Incident report

Tale of three junctions – Part 2: Deptford Broadway

This is a classic Vision Zero case:

  • a design, safe on paper, actually had a fatal flaw
  • when someone actually was killed as a consequence of the flaw, no proper investigation took place
  • Vision Zero London went to investigate and detected the fatal flaw
  • we are now waiting for the flaw to be corrected, but how long will it take? The last words we heard: “This will not be immediate”

In the afternoon of Sunday 16th September 2018 Julia Luxmoore Peto had gone shopping in Deptford. Just before 17:00 she was at the large junction between New Cross Road and Deptford Church Street.

Until a few years ago, this enormous, extremely busy junction had no protected pedestrian crossing; Transport for London eventually placed signaled crossings on three arms of the junction. However the design had a fatal flaw, not immediately apparent from the drawings, but indisputable to anyone who spends fifteen minutes at the junction.

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Julia’s intended path had three stages:

  1. An unprotected crossing of the slip road for traffic turning left
  2. A signaled crossing of three lanes of traffic coming from West: two going straight and one turning right
  3. A third crossing (signaled) of the westbound traffic.

The phasing of the motor traffic of the second crossing is a. straight only, b. straight and right turn, c. right turn only. Naturally the pedestrian light shows red during the three phases. However 90% of the traffic goes straight, and after the second phase, when it stops, it gives the misleading impression that it is now safe to cross.

For someone crossing North to South, this false signal is augmented by the fact that often the traffic stopped at red consists of lorries, which obscure the third lane.

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It seems safe to cross. But beware of the third lane!

In the picture above, the lady may forget that the third lane is still on green. Adding to this confusion is the geometry of the staggered crossing, a dog left, which leads people to look away from the potential danger coming from the right.

Julia crossed the third lane as a bus approached; she was hit and died in hospital the following day.

At the inquest, the Coroner issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report to Chris Grayling concerning the issue that the signal of the second stage of a staggered pedestrian crossing may confuse people crossing the first stage. This is obviously an important point, but it is unlikely to be the contributory factor of the fatal crash here.

The PFD notes that, following the crash, TfL had installed louvres on the pedestrian lights to obviate the problem cited by the Coroner. We alerted TfL’s Vision Zero team that that measure was insufficient because the real problem was elsewhere, namely in the confusion created by the hidden third lane. That was the fatal fault in the design that killed Julia. We arranged for TfL’s Vision Zero team to view the site and they agreed with our analysis.

At the site visit, a number of solutions were discussed. For instance the staggered crossing can be redesigned so that it is dog right, so that the attention of pedestrians is drawn towards and not away from danger. We wait to know what TfL will implement.

We also pointed out that the crossing of the slip road should have a zebra:

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Is it appropriate for an 8 year old or an 80 year old to risk their lives here?

Finally, we suspect that there are many junctions with a similar flaw. We strongly urge Transport for London to review all their junctions if it is the case.

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Julia was only 27 when she was killed; she was training to become a speech therapist. This is how her father remembers her:

“She loved her friends, the children she worked with, and her family. She had lots of friends and they were very important to her.She wanted to work with people and help people. She had travelled to lots of different parts of the world, including working at an orphanage in Mongolia during her gap year. She believed in social justice and she was a feminist, and she believed in supporting people who were less fortunate than herself. She would have made a cracking speech and language therapist.”

She was killed as a consequence of a faulty design.

Let the image of this wonderful young woman be a constant reminder to everyone at TfL that the way they design roads may have tragic consequences; it requires constant supervision whether people use the facilities the way they were drawn on paper. Humans are not robots: they are fallible and don’t like to waste their time. Good design takes the humanity of users into consideration and creates systems where attention is directed towards what matters.

 

The banality of the killing fields

With credit to Hannah Arendt

On Saturday 31 August, Pat went to his favourite pub, the Molly Bloom on Kingsland Road in Dalston, for his regular lunchtime pint. At 13:00, he left the pub heading back home; Pat, 69 was the victim of a stroke a few years ago and one side of his body had limited mobility. As a consequence he used a crutch to walk. He was also in the habit of pushing a wheel chair, in case he got tired and needed a rest.

He started crossing Kingsland Road but never made it to the other side. A lorry driver didn’t see him and killed him.

The crash is under investigation; we don’t know how the driver, on a Roman-like road without a bend for several kilometres, failed to see a disabled man pushing a wheel chair crossing the road right in front of him.

We talked to some of the publicans at the Molly and the quotes sounded familiar but were nevertheless shocking:

“He stepped out without looking; it was his habit; we kept on telling him not to do it, but he would not listen; he always used to come out of the pub with his wheelchair and just start crossing the road. Like he didn’t care.”

“But how did the driver not see him?”

“I don’t know; I was inside, I didn’t see it. The driver could have been looking right or left”

“But should he not be looking ahead of him?”

Shrug of shoulders. “It is very sad, but he always did that: just crossed the road looking ahead; he didn’t care”

Maybe Pat didn’t care, or maybe he did; maybe he cared to show that he did not want to be cowed into submission by a culture that made him second class, not because of his disabilities, but because he could not or did not want to drive.

I left the pub asking myself: how could these people, who have spent many hours together with Pat, blame him for being killed? The answer is well known: they have been brainwashed by a society that instills in all citizens the concept that roads are designed for people who drive; people walking and cycling are lower class and must defer to the powerful drivers. Pat challenged the powerful and he was rightly killed.

This fascist attitude has been inculcated in people’s mind for decades, most notably by the Government’s Think! campaign, a poster child for victim blaming.

