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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.

 

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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