Old Street Roundabout cycle tracks not to be built until 2018

In Nov 14-Jan15 Transport for London consulted on a scheme to make Old Street Roundabout safe for cycling and walking.
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More than 1,300 comments were received. The headline results:

  • 87% of respondents believed that the proposals would improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists
  • 63% believed that bus and tube passengers would also benefit

In May 2015 TfL concluded

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Two years have passed and nothing has happened. If one looks at the TfL website, there is no mention of when the cycle tracks will be built. Moreover the Roundabout was NOT included in the new list of  73 dangerous junctions.

So, what is going on?

We are grateful to Caroline Russell, LAM to ask the following questions to TfL:

1. Why has the scheme not gone ahead, and why is TfL still “working on proposals”?

Following the conclusion of the public consultation on Old Street roundabout in January 2015, we also considered an integrated proposal that included an upgrade of Old Street station and potential commercial development. Consideration was given to both sets of proposals to ensure we secured the best value for our customers with minimal disruption.

It was not prudent for us to continue with detailed design of the roundabout project during this period, as there was a risk of work being aborted if the integrated proposals went ahead. Having decided to progress the original roundabout proposals, we have now issued a tender for the detailed design and construction of the project and expect to award this contract at the beginning of September, with a view to commencing enabling work by the end of the year.

2. Why hasn’t the Roundabout been listed in the 73 junctions to be improved for cycling, walking, motorcycling, under its new safer junctions programme?

The 73 projects recently announced as part of the Safer Junctions programme have been included as they all saw a higher than average collision rate in the three most recent years analysed. Old Street has also had a higher than average number of collisions in previous years, which was one factor that led to it being identified as a key location requiring the improvements we are now looking to deliver.

However, whilst we recognise there are safety improvements to be made, the Old Street project also seeks to transform the public realm and promote active travel, so is included in our new Healthy Streets programme. The project will provide increased cycling facilities, including segregated cycle routes where possible, and will replace three of the four existing subways with surface-level crossings. A new station entrance will also provide a place where people can stop and rest and a new lift will provide step-free access to the retail concourse in St Agnes Well.

The Safer Junctions programme will be reviewed annually to monitor changes and trends, and will include additional locations if and when they are identified.

3. How much has TfL spent so far in preparing the proposals and consulting?

At the end of the last financial year the total value of work done was £2.9m. This includes, but isn’t limited to, preliminary, feasibility and concept design, surveys and modelling of pedestrians and traffic, structural surveys, ground investigations, public consultation and staff time. This represents just over 10 per cent of the estimated final cost of the project, which is £26.6m. As a general rule across the industry, design and development costs usually make up between 15-25 per cent of a total project budget.

At the time of writing, the TfL website says:

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… which seems to be another potential spanner in the works and possible further delays to the start of work.

We are also concerned of this phrase:

segregated cycle routes where possible

This is in line with the shoddy approach to cycle safety by the present Mayor.

No Sadiq, you need to install cycle tracks WHERE NEEDED, not where possible.

Contrast this lethargy with the speed they installed the safety barriers on bridges (in the wrong place) after the London Bridge incident.

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Another death attributable to Islington Council’s rejection of the Clerkenwell Boulevard

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On his way to perform at Saddler’s Well, riding his motorbike at 80kph, dancer Jonathan Ollivier met his death as Abdul Qayyum pulled out of a side street while talking on a hands-free phone and misjudged the dancer’s speed.

I let the readers judge whether the killer should be spending time in jail or having his licence revoked (the jury acquitted  him). Certainly this quote by the killer shows no remorse, no understanding of the law and the typical arrogance of people driving big cars:

I did my best, I did not see him. I think my car was large enough to be seen. He didn’t even bother to slow down.

We would like to point out that this death is one more black mark on the conscience of Islington Council Officers and Councillors who have refused to stop Clerkenwell Road being used as a rat run.

