When TfL says “There will be a full investigation”, it is not what you think.

The recent spate of Bus smashes pushes us to remind our readers what Tony Akers, Transport for London’s head of bus operations, actually means when he says “There will be a full investigation”

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Camden, January 2016

The truth is:

  • Transport for London will NOT investigate
  • An investigation will be carried out by the contractor and by the Police, but Transport for London does NOT receive copies of the investigation
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Harlesden May 2016

In other words, the investigation could be a sham or could reveal some important truths and Transport for London wouldn’t know.

This is a regulator who wants to be blind, so that it can continue to run an operation, which last year killed 14 Londoners, with impunity.

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Walthamstow, April 2016

Tom Kearney, SMK Transport Campaigner of the Year, made a Freedom of Information request, asking TfL to disclose the correspondence between TfL and contractors following fatal crashes caused by TfL Buses. TfL has refused to disclose the information.

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Parliament Square, January 2016

Now, one of the primary roles of a regulator is to inspect that what people say they did is actually true.

How can the Mayor and the Board of Transport for London be assured that these crashes are properly investigated and that lessons are learned to prevent similar crashes if TfL does not inspect whether the investigations have been carried out professionally?

Wouldn’t management, the Mayor and members of the Board be liable to the charge of corporate manslaughter if it is proven that TfL’s regulatory framework is not fit for purpose?

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Manor Park, August 2015

These crashes cannot be blamed on “pedestrians throwing themselves onto the path of a bus”. They are either the result of mechanical faults or driver errors, but TfL doesn’t want to know, because otherwise it would have to start fixing things.

I leave you with this video, with a reminder to Sadiq Khan: “This could have been you, walking on the pavement. Are you going to instruct TfL to do things properly, or is the ‘world leading’ Bus Safety Programme another piece of  Boris spin?”

Sadly, Maria Kollarou, no lessons have been learned

The mother of Akis Kollarou, killed by Robert Taylor on 02.02.15, is reported as saying “I hope that lessons have been learned”.

I am afraid that in fact no lessons have been learned and the incident could easily occur again in exactly the same circumstances.

We were not at the trial, but it is clear how the collision occurred. Akis was following this vehicle:

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Picture: Nigel Howard 

on this road:Akis_1

He clearly could not have attempted to pass it on either side. When the lorry approached Homerton High Street, it made a manoeuvre similar to the picture below:

Akis_2

Akis intended to go right, and having seen the lorry move right, started to proceed on its left. Alas, the driver had forgotten to put his left indicator and when he turned left he crushed Akis.

After sentencing, Judge Noel Lucas said: “I want it clearly understood by those who drive vehicles of this type that they must take the greatest of care whilst driving on the streets of London to avoid precisely this type of accident.”

Maybe that is what Maria Kollarou refers to “lessons being learned”, but I doubt that any lorry driver (except, hopefully Taylor) will change his/her behaviour following this incident.

Indeed the driving ban issued to Taylor (12 months) is insultingly short.

The truth is that in order for lessons to be learned, there needs to be someone doing the learning; but in the present system of road regulation there is nobody with the responsibility to investigate collisions with the goal of preventing recurrence.

In the absence of an official body “learning lessons”, Vision Zero London will continue do its job.

So how do we prevent a fatality like this one occurring? The cause is simple: Akis misunderstood the intentions of the driver because the latter did not indicate. (Yes, the driver may have stopped in time, had he looked at the mirrors, but given the narrowness of Wardle Street and the high traffic levels on Homerton High Street, it is understandable that the driver’s attention was away from his near side mirrors). Had Taylor indicated, Akis would have not found himself on the lorry’s left side.

The driver’s error not to indicate was substantial and circumstantial evidence points to the fact that it is quite common. Authorities need to convey the message that failure to indicate is a major infraction; this should be done by two measures:

  • very long driving bans to drivers involved in serious collisions, who did not indicate
  • penalty fines through cameras at major junctions

However, Vision Zero philosophy rests on the principle that humans are fallible; people may forget to indicate, and such a simple error should not result in the death of an innocent person.

The solution is simple and inexpensive: the lorry in question was fitted with sensitive safety equipment – “these activate a camera on the near side of the vehicle. There were also sensors that would have detected movement and when the indicator is depressed there is audible warning equipment – warning of a left turn”. Obviously we cannot rely on a human, prone to error, to activate the warning system; it must be automatic.

