Infrastructure

Delays kill – Open letter to Heidi Alexander

Ms Alexander,

After a horrific 2019, when more than 70 citizens have been killed walking in London (compared to 58 in 2018), the first killing of 2020 highlights why Transport for London is failing in its Vision Zero effort.

It was the third killing in a 100 metre stretch on Peckham High Street, over the past three years.

In 2014, before the first killing, Peckham Town Centre was identified by Transport for London, as one of two “Pedestrian Town Centre Safety Pilots”, because of deaths and serious injuries there.

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First killing: Mary O’Leary, 04.09.2015

Clipix _ Clipboard _ Mary O'Leary, Peckam Hi Street, 04.09.1513

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Mary O’Leary’s funeral. © Southwark News

After the first killing, of Mary O’Leary in Sept 2015 TfL stated: “Peckham has been selected as one of two locations for pedestrian focused safety improvements as part of the pedestrian town centres programme. Work is now underway to identify a wide ranging set of improvements to make the area safer and more appealing for pedestrians and over the next two years [by the end of 2017] these ideas will be developed and implemented.”

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Second killing: Peter Allingham, 04.09.2017

Viking enthusiast, publican, steam train driver - friends tell incredible life story of Peckham man

After the second killing, of Peter Allingham, in September 2017, Southwark Councillor Ian Wingfield, stated: “Council officers met with TfL on Monday to discuss their long-standing proposals to improve pedestrian safety in the town centre. TfL say they will consult on these plans in May 2018, with construction beginning in 2019. We have put pressure on TfL to act faster and bring these dates forward.”

Two months ago, at the Allingham inquest, Stuart Reid, TfL’s Vision Zero boss said: “We continue to work on a scheme to reduce danger in Peckham Town Centre as part of our Vision Zero goal of eliminating death and serious injury on London’s roads. Proposed upgrades include wider pavements, improved pedestrian crossings and reduced speed limits. The engineering scheme in Peckham has been extremely complex to develop, however we remain committed to improving safety there and will be consulting the public on a design early in the new year [2020], with a view to starting work following public feedback.”

So SIX YEARS after identifying this stretch of road as needing urgent intervention to protect citizens, and after three citizens being killed, we still don’t know what TfL is planning to do.

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Third killing: Jason Bent, 08.01.2020

First picture of father of one Jason Bent who was mowed down on Peckham High Street in South East Lo

This is common practice: whenever the issue to be resolved appears too difficult, it is put to one side, hoping it will go away.

This is criminal. Literally: TfL, as the relevant authority

(a)must carry out studies into accidents arising out of the use of vehicles

(b)must, in the light of those studies, take such measures as appear to the authority to be appropriate to prevent such accidents

[Section 39 of Road Traffic Act 88]

Nobody denies that the solution to Peckham High Street is difficult. The street is a busy shopping street with narrow pavements and is also used as a major arterial road. There are in other words irreconcilable demands. One cannot have an arterial flow with vehicles driving up to 50 kph on a narrow shopping street.

Some people are blaming pedestrians for crossing away from designated crossing places and encourage the introduction of barriers to pen in citizens. This is not a Vision Zero response: the waiting time at the pedestrian crossing is very long; moreover, the congested streets with stationary traffic induce people to cross along their desire lines. Barriers are conceptually alien to a programme that wants to encourage active travel.

It is clearly impossible to put a patch: TfL must have a “system” solution. Either

  • the traffic artery is diverted to the much wider A2
  • the current shops are relocated elsewhere.

And while the work is carried out, a 20kph (=12.4mph) speed limit needs to be implemented and enforced.

In the past year I have highlighted many safety concerns to Stuart Reid. Although I have always received a welcomed willingness to look at the issues, there is a distinct lack of urgency in fixing problems.

The Mayor’s Vision Zero Action Plan has been built around five interventions. Let me remind you of #5:

Post-collision response: Developing systematic information sharing and learning, along with improving justice and care for the victims of traffic incidents

My experience has been extremely frustrating: TfL is obstructing demands of greater transparency. There is no willingness to learn from failure and urgently to rectify situations that can lead to preventable deaths. Let me remind you that that is the purpose of S39 of RTA88. By kicking things in the long grass, Transport for London, for which you are responsible, are in contempt of the law and are criminally negligent.

Let me conclude by posting you this video, which should be watched daily by you, Stuart Reid and everyone involved in Vision Zero, so you can visualize how the seventy+ citizens you allowed to be killed look like:

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.

Screenshot 2019-09-15 at 00.31.39.png

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.

 

Nightlife and cycling

Two o’clock on a Saturday morning in Copenhagen and you see hundreds of people leaving bars and heading home on their bikes.

