“Sub-standard” “Extremely poor” “Takes no account of human nature” “Effectively works as uncontrolled crossing”
This how PC Simon Wickenden described the crossing in front of Euston Station where Peter van de Bulk was killed by a bus.
Wickenden was speaking at the Coroner’s Inquest held on 28.10.14.
As we described shortly after the killing, the traffic signals are completely dysfunctional. The cycle time is 96 seconds, of which the green man is on only for six seconds (there is an additional “black out” period of 12 seconds). This scandalous disrespect for people who walk is aggravated by the fact that only buses are allowed to use this road, and there is less than one bus a minute driving here. This means that in front of a mainline train station pedestrians are supposed to wait for 78 seconds just to let one bus (or possibly two) through.
The obvious result is that NO ONE waits at red.
Wickenden completed a thorough study of the speed of the buses as they pass the pedestrian crossing. There is a large 10mph sign painted on the ground and yet 66% of drivers were recorded at higher speeds with 15% driving at more than 16mph. As a result of this survey, Camden Council has narrowed the carriageway, to slow down bus movements.
|The new paving shows the width restriction. Notice that as the lights are turning green for the bus, there are four pedestrians crossing or starting to cross in front of it. Picture by Dave Holladay|
Wickenden has not yet carried out a study to see whether this intervention has had any effect
The inquest was marred by amateurism, typical of Coroners Courts. For instance, in spite of the bus driver admitting that he was late on his schedule, the Coroner did not ask any questions about the pressure he had been in to complete his route; as Tom Kearney has described in his blog, this factor greatly affects the standards of driving of bus drivers. The bus driver had waited nine seconds in the middle of the carriageway before turning; as soon as a taxi coming the opposite direction had passed he made his turn. The Coroner did not ask how big a gap was there between the taxi and the next vehicle. We have seen this before so many times: a bus driver, bullied by a controller to finish his route on time (otherwise their managers lose their performance bonuses) makes a risky manouvre at inappropriate speed and enters an area where many pedestrians are crossing the street and drives through with no consideration to their safety. This btw is exactly how my father was killed by a TfL bus.
The Coroner has in his pocket a Yellow Card. He can issue a Prevention of Future Death report, asking the relevant Transport Authority to make appropriate changes to reduce the risk of future deaths. The risk of future deaths does not have to be strictly related to the death examined in the Inquest: all is necessary is for the Coroner to discover, through the process of the Inquest, a situation which creates undue fatal risks to members of the public.
Coroner William Dolman refused to issue a PFD report saying as an excuse that “It was an one-off”. This is reprehensible for two reasons:
- It is contrary of the rationale for PFDs. The P stands for Prevention; we don’t have to see many deaths before fixing dangerous infrastructure. Wickenden has clearly shown that the signal phasing remains “sub-standard” and needs to be changed. The present phasing is dangerous and can lead to further deaths. The change needs to occur before Wickenden’s warning is confirmed by another tragedy
- Dolman has been told that 66% of bus drivers exceed the speed limit at this junction. It is rational to think that this is not a one-off, but that bus drivers ignore many speed restrictions, especially the ones of 20mph and below. Therefore Dolman should have issued a PFD to TfL to investigate this widespread disregard of speed limits by the contractors it regulates and take appropriate action
- to change the phasing of the lights at this junction, so that pedestrians do not have to wait more than twenty seconds
- to carry out a thorough investigation of the speed of buses in areas where the limits are 20mph or lower, and especially near train stations and bus depots
- to carry out measures to ensure that contracting companies have clear systems to prevent speeding.