How to do it? We have already argued that the routes of HGVs need to be pre-approved and pre-programmed on the routing app used by the driver. Once the journey is started, the driver should have no options to change the route and any unauthorised diversion from the planned route should be reported as a major infringement. We then need to link the warning system to the routing programme, so that indicators come on automatically whenever the HGV is programmed to turn.

What we propose is much cheaper and “smarter” than most of the interventions to lorry design proposed by CLOCS.

 

It’s the network, stupid!

In July 2015, we reported how IslingtonCouncil spent more than half a million pounds of our money received via Transport for London in internal and external “design fees” without actually implementing any section of the Central London Grid, in spite of having accepted £2,000,000 for that purpose.

In June 2014 TfL awarded funding to the Council to design, consult on and deliver routes 1 (Clerkenwell Road from the junction with Farringdon Road to Old Street roundabout), and 3 (Lloyd Baker Street from the junction with Farringdon Road to Arlington Avenue at the junction with New North Road), and part of route 2 (Bath Street from the junction with City Road to Finsbury Square at the junction with Wilson Street).

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Routes: 1: red; 2: purple; 3: green

Let’s see how the Council is doing, 19 months after receiving the money:

Route 1 – The most cycled route in Central London – Nothing

Route 3 – An existing QuietWay – Virtually Nothing, Job considered Done

Route 2 – Consultation – Whoa!

To put the above into context, in the mean time

  • TfL has consulted and either completed or partially completed large stretches of fully segregated Cycle Super Highways (Embankment; Blackfriars Road and Bridge; Vauxhall Bridge and Gyratory ,to Oval);
  • Camden Council has implemented the doubling of Torrington Place segregated cycle tracks and built segregated tracks on Pancras Road; (shamefully they are doing nothing at Holborn, which should be their top priority, given four recent fatalities);
  • Westminster has consulted on three difficult stretches of the Grid (mostly sub-standard designs);
  • The City of London (the richest Local Authority in the world) is more shameful than Islington; in spite of four recent cycle fatalities in its territory it has refused to provide any part of the Grid (except a sub-standard N-S route), because of a personal spat between one of its Officers, Iain Simmons and Andrew Gilligan.

Let’s look at Islington’s consultation. Here are the proposals:

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1 – Lever Street – Two-way cycling, providing a westbound cycle lane

Strangely, there is already an outside with-flow cycle lane on this stretch of Lever Street.

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So what they will do is switch the direction of the cycle signs and make most of the line continuous. PAINT JOB. The plans say that there will be no waiting/stopping Mon-Fri 07-19 but how do they plan to enforce it, to prevent this?

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2 -Junction Bath Street/Lever Street – Kerbside build-out to protect cyclists turning into contraflow cycle lane.

There is already a build-out here. The proposal is to increase its size so that one car park space is replaced by cycle racks.

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No explanation on

  • how would it make safer for people turning
  • why not just install racks where the car parking space is

==> Waste of resources; no improvement in safety

3 Bath Street through to Bunhill Row – Refreshing existing road
markings to better define the cycle route

PAINT JOB

4 Bunhill Row – Clearly marked contra-flow cycle lane which will help
cycle safety by making it clearer that cyclists are using this route

PAINT JOB – Please note there is inconsistency between the drawings and it is not clear whether the contraflow lane will be clearly marked all the way to Chiswell Street. It is clear however that contraflow riders will be forced to ride in the door zone for about 200m. It is not clear why car parking is needed here on both sides of the street:

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5 Bunhill Row junction Chiswell Street – Protection for cyclists with
footway build-outs and traffic islands. A signalised junction could be
considered in future, depending on the outcome of a consultation
carried out by the City of London in November 2015.

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Another unnecessary build-out proposed; the white area is useful for contraflow cyclists coming from the left intending to turn left. The build-out may be helpful for pedestrians, but if that were the intention, a zebra across the entrance of Bunhill Row would be much more useful. So paradoxically here is a case of paint job needed but not given.

The next four points refer to quite substantial work that is going to cost a lot of money for very little immediate gain.
6 Chiswell Street – Introduction of segregated cycling facilities resulting in the loss of some parking bays
7 Chiswell Street/Finsbury Square junction – separate traffic light phases for cyclists
8 Finsbury Square – Two-way segregated cycle lanes
9 Sun Street/Wilson Street junction – Two-way segregated cycle lane

Let’s see why. It all starts from not being able to think of a network:

 

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Officers’ present mindset is “build a route”. Users, on the other hand, think: “How do I get from A to B safely and pleasantly?” A route by itself is valueless unless it links with others. These are the key network considerations in this area:

  • TfL is building C and the City has promised F for 2016.
  • Unfortunately B is not planned this year; A makes sense only in conjunction with B.
  • For anyone coming from the North, D+C is just as efficient as G+A, and much cheaper to implement.
  • The real purpose of G is to link with F, so the crucial intervention is the Bunhill Row / Chiswell Street junction, which is not considered in this consultation (it is referred as “could be considered in future”)
  • Even if one is at G, E makes more sense to reach Liverpool Street than A

So yes, A is good to have, but it makes very little sense to spend the money there, when it could be spent more wisely elsewhere (for example the Bath Street/Shepherdess Walk Junction, which would link this route to the canal and beyond. That is a TfL responsibility, but what is Islington doing to hasten the process?)

The difficulty of the Bunhill Row – Moor Lane Link should not be a reason to duck it, because that is the main weak link to solve. We are against signalised junction unless necessary. Our proposal for the link is a wide N-S priority (and no-stopping) zone for pedestrians and cyclists that encompasses the entrances of Bunhill Row and Moor Lane.

Let’s look at what is proposed at D

Featherstone Street to Leonard Street -Proposed Measures
10 Featherstone Street/City Road junction – Featherstone Street at the Junction of City Road will be closed to motor traffic
11 Leonard Street – Inset parking bays and widened cycle lane to improve contraflow cycling

Please note that Featherstone Street is already closed to motor traffic because of multi-year building works, so they are proposing to maintain the status quo. This is what is proposed for crossing City Road:

 

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Essentially the Council is proposing to do NOTHING to a very unpleasant and unsafe crossing. First, the mixing of people on foot and on bikes especially on the extremely narrow East pavement is totally unsatisfactory. The solution is not difficult: keep the cycle flow South of the pedestrian flow: all you need to do is move the motor stop lines further away from the junction and remove the jut-out on the NE corner.

Equally important is to alter the phasing of the light from the present inconsiderate 40-sec wait for active travellers.

Leonard Street is presently not fit for purpose:

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The drawings are not clear if the proposed solution will be satisfactory:

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Are the new parking bays taking away space from the pavement?

If yes; why not make the contraflow lane mandatory; if no, what is the point?

We recently had this exchange with Claudia Webbe:

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We admit that to say that the proposed scheme is just paint, glosses over certain parts of it, but we hope it is now clear why we think that what is not-paint is either useless or unnecessary at the moment. Worse, the key decisions to improve the weak links of this route to the rest of the network are ignored or ducked.

We are pleased to hear that the plans for the Clerkenwell Boulevard will be released soon; we need to point out however that we have heard this rumour many times before, and the Council has been sitting on them for well over a year now.

 

Of door zones and inconsiderate haste

An interaction with a pair of impatient Police Officers (see below) motivated me to write this post.

The Highway Code is quite clear where one should ride a bicycle on a road with parked cars:

Rule 67:

look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, pot-holes and parked vehicles so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path

But we know that most of the Highway Code rules aimed to protect vulnerable road users are ignored by drivers, Police and traffic engineers.

Here is a road in Westminster:

Weymouth_Street

A couple of years ago I raised this issue with Edgar Agrar, a vile toad, at the time Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, pointing out that

  • the signs encourage people to ride on the door zone
  • anyone riding safely to the right of the signs gets honked by obnoxious drivers

His response: the signs are there just to alert drivers of the presence of cyclists; a response so idiotic that he could only have copied it from the king of bullshit, Boris Johnson, whose antics cost the lives of at least six people on blue paint.

BTW, in the world capital of bullshit, Argar has been duly rewarded with a seat in the House of Commons, to add fodder to that den of idiots, also called Tory back-benches.

However, even the handful of enlightened engineers probably fail to understand the subtleties of safe road positioning.

Door_zone

In the picture above, A is the door zone; to be avoided. However, B is also unsafe, because it leaves a gap just wide enough for a car to squeeze through; therefore to avoid close passes, one needs to ride at C, i.e. in the middle of the road.

The problem of course is that to the driver behind you it looks like you are being intentionally  obstructive; well, tough, if she honks, there is only one way to respond:

cff6a11beab1afb7e7633d6d15a9db43c7e34094

This is an unwholesome way to design streets and makes an unpleasant environment to ride bicycles; which is why most people don’t and why the sub-standard proposals for the Central London Cycling Grid are such a disappointment.

Vision Zero means designing unnecessary conflict out of our roads. Here are the key concepts:

  • Residential streets like the ones above should not carry through traffic;
  • Through various interventions, it must be made clear to motorists that they are guests on residential streets;
  • The width of residential streets needs to take into consideration not just the door zone, but also the width to the right of Channel B; it should not encourage close passes.

