as a road safety authority, has not got into that.”

Senator O’Reilly said: “We should not look at it as shaming. I was not saying it is about shaming. I was saying both things have benefits for people’s lives and it has to be seen in that way. Most of us use different forms of transport. If you are in car behind small children cycling, you are putting them under pressure all the time. That makes cycling much more difficult for them the next time they go out on the road. As such, this has a knock-on impact related to climate and safety.”

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