Qayyum picked up his passenger in Hackney with Heathrow as destination. We assume that he or she has been picked up in the green area. There is a fairly direct trunk road that takes one from Old Street Roundabout, to the West, the red route in the image below. Why then was the driver on Ray Street (half way on the blue route)?

This is the question no-one asks, because there is no-one who investigates fatal crashes with a Vision Zero approach, i.e. what can we do to avoid a similar tragedy?

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Abdul Qayyum chose to take the blue route because:

  • he thought it would be quicker
  • he could

There is also another possibility:

  • His SatNav told him to take it

Here is where the crash occured:

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The driver of the Mercedes was attempting to cross Farringdon Road, from where the black cab is (left of picture). The motorcyclist was riding on Farringdon Road towards us.

Here is a different angle that shows the point of impact:

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The Mercedes would have traveled from the right, across the Southbound lane of Farringdon Road, intending to go straight across and would have been where the red car is in the picture; Ollivier was riding North (coming from the left of the picture) and obviously had priority. Qayyum didn’t see him (or misjudged his speed) and did not stop. Ollivier crashed into the Mercedes, flew in the air and hit a lamp post.

It is a dreadful junction, very dangerous, because

  • motor traffic on Farringdon Road travels fast, often exceeding the 50kph speed limit
  • there is often poor visibility, as shown in the first picture
  • there is no Keep Clear sign on the Southbound side of the road.
  • there are many conflicting movements (in the second picture the red car may want to turn right at the same time as the black taxi turns right).

Incidentally, the Extension of the North/South Cycle Super Highway (CS6) is planned to use this junction. Sensibly TfL plans to put traffic lights here:

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What TfL, Islington and Camden are NOT planning to do is to plug the rat run. Which means that people will be riding unprotected with drivers of taxis and vans on Ray Street. These drivers are there only because they think that it is a faster route than the trunk road, i.e. they are likely not to be considerate to people on bikes.

Four years ago we proposed this vision for the Clerkenwell Boulevard, from British nastiness to European civility:

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  • Clerkenwell Road should not be used for through traffic; there is a perfectly good road designed for that purpose.
  • It is the most important mid-town East West route for people cycling and it needs to be made safe.
  • It is an extremely dangerous road for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Clerkenwell Road is also very polluted, with NOx levels breaching European guidelines.

In other words, stopping through traffic from blighting Clerkenwell Road should be an obvious thing to do.

But Islington Council refuses to do it, and shamefully both Islington Cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign are too coward to fight them.

And people keep getting killed.

 

“At what point does it become careless?”

Coroner Mary Hassell was not getting the answer she was looking for. The Police expert witness, Simon Gladstone explained that killer Zanah Mohamed was fully aware that more than hundred people were on the pavement at 4:00, many attempting to cross the six lanes of Old Street after a night of clubbing. Driving at 50kmh with the road dog-legging left wasn’t something the Police officer would have done.

The Coroner insisted “Is it therefore “careless” to drive at that speed, when one is aware of the hazards?” The Policeman muffled and cowardly refused to give a resounding “Yes” (i.e. the correct answer). And so Hassell was denied the opportunity to send this case of miscarriage of justice back to the Crown Prosecution Service, who had shamefully refused to progress it.

It was a typical case of not rocking the boat, even more shameful because Gladstone had just retired, so had very little to lose in spelling out the obvious.

The Police covered themselves in more excrement when they even failed to charge the driver for failing to stop, because they missed a procedural deadline. See full report here.

And to complete this abject portrait of institutional failure, the killer was let off from being charged for Contempt of Court (for lying under oath), because the Coroner had forgotten to warn him that he could refuse to answer if he felt he could incriminate himself.

The Inquest was taking place at the fortress of the Old Bailey, where earlier in the week, another attempt to rectify a miscarriage of justice also failed. The private prosecutor was unable to convince twelve jurors that hitting someone perfectly visible is an act of carelessness.

So why is the system broken and why is it important to fix it?

The root cause is the way careless and dangerous driving are defined in the legislation.