Just a few metres ahead the road narrows:

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Here riding in the middle of the lane does not generate hostility, because it is obvious that there is no space to overtake. Too many roads in London are the wrong width: they encourage either close passes or hostility.

On Friday afternoon, as I was riding on Channel C in the wider section of the street, I noticed blue lights coming from a Police van, driving behind me. I found a gap in the parked cars and let it pass; except that the Officers (incidentally of British Transport Police) had no urgent call: they just wanted to tell me off for slowing their progress.

What I fail to understand is why people are in such a hurry to breathe the fumes of the car stopped at the next set of lights; but after all, given a normal distribution of intelligence, half of the people are below average. The issue however is that street engineers have to acknowledge that most people when enclosed in metal boxes become bestial, and this should not endanger or inconvenience the rest of us.

One of the most important things that needs to happen in London is the establishment of the Motoring Grid. The Police Van shouldn’t have been on that road in the first place. They were just rat running. Rather than taking the red route, they should have been on the Blue Route, because they had no business to fulfil in Fitzrovia.

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Appendix 1 – After having tweeted the incident, I received a call from a BTP officer; we had a chat  which he followed up by writing the following:

I have identified the officers who were driving the vehicle that had an interaction with you today. I have given the driver an appreciation of the challenges faced by Cyclists that use London’s congested roads and their vulnerabilities.

We need to credit the willingness of the police to engage with people unhappy with their behaviour; however it seems more an exercise in PR than actually admitting that an abuse of power had taken place, symptomatic of an institutional culture which is deeply unsympathetic towards vulnerable road users.

Appendix 2 – Some people have asked whether the BTP have jurisdiction on public highways. They used to be confined to police the railways, but the Terrorism Act has widened their remit … to tackle Lycra Terror.

TfL starts to acquiesce to our demands

In March 2015, we wrote to Ben Johnson, who manages Transport for London’s road safety programme and to Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor, Transport at Greater London Authority, with a long list of proposals, which included Tom Kearney’s Fourteen Points to make London’s Bus Service less dangerous.

We did not receive an enthusiastic response, but it seems that concerted campaigns from different fronts are having an effect on TfL’s culture and we are seeing the first results.

Number Two of the 14 Points (Subscription to CIRAS by Bus Sub Contractors) was adopted at the beginning of 2016.

Yesterday TfL announced a substantial set of new policies with Leon Daniels stating “We will not rest until we get the number of people killed and seriously injured down to ZERO” (video: 01:50).

Tom Kearney dissects and comments on the proposals here. He makes the key point  that

TfL’s announced danger reduction actions are measurable.  Whether or not TfL’s proposed programme can be called “world leading” will depend on how—or if—these actions are actually executed.

 

Vision_Zero_-_Tom_Kearney_hand

Tom Kearney says “First steps towards Vision Zero”

Sound bites, glossy reports and press releases don’t make our streets safer. “Putting Active Travel at the core of Transport” and “Learning from Mistakes” do.

To highlight how much TfL has to change, here is what the residents of North Greenwich say, in a petition launched after the preventable death of a woman by a TfL bus

Peninsula residents have raised the everyday hazards and risks to TfL, councillors, the MP, the GLA and the developers. We have told them about the regular near miss incidents involving buses hurtling through and confused drivers in the wrong lane trying to get to the O2 or Millennium and Peninsula Retail Parks. They say TfL is in charge but TfL refuse to listen or even talk to local people.

yRIINMvGhLtBVsU-800x450-noPad

That is why we remain of the opinion that changing TfL is a Herculean task that only a Mayor fully and enthusiastically committed to Vision Zero can accomplish in a speedily fashion.

Our presentation at Vision Zero Conference

Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(1)

How do we know that? TfL has told us in June 2015:Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(2)Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(3)Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(4)Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(5)Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(6)

Therefore, just as TfL has been very professional and successful in implementing the Congestion Charge and the Cycle Superhighways (Version II), we are confident that TfL will be professional, competent and successful in adopting Vision Zero, if the new Mayor believes that Londoners deserve an environment where they can walk and cycle without fear of being killed or seriously injured.

What do the main candidates think about Vision Zero?