Screenshot 2019-06-24 at 19.15.13

In London, we are not there yet. During a conversation with an officer  at the Mayor’s Office who works in the 24 Hour London department, the following areas for improvement were identified:

  • Anti-social driving – There is a perception among many drivers that the rules of the road are more malleable at night: speed limits are understood to be 15-20kph higher than what is stipulated for the day. The dominance of professional drivers who have an incentive to speed and of leisure drivers who want to show off their monster machines creates a cocktail of bad driving that is sanctioned by lack of enforcement by the police. Overall it creates a very hostile environment for anyone cycling.

Screenshot 2019-06-24 at 20.06.23.png

  • Indiscriminate parking on cycle lanes – During the day we have taxi drivers who claim they can invade mandatory cycle lanes. At night, the prevalent attitude is that cycle lanes are infrastructure for when the sun shines. This widespread lawbreaking is encouraged by the Police who in their ignorance of the Highway Code, do not enforce Rule 140. This creates a very dangerous environment, when people who ride away from the door zone, are harassed by impatient drivers, high on their self-importance boosted by German horsepower.

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  • Closure of parks – Go to Hackney Wick on a Friday night and you see the Overground station packed, but hardly anyway cycling home. The reason is simple: Victoria Park is closed and one is forced to ride on hostile roads. It is a mystery why certain authorities think that closing parks at night is a good idea. There are many parks which stay open and there seems no evidence that personal safety is at risk. What is needed is more lighting to make the parks feel safer.
  • Some QuietWays don’t feel safe at night – The cowardly strategy by the Khan administration to push cycle routes to back streets is a disservice to those citizens who do not feel safe riding in dark neighbourhoods with low footfall.Screenshot 2019-06-24 at 18.50.13
  • Fear of Theft – Many night venues have inadequate cycle parking facilities and often they are placed in thief-friendly positions, in dark corners or alleyways. Many people are reluctant to cycle at night for fear of not finding their bike when they need to return home.

The advantage of spending time and money on measures to solve the above problems is not only to improve safety but also to shift a certain image of English nightlife of heavy drinking and hooliganism towards a more gentle, more inclusive and more welcoming model.

Screenshot 2019-06-24 at 18.48.05

All images by Copenhagen Cycle Chic

Arriva and Metroline, the hooligans on our roads

Morgan Penn lives on Tollington Road, one of the few streets in Islington where the Borough’s 30kph limit does not apply because it is managed by Transport For London.

It is one way and it has four lanes. It has the feel of a motorway; almost all drivers put their foot down, including bus drivers.

One day earlier this year, Morgan, fed up with watching near misses every day, attached a sign and a bunch flowers.

Vision Zero - Morgan Penn, first sign

It didn’t make much difference, so Morgan prepared a bigger sign and decided to spend an hour a day flashing his sign to speeding drivers and recording the most egregious incidents.

His persistence has triggered a response from Transport for London, which is supposed to regulate the bus companies. Stuart Reid, the head of the Vision Zero, brought a couple of colleagues to examine the site; in a surreal exchange, as buses were hurtling down the road, just a few centimetres from him, he refused to take urgent measures to mitigate this clear and present danger. He had a different plan: do nothing for three-four years and wait for the Camden-Walthamstow route to go through its slow process of modelling, consultation, Sadiq Khan’s prevarications, and eventual installation.

TfL does have a programme to introduce 30kph on all his roads, but it is now focusing on Central London. When pressed as to why he wouldn’t bring Tollington Road to the speed limit of all the nearby streets (including Holloway Road an even wider road, which it intersects), Reid replied “Drivers would not respect it”. “Have you not considered speed cameras, in that case?” “We can’t do that”

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Morgan Penn with Stuart “Do Nothing” Reid, head of Vision Zero (or is it #ZeroVision?) at TfL

Morgan has written to all the bus companies involved in this “small children with big toys circus”. Only one company responded, GoAhead, the only company whose driving record is very good here. They have issued posters in their depots, and through their telematics, they are monitoring the speed on this stretch of road. The drivers know it and they drive responsibly.

The worst offenders are bus drivers working for Arriva and Metroline. The two companies  have a far higher injury rate in London than Go Ahead. The figures below, show the average number of injuries per bus for each company. Metroline and Arriva are considerably more dangerous than Go Ahead. So far they have refused to meet Morgan, to explain why their drivers behave in such an antisocial way.

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At a subsequent site meeting Jon Pike, HSE Senior Manager at TfL has promised to put pressure on Arriva and Metroline to respond. He has also given an update on the Intelligent Speed Adaptation system, announced three years ago, but still being tested.