According to section 2A of the RTA 1988, a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if (and only if)—

(a)the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and

(b)it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

Careless is the same as (a) above with “far below” substituted with “below”.

The key point that is not addressed by the justice system is  Who should judge the standard? Who is a competent and careful driver?

It would seem obvious that the judge should be someone who is officially recognised to be a competent and careful driver, according to objective standards. This means that the Police expert witness should be asked to make a statement on objective grounds whether the driving was dangerous or careless. That should be taken as a statement of facts, rather than an opinion.

The starting axiom should be that a careful driver does not kill or injure, unless the victim purposefully put herself in harm’s way (i.e. to commit suicide). It should be an extremely difficult hurdle to show that a careful driver would have killed someone.

In practice the judgment is made by a jury that statistically is composed by regular drivers who see themselves as competent and careful according to their own standards. Innumerable studies have shown that people over-rate their abilities in all domains and that driving is particularly rife for over-confidence of own  skills. This is compounded by the very British  “us-and-them” attitude of cataloging people according to accent, transport mode, schooling, etc.

So in effect we have incompetent, biased people making judgments.

The second order consequence of this absurdity is that Prosecutors and Police are extremely shy of charging and prosecuting killers, because of over-sensitivity to failing to obtain convictions.

We have a paradoxical situation where the legal system, rather than raising the standards of people’s behaviour to ensure everyone’s personal safety, is held hostage by the lowest denominator who resist to improving their behaviour.

It is rule by the mob.

In other words the system is broken. And a broken Justice System has deeply troubling social consequences; if people convince themselves that some people are above the law and the State does nothing to rectify the injustices, people will start using personal violence to rectify miscarriages and stop behaving as compliant citizens.

Duncan Dollimore, of the Cycling Defense Fund, said after the failure to convict Purcell, the killer of Michael Mason:

“If failing to see an illuminated cyclist on a well-lit road is not careless driving, and no explanation for that failure is required, that reinforces the arguments Cycling UK has made through our Road Justice Campaign for many years: namely the definition and identification of bad driving offences needs urgent review.”

In the graph below we see the consequences of this broken system. Please note that the headline is written by an innumerate journalist: Less than 20% of the sample received a prison sentence.

In other words, if you want to kill someone who rides a bike, use a car: you have an 80% chance of getting away with it.

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UPDATE: Duncan Dollimore has written an excellent report of the Old Bailey hearing of the Mason case. It highlights the typical behaviour by Police that we have pointed to several times when they decide not to charge killers: they go in extensive and absurd victim blaming. Duncan adds three recommendations:

1.       The current guidance regarding referral of fatal road collision cases to CPS for charging decisions needs to become a requirement, a rule which police forces can’t simply ignore as they did in this case;

2.       Collision investigation standards are urgently needed, with accreditation and increased transparency as called for by RoadPeace through their collision investigation campaign.

3.       The current classification of careless and dangerous driving offences, how driving standards are assessed, and charging standards, are simply not fit for purpose. They must be changed, with the standard of driving required being more objectively determined. Currently, the law requires jurors to consider whether another driver’s standard of driving fell “below”, or “far below” the standard which they believe would be expected of “a careful and competent driver”, whatever that standard might be. One person might well think they’re a careful and competent driver as they overtake a cyclist whilst speeding, leaving a 30 cm gap. I would disagree, so our perspectives on what falls “below the competent and careful driver” test will be irreconcilable. We are asking jurors to apply a standard that few understand, and which is far too subjective.

 

Transport for London hides data of the poor safety record of its bus fleet

Investigative work by Tom Kearney has revealed the selective use of statistics by Transport for London, and its planned campaign of burying uncomfortable data, in spite of boasting about its so-called “world-leading bus safety programme”.

Imperial College runs the International Bus Benchmarking Group which looks at various performance variables of the bus systems in 14 large world cities.

