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Bonkers Blog August 2010

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31 August - Abbey Road. “Crass stupidity” - click any image for photo gallery (4 images)

Traffic controls Road blocked Fresh concreteI spent the weekend with a road safety engineer. He chairs E.U. meetings and appears as expert witness in accident investigations and court cases and writes reports for the Transport Research Laboratory. One of those reports was used by Bexley council to justify their narrowing of Abbey Rad, Belvoedere. I doubt they read the report let alone understood it, but they thought it would be an easy way to fob me off when I complained about their antics. Probably they didn’t expect a mere resident to read an expensive report on road design. But I must get to the point…

I told my friend about the latest accident on Abbey Road and I shall quote his response verbatim. “It is possible to get traffic to slow down by making a road narrower, through cross-hatching or raised platforms, but to make a road narrower by bringing the carriageways closer together is crass stupidity”. I think you mean Craske stupidity I replied, but the pun was lost on him. I don’t suppose the girl who ended up in hospital a week ago would raise a smile either but at least we know that an expert in the field condemns Andrew Bashford (Bexley’s road designer) and councillor Craske as guilty of “crass stupidity”.

Today is a bit of a red-letter day. It seems that someone has at last been spurred into action and concreted in the hole in one of the pedestrian refuges which has been featured here so many times before. One more to go.


27 August - Work-shy bin men. Useless officialdom part 2

Two weeks ago my green bin wasn’t emptied, it rarely is when there is not much in it, and the council’s response was absolutely useless. For today’s collection I hooked my small amount of rubbish to the bin lid so that the poor dears didn’t have to over-reach themselves. Success! I also put out my new neighbour’s bin (moved in this week so probably doesn’t know the collection day). She wasn’t so lucky, her two small bags of rubbish were left at the bottom of the bin. Laziness and lack of pride in their work may be the almost acceptable norm for binmen but the real disgrace is Bexley council’s failure to address the problem.


25 August - An unhappy anniversary - click any image for photo gallery (2 images)

Unfinished bollard Unlit bollardToday marks the first anniversary of the demolition of the keep left bollards in Abbey Road, otherwise known as pedestrian refuges. This one has never been restored to service although a half-hearted attempt was made to reconnect the electricity supply six weeks ago. The green plastic barrier used to protect the hole in the pavement still lies forlornly on the path but the sign remains unlit.

When I last spoke to a council official about this dangerous neglect I was told it had not been forgotten and maybe it hasn’t, but what possible reason can there be for leaving a gaping unlit hole in the road for a whole year? I think the time has come to name the council official who has been overseeing this ridiculous and unwarranted delay. He is Rupert Cheeseman and the same man I decided not to name on 18th September last year when numerous cars were ticketed for parking after he stupidly placed temporary prohibition signs outside the restricted area. When shown the problem he had created he merely shrugged and walked away.

Contrast that attitude with a report I made today of a drain cover which had lifted proud of the road surface and posed a minor hazard to traffic. Within nine minutes my email was acknowledged and in rather less than three hours the drain had been repaired. If the ‘Northern Area Manager’ can go out of his way to care for motorists and the residents of Bexley, why is that useless individuals like Andrew Bashford and Cheeseman are allowed to treat them with total contempt?


22 August - “The fencing has eradicated the problem” but the motorcyclists can’t read - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Bike at high speed Bike at high speed Fencing postWe don’t know which of Bexley’s many idiots said that but we do know that it was a lie. Today the sound of poorly silenced exhausts and the smell of two-stroke oil filled the woods at Lesnes Abbey for much of the day. This rider was travelling at high speed along narrow paths occupied by walkers and families with dogs. It is difficult to estimate his speed but it must have been at least 40 m.p.h.

The extensive fencing also seems to have created a ‘Forth Bridge’ scenario requiring constant attention with preservatives. The short section fronting Abbey Road took two men at least three days to paint last week and that is only a small part of the entire folly and with the shortest posts. It’s a waste of money from every point of view. When a car ploughed into the fence last year and ripped it up, it was obvious that posts which appear to be in good condition were rotten below ground.


20 August - Abbey Road claims another victim - click any image for photo gallery (5 images)

Accident on Abbey Road Victim taken to hospitalI was returning on foot from a bit of shopping this afternoon when I saw a young boy cross Abbey Road using the refuge opposite Carrill Way; the one that has remained unlit since the road was turned into an accident black-spot last year. He misjudged the speed of a passing car and was lucky to survive unscathed. Well not entirely unscathed, he got a good telling off from his mother and since the lad couldn’t have been any more than three I was inclined to think it wasn’t him who needed the talking to. I’d not been home for more than 15 minutes (it was 5 p.m.) and I heard rather too many emergency sirens for comfort and sure enough, this time there had been an accident.