TfL is committed to rolling out Intelligent Speed Adaptation on buses and we are up to over 500 buses (Volvo specific) with this technology and hope to have at least 1,000 such buses with ISA by the year end. This retro-fit will mean that buses will have to drive up the speed limit and will not be able to speed. Such technology is being developed across other bus types; as you will see on your road there are many manufacturers. In other words, ISA is not an immediate solution.

Exactly. We need an immediate solution. There is one: TfL must instruct the operators which it is supposed to regulate, to run the buses at 30kph. This can be implemented in a few weeks and dramatically improve the safety of the street. This is Vision Zero thinking.

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I leave you with an incident witnessed by Morgan and Pike, which I hope will stick to the latter’s mind until the right action is carried out:

While discussing the near misses at the crossing, we all witnessed that poor old lady who couldn’t get across the road in time, and the two buses moved forward towards her when the lights turned green, and then instead of patiently waiting, just belligerently jostled around her in a pack. It was lucky nothing more serious happened as they loomed over her. These near misses happen every day here, and this incident just highlighted the danger.

Waiting for someone to be killed is NOT Vision Zero.

Artwork by Morgan Penn

Seven minutes to cross a junction on Quietway 22

The Greenway is a stretch of traffic free cycle track from Stratford to Beckton on top of Bezalgette’s sewer.  TfL has recently spent £4.5m on “upgrading” the track and now calls it Quietway 22.

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Photo: Hackney Cyclist

As so much cycle infrastructure in London, it is very poorly executed as no money has been spent on the difficult bits. Hackney Cyclist has written an excellent report last month. Here I just concentrate on the TOTAL lack of intervention wherever the Quietway meets motor traffic. In other words, Will Norman is perfectly happy to treat active travel as a second class form of travel.

Western end

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Notice the absurdly wide pavement

The link with Victoria Park is the very unattractive and unfriendly Wick Lane, which has no safe cycling infrastructure. NO MONEY SPENT HERE

Stratford High Street

After five hundred metres the Greenway meets three obstacles: a railway, a river, and a main road; in spite of the £billions spent on the Olympic project, these obstacles have been deemed too formidable for the English urban planners. The Greenway just dies and resumes where it is easy. One can follow a lengthy link provided by Marshgate Lane and CS2, but crossing  Stratford High Street has not been considered at this point and one has to improvise. No wonder that very few West Ham fans cycle to watch their team. NO MONEY SPENT HERE

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2019 – A short stretch of old Greenway, West of Stratford High Street has been reopened. However the NEW crossing of SHS has been badly designed: first of all it is staggered, for no good reason; secondly and most important the new type of green man signals are extremely confusing and likely to confuse people and induce them to cross at the wrong time:

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It is worth noting that during the Olympic Games, the crossing was direct and additionally a bridge was built on top of it:

(2) Vision Zero London (@V0LDN) _ Twitter28

 

English people are not happy if they don’t erect barriers

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Photo: Hackney Cyclist

Along the 5km of the main stretch, the Greenway meets  five roads. In all occasions there are formidable barriers which are difficult to navigate with a cargobike. Money has been thankfully spent on lighting along the way; which means that the route is no longer closed at dusk as Newham used to do. But why not replace those horrible barriers with simple pillars?

The A117

The Greenway is interrupted by the A117 at its intersection with the A13. This junction exemplifies the English lack of respect, let’s call it disdain and utter contempt for ordinary citizens who don’t drive. To rejoin the Greenway, one has to negotiate SIX TRAFFIC LIGHTS. Naturally, this being England, no thought has been directed to synchronising these lights for the benefit of people walking or cycling. On the contrary they seem to be programmed to maximise the waiting time. On two arms, the conflicting motor traffic is stationary at red, and yet the pedestrian lights are also fixed at red. This may be an error, but this being England, nobody complains or the complaints are ignored. We tested the total time required to cross this junction:

Google Maps17 (1)

West-East:

Wait at 1: 1 minute 35 seconds; cross to island 5 seconds

Wait at 2: 55 seconds; ride to 3: 15 seconds

Wait at 3 20 seconds; cross 3 & 4: 15 seconds

Wait at 5: 1 minute and 15 seconds; cross 5 seconds

Wait at 6: 1 minute  and 35 seconds; cross 5 seconds.

Total SIX MINUTES AND TWENTY SECONDS

East-West:

Wait at 6: 1 minute and 5 seconds; cross 5 seconds

Wait at 5: 30 seconds; cross to 4: 10 seconds

Wait at 4 1 minute and 25 seconds; cross: 10 seconds

Wait at 3: 40 seconds; ride to 2: 15 seconds

Wait at 2: 45 seconds; cross 5 seconds

Wait at 1: 1 minute and 45 seconds; cross 5 seconds.

Total: SEVEN MINUTES

How can anyone think that this is acceptable?