The figures expose the management priorities of TfL Bus Operation:

Tom explains:

So even though buses are getting slower and crashing more than buses in 10 out of 15 ‘world leading’ cities, London’s buses are the most profitable and most punctual.
The only way those data can live side-by-side is if you run a Bus System that is purposely designed to kill and injure so that buses can be on time….and, more importantly, you can purposely hide that information from the public.
The scandal is that TfL management is trying to hide this damning data from the public body elected to scrutinise its operations. Tom again:
The London Assembly Transport Committee is conducting an Investigation of Bus Safety in London.  Unlike the 2013 London Assembly Bus Investigation led by Val Shawcross AM-now-Deputy-Mayor-for-Transport (which did not scrutinise TfL Bus Safety Performance at all), Bus Safety Performance is the precisely the focus of this current investigation. Since TfL has been a member of the IBBG since 2004 and, according to this helpful IBBG promotional video, it receives frequent reports for its members to help managers “defend their performance” (cf 5:49 in video), I think it is incumbent on TfL to release all the Reports it has received from the IBBG since 2004 to the Transport Committee so that the London Assembly can conduct a meaningful investigation.
Sooner or later, corporate manslaughter charges will be brought against TfL and people like Leon Daniels, Head of Surface Transport, unless this obscene charade is brought to an end.

The cancer of impunity

Imagine that:

  • you are sitting 2 metres from someone who killed a good friend of yours;
  • a miracle saved you from meeting the same end as your friend;
  • the Crime Prosecution Service has decided not to prosecute the killer;
  • the killer has spent the last half hour lying to his teeth, even denying that he was aware that he killed your friend and severely injured you;
  • you see video footage of the killing, showing in stark clarity the lies of the killer.

What do you do?

Few people will blame Corneille Massengo who, at the moment he watched himself and his friend Osman fly up in the air after being hit by a car driven by Zanah Mohamed, jumped on him showering him with punches, soon followed by eight of his friends.

This is what happens when the Justice System fails; it is a failure at different levels.

The Inquest to the killing of Osman Ebrahim was adjourned after the punch-up, so we have not heard the details of the Police investigation. We do know however:

  • Osman and Corneille were crossing Old Street at 4:20, after leaving the Aquarium Club. The killer had an unimpeded view of them, did not slow down before impact and fled after the two young men were thrown 2 metres up in the air.
  • All independent witnesses have stated that in their view the car was being driven at an excessive speed. It is our understanding that it actually was driven at 50kph.
  • The CPS decided not to prosecute the killer going against the recommendation of the Police.
  • There is a general issue with speeding drivers in the early hours of the morning in the Old Street area, especially between 2:00-4:00 when people leave clubs. Bouncers have stated that some people use the area as a race track.
  • The killer, after leaving the Aquarium, went to retrieve his car and then parked it in front of the club, with music blaring, to pick up his two drunk friends. He sat on the bonnet and was acting like a prat, and then proceeded to do one or more laps of the above mentioned race track; it was during one of these laps that he killed Osman.
  • The killer was apprehended, together with the two passengers, the day after

We can only guess at the warped logic of the CPS for not prosecuting the killer. It is actually probably very basic: “The killer did not break the speed limit, so we cannot win in court”.

The Coroner, Mary Hassell was unhappy that this case was being heard in her court and not at a Criminal Court. Probably her desire to put a light on the odious behaviour of the three people in the car on the night and ever since, led her to forget to warn them that they had a right to refuse to answer her questions if they felt that a truthful answer would incriminate them.

Hassell was so disgusted by the evident contradictions in what the two passengers said under oath, that my feeling was that she intended to charge them for contempt.

Sitting at the audience benches one could feel the tension rising; the killer was then called to the witness box. Amongst the lies he said was that a taxi parked in front of the Aquarium, pulled out just in front of him, thus hiding the view of the two pedestrians. It was at this point that the Coroner decided to show the CCTV footage, which would discredit the testimony. The killer stepped out of the witness box, and sat on a bench, just below the Coroner. Corneille moved from the rear of the room to the same bench, to have a better view, for the first time, of the moment he nearly died.

