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How can design improve the safety of the vulnerable road user in London?

In London, the growing desire by the London Mayor to encourage citizens to walk and cycle is based on national and international targets to improve road safety for vulnerable road users, which the World Health Organisation identify as a growing serious global problem.  The UK government have endorsed international goals to use a Vision Zero approach to tackle the number of killed and seriously injured and monitor these targets using the national data-set of police accident reports: Stats19 data.  

A practice based research study which uses a mix of Grounded Theory methods to conduct a study in London on how design can improve the safety of these vulnerable users.  Initially enquiring into how safety is defined and what ‘design’ means in terms of road safety and who is responsible for these designs was the starting point of the enquiry. 

This research explores safety from the perspective of the vulnerable user.  Looking at what data is excluded from the national reports, despite it being available, the research found that the incentive for professions involved in safety is a focus on quantifiable results.  A single case study in London provides an example of the two different perspectives - of the safety professionals providing the mandatory infrastructure; and how a shared space is actually used and experienced by users.  Part of the practice has involved the researcher working with safety experts and advocate groups in London to identify ways of improving users safety.

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  • Sponsored by London Doctoral Design Consortium (LDOC) which is an award by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to fund specialist Centres for Doctoral Training in areas including design.


More about Orla

Graduated as an engineer and worked in the IT professional field – working on projects including intranet design – front and back end. Experience in the transport industry – surface and subsurface modes in analytics and senior management roles bridging the gap between translating business requirements of a project team and the technical specifications required by the IT professionals to produce agreed and understandable requirements.

MRes in Design (RCA) has enabled the development of professional experience with design thinking and methods to progress the PhD inquiry.

BEng Multimedia Engineering, South Bank University. 2001

MSc Business Systems Analysis & Design, City University. 2014

MRes Design, Royal College of Art. 2017

Technology professional - worked in transport industry for over 15 years in major infrastructure programmes and transformational innovative digital systems.

Research background in design.