We are confident that Caroline Pidgeon, Sian Berry and Zac Goldsmith will adopt Vision Zero, if elected.Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(7)

The question is:Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(8)

Does he have the courage and the vision of his namesake? Both are needed to implement Vision Zero. It is not a question of publishing glossy reports, but radically change the culture inside TfL Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(9)Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(10)

 

Zero compliance above, because humans don’t wait 78 seconds at a lightly used crossing. In spite of a TfL employee being killed by a Tfl-contractor employee, TfL refuses to change the pedestrian green phasing.

Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(13)

 

Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(11)

As we have documented, in the fatal collisions above, Police blamed the cyclist at E&C and the lorry driver at LC; cases closed, no lessons learned, no changes made, waiting for next inevitable fatality.

In all other realms of human activity, investigations are very different. Below are the Health and Safety Executive’s guidelines:

Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(12)

But HSE refuses to investigate road collisions even when a professional driver is involved.

Here are some initial concrete steps to guide the new Mayor:

Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(14)Vision Zero London Conference Jan 2016(15)

North Greenwich fatal bus crash – why was 10mph bus speed limit lifted?

Guest post by Dave Holladay:

There are a few questions to get answers to concerning the fatal crash on the North Greenwich Busway, just before daylight broke on 4th January.

The road arrangements here are confusing.

Bus Crash N Greenwich Bing 2011 -7

A dual carriageway? No: two bidirectional roads side by side, with insufficient visual clues to tell pedestrian which way to look.

What looks like a dual carriageway, is in fact a conventional road and a parallel bus-only road which carries almost all the bus services heading in and out of the North Greenwich Interchange.  That can mean a pretty intensive stream of buses going through, as seen from the ‘wall of red’ with white roofed buses stacked back nose to tail after the crash.

westparkside

Buses and pedestrians are bad news – per vehicle per year buses have the highest pedestrian hit rate for any class of vehicle. Now that isn’t really surprising, as to run a viable bus service you have to put buses where the pedestrians are, and then you invite them to walk up to the bus to get on board, but it does highlight the need for added vigilance when operating buses, and due diligence being paid the the way bus routes are planned in every sense.

Bus stations are a focus for this with services concentrated in to one place, but recognising the potential for increased hazards, and a boosted risk of serious collisions, the Health & Safety Commission (who oversees bus stations as these are not public roads), expect the operators and owners to have clear arrangements to manage safety. This usually means a speed limit of 5 or 10 mph, and a layout that excludes pedestrian activity for the space where the buses operate, and has arrangements for pedestrians to cross, where this is necessary.

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If 10mph limit was set at Greenwich busway, it implies that it was deemed to be as risky as a busy bus station.

The position with the North Greenwich busway is unclear, but it may well be appropriate that H&SC investigates this fatal crash under HSAWA 1974 (as a Section 3 issue) rather than TfL or LB Greenwich (as RTA 1988 Section 39 demands that they MUST investigate crashes and take action on safety as appropriate).  Mention of past incidents and crashes, suggest that IF the relevant roads authority had been compliant with the albeit badly flawed Section 39, there would be a paper trail of other reports and (Section 39.3.b&c and Section 39.2.a(i)&(ii)) action proposed to improve road safety and promote an appropriate safety campaign). This is I reckon especially relevant for a busway from observation of the way that bus lanes and a recently completed busway (in Glasgow) are often carrying buses travelling at 30mph (because they can) whilst the surrounding traffic in cars and on foot is moving at a much slower tempo, often, with a bus lane, just inches away. 

What has emerged is that the roads in this area have confusing and potentially non compliant signage, and pedestrian crossing works commenced with the development c 2007 have never been completed. Additionally a 10mph speed limit where pedestrian activity, crossing the busway in the vicinity of the bus stops just before John Harrison Way was signed and in place in 2008, but the signs were neatly removed from all 4 poles in 2014, leaving the busway with a completely inappropriate 30mph speed limit.

Vision_Zero_-_Greenwich_busway_10mph

2007 – 10mph roundels

Bus Crash N Greenwich  Google Jun 2015-1

2015 – Roundels have disappeared; poles still there – What is the speed limit?

A non compliant design of ‘pseudo’ pedestrian crossing (of the busway) is visible on the 2008 pictures, complete with LOOK BOTH WAYS road markings, but like the 10mph speed limit – not completed on both sides of the busway and not a trace by 2014.

Bus Crash N Greenwich  Google Jul 2008-2

Bus Crash N Greenwich  Google Jun 2015-2

2015 – No pedestrian crossings in spite of the triangular signs still there

A detailed review of the pictures reveals non-standard(and non compliant?) use of various road signs (per the Traffic Signs Manual (TSRGD Chapters 3,4,5), and every off placing of signs warning pedestrians to LOOK BOTH WAYS when crossing the busway at John Harrison Way but turned to face the drivers using West Parkside and the busway, and including signs saying this before crossing West Parkside.