It was a perfect set-up for a showdown. The 20 sec. video rolled and the audience gasped when the car hits the two young men. But Corneille missed it and asked it to be run again. On the second showing, the clip was stopped when the car came into view (the taxi always stationary). Corneille followed it and then, at the top of the screen, saw himself and Osman fly in the air…

We wish Corneille well. We hope that he takes the Community Service sentence he will probably receive as an opportunity to channel his anger to constructive ways to improve the system that has failed him and Osman’s family so badly.

We are certainly glad that at last someone was able to teach a lesson to the scumbag who killed Osman, but that is not the way a modern society should design its justice system.

UPDATE 09.03.17 In the Evening Standard the Metropolitan Police is quoted as saying:

“Three men aged 21, 18, and 19 were arrested on the morning of March 29 after they handed themselves in at a police station. All three have since been released with no further action.

“A full investigation was conducted into the circumstances of the collision, led by detectives from the homicide and major crime command working alongside colleagues from the roads and transport policing command.

“A report was prepared for the Inner North London (St Pancras) coroner.”

We will provide an update when the Inquest resumes.

UPDATE 13.04.17 The Inquest resumed at the Old Bailey. Here is our report.

“She broke the law, so she deserved to die”

In the morning of 13.09.16, Sheila Karsberg got off a bus on Pratt Street in Camden. She intended to go up Camden High Street, so she walked on the pavement past the bus and noticing that the traffic lights were red for motor traffic she started to cross the street on the bicycle box. After four seconds while she was halfway across the lights turned green.

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In red, the path Sheila Karsberg took. Tragically StreetView has the Police panel of her death

She was now in front of a Cement mixer which had been stationary at the lights. The driver’s main focus was on his right hand mirror, because the street ahead is misaligned and he needs to first make a slight right turn.

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The view from lorry (without blind spots)

He doesn’t see Sheila in front of his cab, drives off and kills her.

Let’s repeat this: Sheila Karsberg was right in front of the cement mixer, but the driver did not see her and killed her.

Police estimated that because of blind spots, Sheila would have been visible to the driver for one second, had he been looking the right way. They decided not to charge the driver.

As we mentioned many times before, once Police decides to exonerate the killer, they feel they need to blame the victim for getting killed. So emphasis was placed on the irrelevant fact that the pedestrian lights were already red when Sheila stepped off the pavement.

“She broke the law, so she deserved to die”

That is essentially what Police is saying. The Coroner pursued this victim blaming by spending considerable time on her medical record, painting a picture of a diabetic with frequent memory lapses, onset of Alzheimer and worst of all (in the Coroner’s eyes) a propensity not to take the medication that she was prescribed.

“She was old, her brain not working well, a rebel, so she deserved to die”

What is most disheartening about attending these inquests is that no-one says: “Hang on a minute, this woman may have made a mistake but that is not a reason to kill her.”

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Blind spots on monstrously big lorries are forgivable but walking across the street when lights are red is worth the death penalty.

We don’t want to blame the driver. Vision Zero is not in the blame business. We are in the problem solving business. And we think that errors like Sheila should not be punished by death.

Some work to improve the visibility of HGV drivers has been made but it is clearly insufficient. These are some of the essential things that should be done but are not done:

  • It is unreasonable to expect a driver to be able to look at multiple mirrors at opposite directions in the sometime short time that he is stationary at lights; since a driver’s error has probable catastrophic consequences, much more technology is required to reduce the probability of errors. For example; movement sensors should be installed; rather than alerting drivers (again, they would be overwhelmed by too many inputs) the sensors should act directly on the mechanics and prevent further movement of the vehicle towards the moving person.
  • A database of all KSIs involving HGVs should be used to understand how deaths like Sheila can be prevented. Now, nobody does this investigative work. That is why we have  repeatedly called for an Independent Road Collision Investigative Authority, like is the case for all other means of transport
  • CLOCS needs to be enlarged to include pedestrians. In 2016, HGV drivers killed four cyclists and fourteen pedestrians. It is absurd not to study the much greater number of cases.

