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Bonkers Blog November 2013

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25 November - Answering emails, and occasionally not

Last week I received 255 emails and more than 40 are still unanswered. Some can be answered in a minute or so especially when near identical messages come from several sources. The latter often come from regular contributors and I’d like to think they are used to not getting replies. Currently several are preoccupied with the irony of Bexley council’s obesity campaign (†) but Bonkers as you know very well is above all that sort of thing!

Some of the emails cannot be answered in a minute or two and this one is probably the prime example from last week. I have dithered over it more than a stranger in town dithers as he approaches the newest free for all junction outside the police station.

I was directed to your website via a kind lady on Streetlife.
I am a Journalism student at London Metropolitan and for my second year assessment have been asked to write about local news stories.
I have been enquiring about people's opinions on the new roundabout in Bexleyheath, situated at the far end of Broadway, near the bowling alley.
I was wondering if you would be kind enough to email me your opinion on the new roundabout, be it you think it is a great new feature or if you feel it is dangerous.
I assure you this information will only go as far as my tutor marking it and it will not be published.
It would be such a great help if you could email me your opinion.
Thank you for your time,

If you count the for and against letters published in the News Shopper there can be little doubt that people generally think the new Trinity Place ‘roundabout’ is dangerous. The only letters in favour have come from councillors. But the student journalist asked my opinion not the News Shopper’s letter writers’.

Shared space Shared spaceOf course the new arrangements are dangerous, that is the whole point. Lots of things are dangerous so you take suitable precautions. Driving in fog, standing on a railway platform, riding a bike are all potentially dangerous activities but with suitable precautions the risks are low.

However to call the junction of Albion Road and Broadway a roundabout is to fall into the same trap that Bexley council’s bungling road planners fell into. They at first signed it as a roundabout, than as a T-junction and eventually dodged the issue with the non-specific signs seen here. The theory is that confused drivers go slower and the long established rules of the road can sometimes be bettered.

Pedestrian crossing signsBexley’s planners thought they could get away with no indication of the preferred pedestrian crossing points other than a few red blocks and opened the junction for traffic without the benefit of keep left signs. That was in my opinion rather silly. I expect they were being subservient to she-who-must-be-obeyed, council leader Teresa O’Neill who said the streets should be kept clutter free. She still is in the current Bexley Magazine (Page 6), but practical street design is something else she doesn’t know much about. The planners eventually made some concessions to common sense. Discreet warning signs where pedestrians are encouraged to cross for example.

Probably I should declare an interest. I have crossed that junction very many times on foot without any difficulty but only once driven across it, and only the easy way. Turning left out of Albion Road towards Welling. Another interest to declare is that my son is very much involved in road and vehicle safety. Until last year he co-chaired the European Union’s committee on the subject and is now busy testing cars that can’t - at any reasonable speed - crash into pedestrians or HGVs into cyclists.

I’ve heard all the theories but I am informed that there is not yet enough data to prove them one way or another. You might say we are waiting for a serious accident at Trinity Place. If there isn’t one the junction is good. If there is I foresee it becoming a roundabout again with at the very least an oversized pimple appearing in the middle.

Shared spaceHaving stood watching Trinity Place traffic for quite a while, it seems to me that the dangers come mainly from traffic exiting from Church Road where there is no right turn but which really wants to go towards Welling. The drivers U-turn on the Shared Space and cause an amount of chaos as they do so. Abuse and shaken fists being not that uncommon. I wouldn’t like to be a cyclist in Bexleyheath.

In my view, the Shared Space concept is a bit of a cop out attempting to lay any blame for accidents on those involved rather than road designers who should bear some responsibility. If the term can be taken literally this elderly gent who attempted to cross the junction diagonally would be entirely within his rights to do so. I suppose the big question the student didn’t ask was “should the junction revert to a more traditional layout”. I think my answer has to be No, at least not yet.

Note: The scheme was planned under former cabinet member for Public Realm, councillor Peter Craske. Councillor Craske was supposed to head up the official presentation but failed to show up. The date of the presentation, 21st June 2012, is hard to forget; it was the day Craske was arrested for Misconduct in Public Office.

Topical News Shopper report.

† The Obesity Campaign is sponsored by Bexley’s Health and Wellbeing Board, the Chairman of which is councillor Teresa O’Neill.


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