London is undoubtedly the hub of Britain. Not only the most populous city in the country, London serves as the preferred destination for tourists (both from the UK and abroad). But if you have spent any length of time in London, you’ll probably have noticed that the city is obsessed with health and safety.
In fact, every year the local government carries out thorough health and safety assessments looking at a wide range of issues across both the City of London, and the whole of the Greater London area. And while this shows a commitment to the safety of citizens and visitors alike – why is that London is not always as safe as possible?
Of course, there are a number of factors that relate to safety. Popular blogger The Broke Backpacker mentions issues such as pickpockets, motorbike thieves, and even terrorism as causes for concern in and around London. However, if there is one thing that you can confidently say about London it is that it is always evolving.
The capital is constantly taking steps to evolve into a safer place for locals and visitors alike. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the key ways that London is changing to emphasise safety.
Changes to the highway code
There has recently been a major upheaval to the Highway Code – the mandatory rules for road users across London and the UK. Many of these changes have been focused around making a safer environment for those on the road; both those travelling in cars and pedestrians.
Two of the most important changes to the Highway Code relate specifically to how those driving vehicles and others interact. One of the key changes states that there is a new hierarchy for road users and this hierarchy places road users, who are most at risk in the event of a collision, at the top of the hierarchy.
Additionally, the updated code mentions that people waiting to cross at junctions are given the right of way over vehicles. Of course, it is expected that in reality this change of practice will be gradual. So pedestrians in London should remain extremely vigilant when crossing busy roads – even if they believe they have right of way.
Putting anti-terror devices in place
London has unfortunately in the past been the subject of terrorist attacks. While this type of incident remains very rare, the concept that it could happen at all is worrying. Thankfully, however, there have been renewed efforts to put the kind of protection in place to keep citizens and visitors safe against the threat of terror attacks.
“City centres are areas that can have extremely high footfall, which can make them extremely vulnerable against terror attacks that use vehicles,” says Jim Treacy, General Manager at Maltaward, a company that supplies anti-terror concrete barriers. “Whether it is due to city events such as festivals and parades, or simply busy shopping days, it is important for pedestrians to feel like they are protected. Anti-terror barriers have been deployed at a range of city events such as at the Wimbledon Championships.”
Concrete barriers and other anti-terror devices are now readily deployed throughout London to limit the potential impact of attacks that attempt to utilise vehicles.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic
One interesting factor about the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has had something of an impact on the safety of individuals across the city. A big part of that impact was rolled out as a reaction to the pandemic, but the health and safety features introduced actually have a significant benefit to health generally.
For example, as a result of the pandemic, London Underground introduced UV light devices to clean the handrails on escalators. This has clearly been a benefit in terms of protecting Londoners against catching the coronavirus – however, it also sanitises the handrails against all other types of germs.
It is sometimes the case that it takes major events like the Covid-19 pandemic to convince policymakers to bring through large scale changes. In this sense we can see that the pandemic has had at least some kind of positive impact as well as all of the negative.
Tips for staying safe in London
London is actually a very safe city – according to one set of analysis it is the 14th safest city in the world. However, that doesn’t mean that you can abandon common sense and general safety principles. There are plenty of things that you can do to ensure that your time in London is as safe as possible:
- Use official taxis – it is always the safest option to use official taxis and registered minicabs. There may be unregistered options that can provide you with slightly cheaper rides, but they aren’t worth it.
- Plan where you’re going – looking like a tourist is one way to single you out to petty thieves; standing around trying to get your bearings isn’t a good idea. You should plan out where you are going to allow you to get around the city as easily as possible.
Avoid walking alone at night – London remains one of the safest cities in the world even at night. Nevertheless, it is not advisable to walk around on your own at night. If you absolutely have to, it is a good idea to stick to the busiest and best lit roads rather than trying to save time via backstreets.