We hope that the new Walking and Cycling Commissioner will lobby hard for the above changes.

There are many Sheila Karsberg in London and they don’t deserve to be trumpled over like a big rubbish bag (as the driver described what he thought he had run over).

Lavna and Bailey

 

There are similarities in the tragic violent deaths of Lavna Chuttoo and Bailey Gwynne

  • Both were teenagers either on their way to school or at school
  • Both killers did not intend to kill their victims
  • Both killers were in possession of weapons whose main use is not to inflict harm
  • Both killings were investigated by multiple agencies

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There are some striking difference however in what happened after the two killings:

  • One killer was tried, convicted and sentenced to nine years in detention; the other was not even charged
  • The hearing of one case lasted five days; the hearing of the other lasted less than one hour
  • National media conducted their own investigations in the circumstances leading to one killing; national media totally ignored the other.
  • The multi-agency investigation of one of the killings looked to establish whether there were “wider issues for the whole of Scotland”; the investigation of the other killing just looked at possible interventions at the site of the killing
  • The investigation of one of the killing was headed by a top civil servant, “with a track record of involvement in high-profile investigations across the UK”; the other investigation was carried out by a Police Officer, obviously ignorant of International best practice.
  • One investigation openly published a set of proposals; the other investigations refrained from suggesting any intervention, afraid of objections from local residents. The only way to read the latter is through a Freedom of Information request.
  • A senior Government Minister promised “to look at the conclusions of the first review and report back in due course”. No Government Minister is even aware of the other killing, let alone of the investigation report.

The most striking difference is that the killing which was properly investigated was a one-off, admittedly with a troubling background of contributing factors; the killing which was not properly investigated is sadly replicated several times around the country.

The reason for this galling unfairness is the weapon used: Bailey was killed with a knife; Lavna was killed with a motor vehicle.

We have reported before of the perfunctory inquest following the death of Lavna Chattoo, who was blamed for running into a turning HGV. Following the inquest, we requested the Traffic Investigation report which was not disclosed at the Inquest.

Here is what the Investigative Officer decided:

I discussed with the officer for Neighbourhood Engineering at the Highways and Transport Department at Kingston Council the alternative of a HGV prohibition except for access; we agreed that, with the Council’s adoption of enforcement powers, would be very difficult to enforce and with the required exemption for access would make no practical difference. Furthermore it wasn’t believed that HGVs used these side roads as a short-cut because they were too narrow and busy to allow large vehicles a journey saving time over the alternative larger roads. He explained that the Council had proposed to make the road one-way a few years ago to help prevent rat-running, prevent conflict between opposing traffic and to create more space for turning movements at the junction but that the proposal had been rejected by local residents. We were unable to anticipate any alternative practicable engineering measures that would help prevent this type of collision from happening again.

The amateurism of the report is alarming. Here are a few points:

  • Both officers seem to be ignorant of (or choose not to consider) the standard Danish continuous pavement treatment of side-roads. This gives visual priority to pedestrians crossing a side road and reduces the prevalent abuse of Rule 170 by British drivers
  • Contrary to the report, Kingston Council is very keen of using cameras to enforce road rules, when they can make money from it.
  • If Trevor Perkins wants to operate its timber yard on a road which has many school children walking to school, it should have safety staff (orange lollypop people) operating when children walk to and from school; just like all constructions sites are required to do by the HSE.
  • Surely local residents are likely to reconsider their objection to making their street one-way, in light of the tragedy that struck the Chattoo family.

 

Sadly Lavna’s killing was not a one-off; in September this year for example Aaron Matharu, 11 was killed while walking back from school, crossing a road where another child was severely injured the year before.

We can only hope that, the new Cycling and Walking Commissioner, Will Norman will spend little time, money and effort on “promoting” active travel, and concentrate on making our roads safe for walking and cycling especially for the most vulnerable in our communities.

Party buses not on regular bus routes – a high risk, with potential fatalities?