It was obvious to anyone with more than half a brain that there were going to be accidents on Abbey Road once the recovery space for drivers to take avoiding action had been removed by the numbskulls who run Bexley council. I asked a Transport Research Laboratory consultant to take a look and he confirmed it. Today’s incident was a text book example of the accuracy of his prediction. Quite recently I said it was inevitable after seeing near misses during the Easter school holidays.

Fortunately the young girl who I believe came off her bike in front of a car (a policeman’s initial verdict, not mine) will live to tell the tale. Meanwhile Andrew Bashford and councillors John Davey and Peter Craske will be basking in the praise heaped on them by the cycling lobby on whom they wasted half a million pounds of our money. The bloody scars on the road are a small price to pay for political correctness.

As is always the case with accidents a small crowd gathered to watch events unfold and there was just one topic of conversation. The speeding traffic and the fact that Bexley council made things worse through their ineptitude.

For absolute accuracy I should add that councillor Davey thought narrowing the road to benefit cyclists was a silly idea but despite being the vice-Chairman of a Transport Sub-Committee he nodded it through to please fellow politicians and thereby proved himself to be two-faced and in his own small way, corrupt.

Note. The cars shown in these photographs were not involved in the accident.


19 August - Work-shy bin men. Useless officialdom

My green bin wasn’t emptied last Friday, an occurrence too frequent to be worth mentioning here each time. The problem is that I don’t produce much rubbish and a couple of supermarket carrier bags are not easy to reach at the bottom of the bin, so it’s easier to walk on by rather than reach in or hitch the bin to the van and get the hydraulic lift to do the job. It’s not a huge problem but we pay nearly the highest taxes in London for a sub-standard service and I thought it might be worth seeking advice from the council.

“My bin wasn’t emptied again last week and I am asking your advice on the best way of persuading your men to empty it. The problem arises when there is not much rubbish in the bin which lies at the bottom out of easy arm’s reach. What do you suggest to overcome this persistent problem? Obviously such a small amount of mainly cellophane wrappers can be kept another fortnight but it doesn’t seem right to me that I pay for a collection I don’t get. Have you any suggestions? The bin doesn’t need an emergency collection but it ought to go on your record of misses.”

Next day I had a reply from Serge Poumo, Waste and Recycling Advisor. “Thank you for contacting our department. Your property is on Enhanced Recycling Services and your green bin should be emptied on a fortnightly basis. As you are not really producing a lot of waste, we do not see a reason for why your collection frequency should be changed.”

What’s that all about? I didn’t ask for more frequent collection and if I want a reduced service I’d put my bin out every six weeks instead of two. What I would have liked to know was whether there was anything I could do to help the bin men overcome their fear of doing their job properly. It would make it easier for them if I left my supermarket bag on the pavement but we know what they they would do then! I corresponded with Mr. Poumo over a long period a couple of years ago when someone in my road who didn’t speak English and came from a country that probably didn’t understand the concept of refuse collection always threw theirs out of the door on to the street. Mr. Puomo achieved nothing over many months and eventually neighbours got together and took the huge heap of rubbish to the dump themselves. How is it that councils attract so many useless employees?


12 August - Traffic lights at night

Today’s newspapers report that several councils in London are thinking of switching off some traffic lights at night to reduce delays and save electricity. I suspect that may be a good idea.

Almost the only time I use my car is for a fortnightly late night trip to north London. I used to return via Blackwall tunnel and with a clear road in the early hours of the morning and observing all the speed limits the journey time was entirely dependent on one’s luck with the traffic lights. None of them were in Bexley but on a bad night they could add eight minutes to the journey.

After Boris Johnson reneged on his electoral promise to open Blackwall Tunnel to two way working and then compounded his stupidity by closing it southbound for six nights a week I’ve had to return home via the bridge at Dartford which is a longer but faster route. At 1 a.m. there are just two sets of lights which appear to be useless, both are in Bexley. The lights on the roundabout at the junction of Thames Road, Northend Road and Perry Street (Slade Green) are a minor inconvenience. I’ve been stopped there on about half my dozen journeys over the last six months but only once to give way to another vehicle. All the other stops were to satisfy the unintelligent controlling computer program. However the junction of Queen’s Road and James Watt Way in Erith is something else. Just once the lights went green as soon as I stopped there but on the other eleven occasions I’ve been stuck on red for several minutes and never once has anyone emerged from or go into the shopping area served by James Watt Way. What else would you expect at one o’clock in the morning? Those lights really are a waste of electricity. I imagine that as soon as councillor Craske realises that switching off a few lights will help refill his expenses trough all sorts of lights will be put out.