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Outside the pub, a few metres south, half of the pavement and half the carriageway was cordoned off for repairs. The people working at the site had parked their van on a double red line in a way that obscured the view to anyone wishing to cross the road; and many people were doing just that.

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I approached the manager of the team and pointed out the danger of their van.

“We have to park it somewhere”

“I understand but the way you have parked it, it is creating a visual obstruction for people who want to cross.”

“They should not be crossing here. There is a signaled crossing 100m up the road.”

“But people do cross here because they want to get to the station. A pensioner was killed at this very spot”

“Yes, but he was disabled”

“So disabled people who cross the road deserve to die?”

“No, but he shouldn’t have crossed here, it is not legal”

“Excuse me, but where does it say that it is illegal to cross the road here?”

“Well, we have to park it somewhere” We were entering a loop.

Difficult to reason with people who have been zombified. We tweeted the image above, pointing out the danger, and thankfully the Mayor of Hackney promised to raise the issue with TfL. The next day, the van was parked elsewhere.

(1) Mayor of Hackney on Twitter_ _@V0LDN @BrendaPuech @willnorman @MBCyclingTM I've already been in

This fascist mindset is also prevalent among the Council Officers to whom Glanville should be providing guidance. Take our request to put two zebra crossings on Lee St, a rat run just one kilometre south of the fatal collision. One would be in front of Haggerston Overground Station, and the second at the entrance of a local park which every afternoon teems with children; the gate is at a dangerous T-junction with unpredictable vehicular movements.

One would think that officers would judge whether citizens safety would be improved by these zebra crossings.

Wrong! The priority for the Hackney Officers is to limit the inconvenience to people who choose to drive, i.e. the people who choose to poison and endanger the children playing in the park and the citizens who use public transport. Here is the response we have received from Andy Cunningham, Head of Streetscene at Hackney Council:

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In other words the Council adopts some form of mathematical bullshit, and tells us that the zebras are not justified. Officers have spent considerable time and money to measure traffic data, and plugged it in a formula designed to say No.

If the officers had not been zombified, they would have spent thirty minutes at 16:00 at the gate of the park and they would have realised that the crossing is hazardous especially given the high number of young children using it, the volume of drivers using the road as a rat run and the difficulty in predicting turns at the junction.

If the officers had not been zombified, they would understand the fascist nature of their decision process: provision of safety to ordinary citizens has to surpass an impossible hurdle in order not to inconvenience the chosen race: motorists.

But this is the essence of the Banality of Evil: people just doing their job, their mind impregnated by an evil meme, namely that drivers are more important citizens.

We hope that the Mayor of Hackney understands the importance of his role and starts to cleanse the officers from this evil ideology, and understands that people like Pat don’t deserve to die just because they choose to cross the road where it is convenient to them and not where it is convenient to those who poison us.

 

Tale of three junctions – Part 1: King William Street

Three junctions, where people have lost their lives or severely injured, and the wrong lessons have been learned.

Part 1: King William Street

This is probably the most dangerous junction for pedestrians in the City of London. It is on TfL’s list of 73 killer junctions and apparently TfL is designing a new layout (we have not seen any plans yet). I have raised the lethality of the junction with the City of London Road Safety team more than two years ago, but they claim it is TfL’s responsibility.

It would have been kept in the back burner for years, if it had not suddenly sprung in the news, following a court decision adjudicating costs on a collision between Robert Hazeldean who crashed into Gemma Brushet while riding his bike.

However, as is usually the case in England, the wrong lessons were learned. Nobody has focused on the junction and people have tittle-tattled on the judge’s decision to ask Hazeldean to pay for Brushet’s cost even if blame was apportioned 50-50.

Even shabbier has been the behaviour of organisations such as British Cycling and London Cycling Campaign which used the opportunity to market their memberships with inclusive 3rd party insurance.

No one has spoken about the junction, the root of the problem.

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The key lethal feature of this crossing is that one arm has ALWAYS conflicting motor traffic. That is right: there is no phase when it is safe to cross.

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View from North

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View from South – Traffic stopped at red – but it is NOT safe to cross

To make things even worse, the Southbound motor traffic is most of the time stationary, thus giving a deceptive clue that it is safe to cross.

Add to this mix the English arrogance that who sits at a wheel (or rides a bike) has always priority over pedestrians and you have a death trap.

Now watch this two minute video, and you scratch your head: how can a civilised country design and refuse to alter something so dangerous and disrespectful to its citizens?

Notice from the beginning: motor traffic stopped at red, but West arm is not safe to cross.

00:35 Watch the speed of the bus – if a pedestrian had been confused and was crossing at that point, the driver would have had no chance to take evasive action -> death with 80% probability (and the pedestrian would have been blamed)

00:55 People crossing are given no clues that southbound traffic has now a green light and are taken aback.

01:05 Eight people squeezed between buses. Why do English people accept being treated with such contempt?

01:25 Pedestrians unsure about oncoming cyclists

The incident that had everyone fibrillating happened in 2015; in 2017 there was another incident where a pedestrian suffered serious injuries. We are now well in the second half of 2019 and TfL is still designing. They are in contempt of Section 39 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which compels the relevant Transport Authority to take action when road design has contributed to serious incidents, to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

Our solution is simple: get rid of the traffic light and put a zebra crossing. It should not take two years to do that.

UPDATE 12.08.19 – As Robert points out in the comment below, motor traffic is forbidden from turning left from Cannon Street. So the green arrow from the West is not a legal traffic flow. However if one is crossing King William Street, one may not be aware of this prohibition and one’s attention may be split three ways.