Tottenham party bus crash

Photo by Tony Hardiman, via Evening Standard

Last month, more than 20 people were injured after a bus crashed into a railway bridge in Tottenham. It was not an isolated incident. We welcome this guest post by Dave Halliday, independent transport safety investigator.

One key element of air and rail travel is that an incident, which has the potential of a far more serious outcome is investigated, and action taken BEFORE we have fatalities – or very serious injuries. Without any special effort I’ve noted 3 bus de-roofings in London – 2 in the past 20 days, 2 at the same bridge and 2 ‘party bus’ private charters. My memory runs back to West Street in Glasgow in 1994, when 3 died, after the driver of a chartered bus followed a car driver showing him the way through the city – that was 22 years ago and STILL we have buses running into bridges?

There are some key common factors in the recent London crashes. ALL are relatively small operators, and ALL were NOT operating on a registered service bus route, so TfL has no oversight of the routes being used, and the option of drivers making up the route as they go along increases the potential for taking the wrong turning. Almost unforgivable though was the rail replacement service not following a route that avoided hitting the bridge on the route where it was replacing trains. I know that road (I went to school in Isleworth) and it isn’t even on a direct route connecting the stations between Brentford and Hounslow!

The law requires Councils to investigate crashes and then take action to prevent future crashes (Section 39 RTA 1988) This detail should be readily available – published on-line – rather than something that has to be extracted by FoI reports, so that we can see learn from the mistakes made, and see that action is being taken to prevent the same crashes – twice (at least) in a year in just the 3 examples here.

With London’s substantial number of railway lines on viaducts and bridges there might even be an option (in the absence of an empowered National roads regulator) for TfL to require ALL double decker buses operating in London to have a proximity detection system fitted within a defined time limit, with the priority to equip vehicles not operated on registered bus routes. The detection system could incorporate an engine shut down and brake application (like the safety systems on trains) if a driver failed to acknowledge the warning and stop.

The planned system (promised – but with no timetable for delivery) for speed limiting on TfL’s contracted London Buses services can include the engine shut-down (and brake application) feature through a proven ‘beacon’ system, on the approaches to a low bridge. This sort of kit is already in use on buses and refuse trucks in Scotland (and elsewhere) – cutting the speeds on school grounds and waste processing sites.

22 years seems a long time over which no lessons have been learned – or action taken. How many close calls before the next fatal crash?

Asking the right question

Earlier this week, Mark Treasure wrote insightfully how, at the core of many failures in building people-friendly road infrastructure is the propensity to ask the wrong questions.

This failure to ask the right questions, and come up with the right solutions, is epitomised not just by a focus on ‘education’ but also on what I would call ‘trinkets’ – things like helmets, lights, reflectives, clothing, and so on. In much the same way as with ‘education’, the process involves shifting responsibility onto the user, and ignoring basic environmental problems. Instead of examining why Road X is unsafe to walk along in dark clothing, we urge people to wear  reflectives. Instead of examining why pedestrians wearing ordinary clothes can’t negotiate the streets in your urban area safely, we hand out lights to them.

At a Conference in January 2017, TfL’s Leon Daniels will stress what he thinks are the key Sources of Road Danger

The five main sources of road danger in London are:
• Travelling too fast
• Becoming distracted
• Undertaking risky manoeuvres
• Drink or drug use while driving
• Failing to comply with the law

The presentation will explain how, by focusing attention on these five sources of danger, TfL can prioritise the main causes of deaths and serious injuries and take further steps to eradicate the risk of collisions from occurring.

Knowing Daniels’s infamous pedigree in victim blaming, it is difficult not to think that the further steps he is alluding to will be centred on “behaviour change through education”.

This, of course flies in the face of Vision Zero principles, or Safe System thinking as TfL Head of Road Safety Simon Bradbury likes to call it:

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From a presentation by Simon Bradbury

So here are the right questions that Leon Daniels needs to ask:

What measures can TfL take when designing, building, operating and managing the roads to reduce the incidence of speeding, carelessness, distraction by operators of motor vehicles?