Bus Crash N Greenwich 8(1)

Bus Crash N Greenwich 6

Signs not in the line of sight of pedestrians

Isn’t there meant to be a safety audit of this? Where is the original, and, presuming that the 10 mph speed limit signs were erected with facility for enforcement, where is the original Traffic Regulation Order for this, and where is the paperwork which, presumably voided the 10 mph speed limit here and saw the signs all neatly removed?

In March 2015 the Parliamentary Committee on Transport Safety (PACTS) concluded that a structure of crash investigation and regulation that delivers such low casualty figures for air, rail and marine transport would deliver a major reduction in our roads casualty tolls and called for a highways version of RAIB/AAIB/MAIB as a key starting point. Some vision of what this means can be seen from RAIB reports where road vehicles are involved and in the absence of a regulator with a comprehensive and robust remit, letters were sent to DfT, Roads Authorities and vehicle operators recommending action to deliver safer road design and management, and vehicle design and operation. At Croydon (2008) one measure – reducing the risk of passengers being sent through the upper deck windows in a bus crash was a call to DfT and Bus Operators, at Oxshott (2010) 4 recommendations to DfT and Surrey CC on managing the risks of large vehicles crashing off bridges on to trains. So what has been delivered?

Until we have self-driving HGVs, drivers need to act as robots

Two recent court cases have shed light on a troubling issue that creates danger on London roads: HGV drivers changing their route out of their own will.

Here are the cases:

As reported, after dropping off his load near Elephant & Castle, HGV driver Edwin Humphries set his SatNav for the return journey to Telford. A few hundred metres later, Humphries decided to override the SatNav which was telling him to turn right at the junction. He felt that turning left would have been quicker (he had started work at 07:00, it was now 16:00 and still half of London and 250km separated him from his home). Problem was that he was on the wrong lane, one with an arrow pointing right. He probably spent the minute that the lights took to turn green debating “right or left”, finally decided to turn left and killed Abdelkhalak Lahyani who was riding to the left of the lorry, intending to go straight and probably did not notice the belated indicator.

One month earlier John Green loaded his skip lorry in Chancery Lane and started his trip back to Rainham in Essex. Below in green is the route that he was probably intending to take.

2015-12-16_1332

 

However at Holborn Circus, instead of turning left on Charterhouse Street to join Farringdown Road, he turned right into New Fetter Lane (red route). At the end of Fetter Lane, he turned left into Fleet Street and stopped at the Ludgate Circus junction. Here he realised that the right turn was prohibited. Not only that, there is a weight restrictions going forward to Saint Paul.

Vision_Zero_-_Ludgate_Circus,_view_from_lorry.png

 

Green could only go left. He was probably upset of having to waste time and was probably remapping the journey in his head. The lights turned green and only then did he start indicating; by this time Victor Ben Rodriguez was riding on the cycle lane intending to go forward and was to the left of the lorry; Green turned and killed Ben Rodriguez.

In both cases the late decision by the lorry driver to change direction caused a fatality.

This is inadmissible. The routes of HGVs must be fixed before departure along well-defined risk-assessed routes. Drivers need to be alerted of risk factors as they are met, through their SatNavs. Under no circumstance should a driver be allowed to stray away from the planned route. If that does happen, the employer needs to be informed and the incident be logged.

The construction industry is (slowly) addressing the issue that the strict Health and Safety procedures in place inside a construction site are non -existent as soon as the lorry driver leaves the site. Contractors are required to follow prescribed routes, but there is no monitoring.

Recently I witnessed a cement lorry from Lafarge driving down a residential street, which could not have been part of the official route.

IMG_20150616_175407

I reported it to the company, who after investigating the matter, interviewed the driver and following his attitude to the incident, decided to fire him. This is obviously positive, but

  • what would have happened if I hadn’t reported the incident?
  • are the new employers of the driver aware of the incident?

We welcome the construction industry latest effort, the 10 point Manifesto for Road Safety, especially the first point:

For all property developers and contractors to recognise that health and safety on the road is as important as it is on site

something that regrettably the Health and Safety Executive repeatedly has refused to do.

We hope that after reading this article the CICC will tackle with robustness the issue of enforcement of prescribed routes.

A final point

It is clear that any lorry over 7.5 tons (medium size) driving East on Fleet Street has to turn left at Ludgate Circus. However the great majority of cyclists do not know that.

