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Bonkers Blog June 2013

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4 June (Part 2) - Is it a roundabout, a T junction or a dodgem car rink?

Road narrowedI think I am fairly well acquainted with the theory that says if you deliberately make a road unsafe it may force users to be more careful and reduce accidents. Around 30 years ago I had a neighbour and commuting companion who worked for the Ministry of Transport (as I think it was then) who explained it all to me when I commented on a new roundabout which obscured views from all directions.

Then four years ago when Bexley council made Belvedere’s B213 very much narrower than before they referred me to a Transport Research Laboratory report which said reduced widths could make roads safer. Through family connections I managed to get the head of the department that wrote that report to come and look at Bexley and to summarise, he said, “yes it’s true but you have to do it right and your council doesn’t even seem to have tried”.

I suspect this is the crux of the matter in Broadway. Would you trust Mike Frizoni (Deputy Director of Public Realm Management) to get anything right? I’ve asked the same road safety consultant about what has been happening in Broadway and he was very guarded in his reply. Basically the jury is still out. The advocates of ‘shared space’ will rustle up favourable statistics and the doubters will do the reverse.

This blog liked the look of the original Broadway plans but the proof of the pudding will be in the crashing. Has Bexley council taken sufficient account of human failings? Today’s observations suggest not.

I accept the work isn’t really finished, Broadway has been rushed open to ensure that Teresa O’Neill can strut her stuff along fresh tarmac at next Sunday’s Civic Parade. As a result the present situation is dangerously incomplete. Approaching the horizontal dartboard outside Trinity Chapel from the East there is no indication whatever that you are about to encounter a roundabout (Photo 1 below). This error is compounded by a yellow sign that tells you to go straight on, and as if there is not enough confusion the entrance to Albion Road is open but marked by a large No Entry sign (Photo 3). This is confusing no end of people especially those approaching the road from the West (Welling and Crook Log). Around 10% of vehicles coming from that direction were doing U turns. (†) Others were veering to their right and then going straight on.

A senior council officer has confirmed to me that they expect problems at the outset but “people will get used to it”. What other organisation would foist an unsafe product on their ‘customers’ and be content to see them suffer injuries because their design work was faulty or manufacture incomplete? What happens to strangers to the town who have no chance to “get used to it”? Are they expendable?

If a pedestrian wants to head further West there are currently no authorised legal crossings points to achieve it as the man attempting a diagonal crossing found to his cost. He had to run back.

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I said to one lady who had stopped to give her views, “How long before the first accident?” She said I'd missed it. A woman was hit by a bus a couple of days ago on the ASDA crossing because she thought the crossing was all part of the pavement.

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Despite the stripes, the image above is not of a pedestrian crossing. Drivers are not obliged to stop. I saw the driver of a 422 bus use his horn at two old men who weren’t nippy enough for his liking. As you can see, people wander across anywhere engaged in texting on their phones.

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Because Bexley council hasn’t thought to tell westbound drivers whether a roundabout or a T junction lies ahead, drivers don’t know who has priority. The drivers of the cars in the final photograph above had stopped to yell choice words at each other. As I walked away I missed getting a picture of one vehicle coming from the Welling direction which (correctly?) followed the coloured circle into Albion Road, being overtaken by another which took the more direct route across the ‘bulls eye’. As a man said to me while watching the chaos, “what happens when it snows and there is no roundabout?” Sorry, that is far too technical a question for someone like Mike Frizoni. Please respect his limited abilities.

ASDA crossing pictures tomorrow. Silly people risking life and limb and babes in buggies.

Note: all images enlarge when clicked.
† Some will have exited Church Road which does not allow a right turn. The old roundabout allowed a simple reversal but now it looks like a dangerous U turn.


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