What measures can TfL take when designing, building, operating and managing the roads to reduce the severity of collisions when human beings make errors?

What can TfL learn when errors by road users cause the death or serious injury of human beings?

Of course users have a responsibility to behave in a civilised manner and enforcement has a role in leading people away from anti-social behaviour, but too many people have been killed because TfL builds road with the assumption of perfection in human behaviour.

As Simon Bradbury says, “a fundamental change in approach” is needed.

When halving means only 10%

In June 2015, as TfL proudly announced that their target of reducing road deaths in the capital by 40% from the 2005-09 baseline by 2020 had been achieved six years early, discussions focused on a new target.

Some people, including members of Transport for London’s board, argued that a Vison Zero target should be set, recognising that no preventable death was acceptable.

TfL is reluctant to set a target of Zero because it mistakenly thinks that any deaths will be blamed on them. That is not correct: every death is a failure, and it is imperative to learn from failures; to really do that one must detach the learning from the blaming. [A cynic may say that managers’ bonuses cannot be linked to an “unachievable” target]

So a compromise was reached and this headline was paraded on TfL’s website:

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Anyone reading the headline would assume that the new target would be 50% of the 127 people killed on London roads in 2014. That would still mean that TfL expects 63 people to be killed in 2020, more than one/week. At present ratios, 38 people would be killed while walking or cycling.

It now transpires that TfL does not think that such a reduction of preventable deaths is achievable. They have kept the old baseline of 2005-09, so the so-called halving is actually a reduction from a 40% reduction target to a 50% reduction target, i.e. only 10 percentage points.

This is a trick that TfL has employed before, namely when they set the 40% target in the first place.

The 40% target was announced in June 2013, in the Safe Streets for London report. The Executive Summary on page 10 states:

TfL will reduce KSIs by a further 40 per cent by 2020

When they say “a further 40%” one would expect they mean from the 2012 figures. Wrong, it was from the 2005-09 average. Now the 2012 figures already showed a 17% reduction from the 2005-09 baseline. Therefore TfL’s target was only a FURTHER 23% reduction from the baseline.

That 23% reduction was reached in 2 years rather than 8 years as planned. Great.

Why then not try to achieve the same rate of reduction in the next six years?

This chart shows how timid the new target actually is:

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You can see that a real halving of KSIs by 2020 using 2014 as a baseline (orange line) is consistent with the trend of the previous seven years (green line) (it actually is less demanding).

The new TfL target, which they call “challenging”, effectively expects 900 more KSI in 2020 than could be achieved if present trends continued.

When I challenged TfL about their lack of ambition, I received this reply:

The annual Casualties in Greater London report is published each spring and currently these figures are compared against the 2005-09 baseline. At this time, within the context of the ambition set by the ‘Safe Streets for London: Road Safety Action Plan for London 2020’, we feel it is appropriate to retain the same baseline period.

With regards to using 2014 as the new baseline; we set our casualty baseline over a number of years instead of just one. This is in line with the Department for Transport’s position. This controls the effects of short-term, statistically insignificant variations in data and gives a robust comparison period for the target.

We remain confident stretching the target from a 40 per cent to 50 per cent reduction over the life of the Safe Streets for London Plan is challenging but achievable, representing significant additional KSI reductions to the period to 2020.

I then asked Simon Bradbury, Head of Road Safety at TfL, whether he found it acceptable that in 2020 more than 100 people would be killed on London roads. Again he defended these scandalous targets.

We asked Valerie Shawcross, Deputy Mayor of London for Transport, Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee and TfL Board member Michael Liebreich to comment on the misleading headline and the cowardly target. They all refused to respond, showing lack of manners and decency.

This is not about numbers; it is about the lives unnecessarily destroyed by traffic violence; the area between the red and the orange line represents 2544 people who will be either killed or seriously injured by 2020 because of the cowardice of Transport for London and those who should oversee it.