This is a crash that was built in by design.

If Victor Ben-Rodriguez had known that the lorry had no other choice but turn left, he would have not been killed.

It is therefore imperative that a warning signal be placed before the junction warning cyclists that all lorries will be turning left.

This is the type of obvious measure that unfortunately London’s Transport Authorities never take, because they have not learned the Vision Zero principles.

UPDATE: Our recommendation is that all HGVs, not just construction ones, need to adhere to approved risk-assessed routes. It would also prevent silliness like this.

London Assembly asks Mayor to adopt Vision Zero

Motion passed unanimously by the London Assembly:

This Assembly notes the positive environmental and health effects of walking and wishes to see London become a safer city for pedestrians.

This Assembly notes the Mayor’s target to halve the number of people killed or seriously injured on London’s roads by 2020 compared to the Government base line of 3,627[2].
This Assembly believes that a target of 1,813 people, or fewer, being killed or seriously injured on London’s roads by 2020 is still too high.
This Assembly believes that the Mayor should adopt the Swedish Vision Zero approach to road danger, which incorporates five key principles:
  • Safety: road traffic systems should take account of the fact that people make mistakes and should minimise both the opportunity for error and the harm done when they do occur.
  • Ethics: human life and health have highest priority.
  • Responsibility: those who design and manage road systems share responsibility with road users.
  • Mechanisms for change: We must all be ready to change to achieve safety.
  • Active travel which encourages healthy forms of transport such as cycling and walking.
This Assembly further notes than Vision Zero combines strong enforcement of traffic law and better roadway engineering with campaigns to discourage dangerous behaviour on roads. It also aims to raise the profile of traffic safety problems and help change cultural attitudes, which are too accepting of road death and injury.
This Assembly calls on the Mayor and TfL to take a bold approach to pedestrian safety. We need ambitious targets to drive forward progress on pedestrian safety, the political will to make difficult decisions, and clear leadership to build the momentum to change our roads and streets for the better. Adopting Vision Zero principles for London’s road safety policy could change public perception of road dangers as an inevitable part of modern city life. It would remind people that death and injury on our roads can be avoided if a serious effort is made to tackle the causes of the problem.
Valerie Shawcross,who proposed the motion said:
“London has always been a pedestrian friendly city, but it ought to be a safer city for those who chose to walk. Whilst the Mayor’s target to halve the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads is welcome, it falls far short of what he should be aiming for.

An ambitious Vision Zero strategy, which vigorously enforces traffic law, improves road engineering, and works to discourage dangerous behaviour on the roads, is the only true route to boosting pedestrian safety. All the evidence points to regular walking as crucial to good health; the Mayor should be promoting walking as a way to tackle our obesity crisis and be doing more to make London a pedestrian friendly city.”

Sian Berry, Green Party candidate for London Mayor:

“We look forward to working with the Vision Zero campaign group to tackle systemic road danger and risk on our streets.”

Caroline Russell, Green Party Local Transport spokesperson:

“Reducing danger will make London into a more liveable city and save communities from the trauma of road death and serious injury.”

A tale with one victim and many villains

On Thursday 19.11.15 the Coroner’s Inquest was held of the killing of Abdelkhalak Lahyani at Elephant and Castle on 13.05.14 by Edwin Humphries, who was driving a 26-tonne lorry.

Abdelkhalak Lahyani Image by the family

Here are the facts that emerged at the inquest:

Humphries drives a large lorry from Telford to London (approx. 250km) arriving at his destination on the Walworth Rd at 14:15. After downloading, he has to wait one hour because schoolchildren near the site are coming out. [This incidentally is another example that a rush-hour lorry ban protects some people, but transfers the risk to others, if other measures are not also applied].

At approximately 16:00 Humphries drives up the Walworth Road, which has two lanes North, one of which is a bus lane. It has no cycle-specific infrastructure. The road then turns left, and 70 meters before the Elephant & Castle junction the lanes become three: the bus lane becomes a general lane for left turning traffic and the two other lanes have right turning arrows painted:

Humphries stays in the middle lane. After a further 40 metres, between the left and the middle lane, a cycle feeder lane is painted:

View looking back

The traffic light is red and for 1 minute and 20 seconds Humphries is stationary in the middle lane, front of the queue. In the left lane, a car and a van are also waiting; in between a moped blocks the exit of the feeder lane into the ASL.

At the Inquest, Humphries testifies that
a. he thought the left lane was still a bus lane
b. he had not noticed the feeder lane
c. he had not noticed the moped.

