Month: May 2014

My response to TfL Pedestrian Safety Action Plan

“I welcome your Vision Zero goal: “We strive towards our longer term ambition of a city that is free from such incidents.”

However, there are key interventions that are missing from the Plan.
The key point is that at present TfL treats people on foot as second class citizens, forcing them to wait disproportionate times at traffic lights, not enforcing Rule 170 of the Highway Code, not considering desire lines when designing crossings.
Whenever there is a design conflict between safety of pedestrians and convenience of motorists, TfL chooses the latter.
People resent being treated second class. They don’t understand why a traffic light takes 45 seconds to turn green after pushing a button. It is an insult to human nature.
As a consequence, TfL encourages risky behaviour by pedestrians which results in KSIs.
Active travel needs to be prioritised over motorised travel.
These are some of the measures that are required:
1. Much more extensive use of zebra crossings (both at “informal” crossings and to replace button-operated signals)
2. Maximum 15 sec wait on button-operated signals
3. Removal of most staggered crossings
4. “Operation Rule 170” by the Metropolitan Police, to change the mindset of motorists who do not yield to pedestrians when turning
5. Publication of names of pedestrian victims of traffic violence, as you do for cyclists
6. Redrafting of Bus Companies contracts emphasising safety rather than speed.”
7. Strong pressure using all means (legal, shaming, withholding funds, etc.) to force all boroughs to adopt a default 20mph speed limit.

You can read the Plan here


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"Agent of her own demise". Really?

On 22.04.14, an Inquest was held for the death of Wieslava Nowacka, who was killed by an Arriva bus on 05.10.13.

The Inquest was very unsatisfactory in trying to understand how the death occurred.

Here are the facts:

On a Saturday afternoon at 16:30, Wieslawa got off a bus travelling North on Stoke Newington Road at the bus stop you see. There was a second bus which stopped behind Wieslawa’s bus, just as in the picture. Wieslawa decided to cross the street by walking between the two buses. As she emerged on the carriageway, she was allegedly looking left. An Addison Lee taxi, with two passengers on board, also travelling North, swerved away from her and slightly touched her. An empty Arriva bus, travelling behind the taxi, braked but was not able to avoid Wieslawa; she was hit by the front window and died later from the injuries.

Here is a picture taken shortly after the crash:

No witnesses came to court. The coroner read three statements from the taxi driver, one of the passengers in the taxi and a passenger of the second bus at the stop (No. 149 in the picture).
All the statements concurred that Wieslawa looked the wrong way; the taxi passenger noted that she did not attempt to step back after being brushed by the taxi.
I found the details given by the bus passenger too detailed: it sounded like it was made up.
The Police said that they have looked at 2 CCTV tapes on the buses and a private one from a shop opposite and testified that Wieslawa was looking the wrong way. No CCTV footage was shown in court.
Wieslawa had lived seven years in London. She was not a tourist. She was 56 and lived in the area. It is therefore very difficult to understand why she would be “looking the wrong way” when crossing a busy A road, emerging between two buses.
The Coroner was happy to accept the Police version of events without questioning. He never asked simple questions such as:
  • Was the driver under time pressure to return to the depot?
  • If the taxi driver was able to avoid hitting Wieslawa, why wasn’t the bus driver able to do the same, in spite of having more time to react?

Wieslawa’s husband had returned to Poland; the family solicitors were engaged only as observers (they were sitting in the gallery, not at the victim’s table), and the Coroner’s attitude was “Let’s archive this case quickly”. Rather than questioning the improbability of the Police case, he concluded with this derogatory remark: “Wieslawa was the author of her own demise: she looked at the wrong direction” 
Tom Kearney has vividly described the corrupt collusion between Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police and their attempts to cover up deaths caused by bus drivers. 
I left the court room with the feeling that the truth of what happened to Wieslawa had been conveniently suppressed.
P.S. The pedestrian crossing from where the top picture was taken, has a delay of up to 40 seconds, after someone presses the button; probably the main reason why Wieslawa chose to undertake such a risky course of action.
If TfL creates risky conditions for ordinary citizens, then it should instruct its staff and that of its contractors to drive with caution where risk has been increased.
In any case Highway Code rule 206 says:

Drive carefully and slowly when

  • in crowded shopping streets, Home Zones and Quiet Lanes or residential areas
  • driving past bus and tram stops; pedestrians may emerge suddenly into the road
The Bus driver had two very good reasons to slow down, but he didn’t.

Brainwashed

The English population has been brainwashed in believing that someone driving a motor vehicle has more rights than some on foot and that if pedestrians are killed it is because they did not look.

On 27.04 a man in his 30s was killed by a lorry driver as he was crossing the road in front of Wimbledon Station. The station is full of shops and the buildings opposite are full of shops. This is an area with heavy pedestrian traffic.

They have only six seconds to cross

But the authorities have decided to allow heavy motor traffic to drive through this area, creating pollution and danger to ordinary citizens (notice where car has stopped above).

Not only they are allowing this inappropriate use of public space, they are actually encouraging lazy people to use motorised transport to the detriment of normal people who walk and cycle. If you want to cross this junction from or to the station, the authorities have installed a set of traffic lights which are green for only 6 seconds and force you to wait in the middle island (red) for another phase. The red phases last 45 seconds.

So on average it takes a minute to cross the street. Whereas if you are a lazy driver, the authorities award you with 80% of the traffic light phase; and there are sufficient unscrupolous people to take advantage of this injustice, with this effect:

This is an insult to ordinary citizens. This is fascism in practice.

First they take your rights away.
Then, if you dare to ignore their injustice, they kill you.
Finally they blame you; and they have managed to brainwash a significant section of the population that blame is pervasive.

Read the article in the Standard; headline with lurid innuendo, not one mention of the inhumane conditions, rather witness statements such as: “That spot is where you see loads of people crossing despite the lights being red. It’s a massive wake-up call.”

Be sure that if you are killed by the British motorised monster, there will be some idiot witness claiming that it was your fault.

This shopping area should prioritise walking and cycling. There should not be a signalled crossing here but a zebra crossing. Through motor traffic should be filtered or discouraged. Bus movement should have a 20kph (not mph) limit.

The first thing to change is the signal phasing. People should not have to wait more than 15 seconds and be able to cross in one go.