10 August - You can’t believe what Bexley council publishes in its magazine - click any image for uncropped version

Fencing out dangerous motorcycles Fly-tippingA report in the Erith and Thamesmead Chronicle made me dig out the Summer issue Bexley magazine first commented upon on 30th June for the dubious claims made for the fencing placed around parks. “The new fencing has eradicated the problem” of motorcycling in parks according to the fantasist who masterminded the expensive assault on the wheel-chair bound. Anyone who lives close to the park will tell you this is the worst year for motorcycle invasion for as long as can be remembered. The noise of badly silenced bikes is heard almost daily.

The Chronicle highlights more magazine misinformation; that dumping rubbish on private ground is punishable by a £50,000 fine. It reports that when a couple in Welling tried to get something done about fly-tipping in their private back alley, even identifying the culprit, Bexley council “did not want to have anything to do with it”. When councillor John Waters (Danson Park ward) became involved he also washed his hands of the matter. A council spokesman said “The article in the magazine is not incorrect” which is tantamount to the council spokesman calling John Waters a liar but despite what the Bexley magazine might say, that their website repeats, and their spokesman parrots, an examination of the Environment Agency’s website and a number of anti-litter websites reveals that it is councillor John Waters who tells the truth and the council’s magazine and website which are wrong. How does Bexley manage to attract so many incompetents to its midst? The Erith Chronicle devotes a page to the number of Bexley snouts which are stuck deeply into the tax-payer filled trough and the massive pay increases they have recently awarded themselves. So that’s how they do it. Rich rewards for total incompetence and the occasional bit of corruption thrown in for good measure.


9 August - Alsike Road not closed after all - click any image for photo gallery (3 images)

Alsike Road Gully missingI don’t often use Alsike Road in Belvedere even though I can see it from home; it’s the wrong side of the tracks. However 31st July was an exception and I saw that every drain gully was missing and covered by a traffic cone. The following Monday I spoke to Tony Hughes at Bexley’s Works Direct about it and understandably he was more than a little upset by the loss of 30 gullies in one night (more in Greenwich apparently). It is certainly an appalling crime. I went to look again last Saturday and nothing had changed except that some cones were now down the drains rather than marking them. However nearly every lamp post was adorned with a notice from Bexley council saying that Alsike Road would be totally closed (licence valid 18 months from today) for drain “inspections”. Probably that is necessary but once again we see Bexley council taking the easy option and maximising public inconvenience (not forgetting the bus operator too) rather than exercise some traffic management skill - I fear I have answered my own implied question there!

Guessing that the road would be closed from dawn I went there soon after 7 a.m to find business as usual and the lamp post closure notices gone. It seems unlikely that the council would remove their notices over the weekend but perhaps it is significant that the bus stops did not say they were out of use. Maybe they never intended to close the road today but equally possibly it’s another Bexley council cock-up and they forgot to notify TfL. Meanwhile there are 30 open man-traps and vehicle wrecking holes in just one street.

Late in the afternoon I contacted Mr. Hughes to ask if he knew what was supposed to happen and when. He said the notices must have been removed by vandals and that the work had gone ahead today anyway. I took a look at 5.30 p.m. and there was no sign of any activity and no new gullies. I took another photo (see gallery) but did manage to find two Bexley closure notices in fairly obscure places. I suspect there must be a simple explanation, Mr. Hughes is not from the usual Bexley council mould and won’t be deliberately misleading anyone.

Following the incident with the No Entry sign where I saw a suspicious looking scrap truck nearby I now carry a small pencil and a scrap of paper in my back-pocket to note down the registration number. If we are to tackle this potentially life threating crime perhaps everyone should do the same.


7 August - Bexley council - park vandals - click any image for photo gallery (4 images)

Dying tree Water hole blocked Dead treeBexley’s parks usually get favourable comment from me (except when their ‘Chief Works Officer’ implied I was a racist for suggesting that the foreign language signposts - since removed - were discriminatory) but things have gone badly wrong in recent weeks. The young trees in Lesnes Abbey park which the council have nurtured and protected from the vandals at some expense have all been allowed to wither for lack of water. The irrigation system has fallen into disuse and after a few weeks without significant rainfall the trees have withered and probably died. Bexley’s vandalism has been worse than that of the nocturnal visitors. Never mind, it’s only your money they have wasted.

The larger photos provide a clearer view.


1 August - Bexley council - Roads closed

It’s been mentioned before that one of Bexley council’s new and inconvenient habits is to show contempt for those who pay their wages by completely closing roads whenever a minor repair is required. The old way of closing just one carriageway at a time seems to have been abandoned. The latest such closure reported is of The Grove, near Danson Park, which has both entrances closed.

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