Humphries’s SatNav tells him to go right but he decides to turn left, thinking it would be a less congested route. [Humphries had taken a 5 year break from driving HGVs and had just resumed 6 weeks earlier; this was his first trip in London in a long time]. Humphries does not remember when he made this decision.

Thirty seconds after Humphries stops at the lights, Lahyani reaches the area on his bicycle and then disappears from view of the four CCTVs. Layani works on the South Bank and he intends to go straight and right at the junction.

Although PC Smith, the investigator, has shown that the lorry’s left indicators were on when the lights turned green, he did not mention whether they were on when he arrived at the junction. The Coroner did not pick up on this crucial point.

When the lights turned, the tragedy quickly unravelled: the moped sped away and turned left; behind it  Lahyani cycle straight; Humphries turned left; Lahyani was hit by the side of the lorry, fell under its left rear wheel and suffered fatal injuries.

The villains

Transport for London – This junction had been redesigned in 2010, with no consideration for cycling safety. A feeder lane in the middle of a three-lane arterial road, with bus traffic moving left to right and substantial HGV traffic moving right to left is a recipe for disaster. It only takes a small error by a driver of a large vehicle to end the life of an innocent person. The laziness of TfL is further evidenced by the cycle lane on the left of the carriageway, visible from this aerial shot of the protest organised by Stop Killing Cyclists.

The green strip on the pavement at bottom right, is meant for left turning cyclists. It suddenly stops, with no indication of where to go and where to rejoin the road. Scandalous.
After Lahyani’s killing, SKC used chalk to show a possible solution to keep people on bikes safe: a cycle track on the wide expanse of pavement both for left turning cyclists and for those intending to go straight (with the track splitting at the top of the picture, one arm safely rejoining the carriageway, the other crossing the street, adjacent to the pedestrian crossing). A year and a half after the killing, TfL has not modified the junction. People are forced to ride in the same environment that killed Lahyani.

Boris Johnson – The Mayor infamously stated “If you keep your wits about you, Elephant & Castle is perfectly negotiable.” The killing of Lahyani can be strictly linked to this statement.  Boris Johnson did not intend to kill Lahyani, but by mandating the prioritising of “smoothing traffic flow” over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, he is most responsible for his death (and that of many others). Some may want to give credit to Johnson for delivering a few kilometres of good quality infrastructure in his last year on the job; they forget the victims of his crass policies: we should honour the five victims who had to die on his blue paint, before his belated conversion, rather than praising him.

The Metropolitan Police – Some Collision Investigator Officers are thorough and we have praised them in the past. In this case, PC Smith has shown to be woefully inadequate. At the inquest he went out of his way to blame Lahyani for riding his bicycle where TfL had asked him to. He stressed that CCTVs did not show the exact position of Lahyani during the 50 seconds when everyone was waiting for the green light. When I challenged him outside of court, asking him why didn’t he explain the most likely series of events, Smith said: “He could have been anywhere, even on the pavement”, an impossible scenario. However his most damning failing has been not to draw the attention of the court to the clear contribution that the road layout had to the killing. We are going to report him to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (Yes we know, another total ineffectual body). The testimony by PC Smith was so bad that the only conclusion that one can take is that this was a stitch-up between the Metropolitan Police and its paymaster, Transport for London, who clearly have no intention of redesigning the junction.

Coroner Ballard – In spite of clear evidence that Lahyani had done nothing wrong and that he ended up being in an extremely vulnerable  position because of inadequate and unsafe provisions, the Coroner did not contemplate issuing a Prevention of Future Death report. This is dereliction of duty:

Paragraph 7 of Schedule 5, Coroners and Justice Act 2009, provides coroners with the duty to make reports to a person, organisation, local authority or government department or agency where the coroner believes that action should be taken to prevent future deaths.

The barrister representing the family at the Inquest – Shamefully unwilling to challenge the Police testimony, the barrister responded to my questions of why she hadn’t, by saying, “That is not what Inquests are for”. Another highly paid professional who doesn’t know the law and her job.

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Lahyani has been killed and no lessons have been learned. The people who caused his death, the driver, Boris Johnson, Transport for London have made errors of varying severity. Not only they have not been punished, but these errors have not been formally recognised and therefore are not going to be corrected. The Metropolitan Police, the Coroner and the barrister are therefore responsible for the future injuries and fatalities which sadly are inevitably going to happen at this junction.

The incompetence and impunity of these villains are the reason of the intolerable number of people killed while walking and cycling in London.