 

 

How Islington Council spent half of £million in cycling money, without doing anything on the ground

In July 2014, Islington Council accepted £2,000,000 from Transport for London for three sections of the Central London Cycling Grid.

Instead of saying thank you, getting down to work, produce some good schemes and then apply for more funding, Councillor Webbe, Executive Member for Environment and Transport, has spent the last year complaining that TfL is not giving her enough money and her officers have managed to spend a quarter of the money and produced nichts, nada, rien.

The Greek Government sure has competition in wasting money given to them in good faith and then blaming others.

Here is the breakdown on how £598,464 has been wasted, achieving nothing and making consultants rich:

Here is what they have achieved:

CLCG Route 1 Clerkenwell Road/Old Street [The most cycled route in the Borough] – After paying £95,503 for some decent proposals by Project Centre, Council officers seem reluctant to go ahead, afraid to deviate from Usual British Botch Standards (UBBS) – see more below.

CLCG Route 2 – Bath Street/Bunhill Row/Chiswell St/Finsbury Square – The first half had already received  its UBBS treatment, with dangerous contraflows, un-negotiable junctions, etc. To make this an appealing North South route, the Bath Street junction with City Road needs to be fixed; apparently TfL is going to do this, so Islington need not worry about the most difficult challenge. Chiswell Street is a nightmare and needs to be filtered, but Islington has no intention to do this; nevertheless they managed to spend £129,403 on absolutely nothing: if they have developed designs, they have not shown them to anyone.

CLCG Route3 / QuietWay 2 – £208,820 spent on absolutely nothing. This was already a LCN+ route and Islington Council has refused to make any substantial improvements, like closing rat-runs

CLCG Route 4 – Vincent Terrace/Graham St/Central St/ Golden Lane/Banner St/ Leonard St – This is a fairly quiet route, which needs two quick interventions: a contraflow on Banner Street and sorting out the Leonard St/City Rd junction which is an insult to decency. Nothing done, except spending £69,909 on who knows what; nobody has seen any plans. Islington is additionally spending more money on consultants to produce a so called Master Plan for Central Street.

CLCG Route 5  St John Street – When Crossrail closed the bottom of St John Street for six months to through traffic, people realised what a beautiful public space it could be turned to. It was a perfect opportunity to study the feasibility of making the filtering permanent. But oh no, Islington does not do something so obvious; otherwise it wouldn’t be able to waste money on modelling. Is that how they frittered away £38,698? To add insult to injury, when we suggested to keep St John civilised, back came the Great British Bullshit line: “the Council considers reopening St John Street after Crossrail have completed their works to be beneficial to all residents, businesses and visitors in the Farringdon area.”

Please note that Route 2 and 4 run across Bunhill Ward, the constituency of Cllr Webbe, who is on record for “being too scared to cycle”. So here we have the person in charge of Active Travel in the Council, who admits that things are terribly wrong but is unwilling to fix them.

The tragedy of this scandal is that people are dying because Islington Council are frittering our money instead of making our roads safe to walk and cycle. Take for instance the junctions of Clerkenwell Road with Goswell Road and with St. John Street. Rebecca Goosen was killed at the former and Harriet Tory was killed at the latter, both by left turning lorries. Section 39 of the Road traffic Act 1988 mandates the Council to make the junctions safe and prevent similar fatal collisions.

Islington Council has yet not done what the laws requires (in other words they are criminal). As a consequence of their misuse of public money and flaunting of the law, in December 2014, Victoria Lebrec was almost killed at the junction with St John Street, in exactly the same way Harriet Tory lost her life; Victoria was saved by the heroics of the London Air Ambulance.

Project Centre produced the following plans for the two junctions:

St John Street

 

Goswell Road

The brown bits are protection. The key new element are the protective islands at the corners. It is not clear why they are in black and not in brown, but if they were physical separators, they would prevent collisions like the one that cost Victoria her leg.

There is much to improve on the above design, but it is going in the right direction. Alas, Islington officers are refusing to contemplate this design; they are also refusing to install continuous cycle tracks, happy for 10 year olds to cycle around buses and stopped vans. In other words, they are proposing yet another Usual British Botch Job, which means more people getting killed or losing limbs and the majority of the population too scared to cycle.

So Claudia Webbe, isn’t it time you stop taking selfies and wasting our money and actually start making walking and cycling in Islington safe for everyone, including yourself. That is what we are paying you for.

And Andrew Gilligan, shouldn’t you be auditing how the Councils are spending our money?

Incidentally, a three-day immersive course at David Hembrow learning Dutch infrastructure costs €675. Why doesn’t the Council send a couple of Officers for a month to the Netherlands and study how the Masters do it. It would cost max. £10,000 and then they could design everything in-house? Or maybe they prefer to receive kickbacks from the consultants?