Monday, 15 December 2014

Is it reasonable to expect pedestrians to take 4 minutes 15 seconds to cross a street?

On Tuesday Assia Nikoforova was killed by a lorry while she was crossing Edith Grove, SW10.

I met her children; you could see from their eyes that dealing with the loss of one's mother from traffic violence is a tragedy that brings out many emotions.

Flowers left by a witness, Lady Nadia Essex (her picture)

The son explained that his mother probably started crossing with the green light. The lorry must have stopped over the ASL and started off without looking; the poor woman was dragged by the low front fender and then crushed to death.

Large lorries do not respect ASL and cannot see children in front of them

Examining the site at 15:30, one could not help noticing the number of young children holding hands to their parents. And yet the conditions for pedestrians are woeful.

  • There is no all-green pedestrian phase
  • One arm has staggered crossing, with up to 60 second wait in the middle
  • One arm has the crossing pushed back 20 metres
  • One arm has NO pedestrian lights.

Father and child risking their lives with 50kph traffic and no green man. The alternative is a four minutes and fifteen seconds ordeal

If a pedestrian, say a 69 year old woman like Assia, doesn't want to risk crossing at the arm with no lights, she would have to cross the three other arms. This takes four minutes and fifteen seconds.

Alternatively, imagine you are the parent of an 11-year old walking to school. What advice are you going to give him?

How can TfL be so contemptuous of ordinary citizens, especially the young, the old and the less mobile?

Let's also see whether the Metropolitan Police yet again are going to accept the lie of "I didn't see her" as an excuse for not prosecuting the killer.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Fourteen Points: Towards a Less Dangerous London Bus Service

Guest blog by Tom Kearney.

When is Year of the Safer Bus? At a meeting with Transport for London's MD for Surface Transport Leon Daniels organised by Statutory Deputy Mayor Victoria Borwick on 18 September 2013, I asked Mr. Daniels why couldn't TfL do what Manchester has already done: impose a 20 mph speed limit for all buses on its network and a 10 mph speed limit on streets with a high-density of pedestrians (like, erm, Oxford Street). Mr. Daniels's 'knee-jerk' response to my question seared itself onto my brain:

"We could run our buses more slowly [e.g: more safely] but that would cause them to run slower. We're not going to do that because that would make them more expensive: Time is Money." 

Time is Money. As the former director of a London-listed Mining Company and a mining operation in South Africa, I was shocked by Mr. Daniels response: if I had ever stated "we could operate more safely, but it would affect our bottom line" to the Health & Safety officials of either country where I'd been accountable as a Director and Board Member, my operation would have been shut down and I'd be on trial for Corporate Manslaughter. 

But not only is TfL allowed to get away with that complacent approach to the safety of its subcontracted bus operations, TfL's "White Man's Club" Bosses and their supporters (an unlikely coalition that includes The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and the Labour Party) frequently hold up "London-style" Bus Operations as a model for the rest of the country to slavishly emulate.

Since I assume that most of the British Public would refuse to allow a bus operation to run reliably at the cost of killing and injuring more people, here are some actions TfL could implement immediately that would begin to deliver a less dangerous bus service. And, because less NHS and Police funds would be expended as result of these actions, it might actually cost less too.

Toward a Less Dangerous London Bus Service: 

1) TfL immediately adopts a Vision Zero Policy for its Bus Subcontractors.
In its excellent Feet First: Improving Pedestrian Safety in London Report, the London Assembly recommended that the Mayor adopt a Vision Zero approach to reduce KSIs on London's roads. Simply put, a Vision Zero approach is a zero tolerance of any road danger and a complete rejection of the notion that road deaths and serious injuries are acceptable or inevitable. At present, the Mayor of London's and TfL's 'ambitious' KSI reduction goal is a 40% reduction on the 2005-2009 Average Annual KSIs by 2020. The 2005-09 Baseline average is 3626.6 Annual KSIs (about 10 KSIs per day). A 40% reduction of 1450.4 Annual KSIs (about 4 KSIs per day) would reduce KSIs in London to 2176.2 Annual KSIs (or 6 KSIs per day) by 2020. A stated goal of killing or injuring 6 people a day isn't 'ambitious' at all: it's pathetic. Based on TfL's own published data, during the period 1 January - 30 September (calendar day 273) of this year, collisions involving TfL buses produced 275 KSIs (an average of over 1 KSI per day). If TfL enforced a Vision Zero Policy for its bus operations alone, it could achieve 25% of its murderous 2020 Daily KSI Reduction Target (4 KSIs per day) right now.

2) Subscription to CIRAS by Bus Sub Contractors is made an immediate and non-negotiable requirement by TfL.
The Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System has been available to TfL Train Drivers since 1999 and provides a confidential channel for them to report safety concerns which are then investigated by independent professionals. Bus Companies were invited to subscribe for their drivers in 2012 but, so far, and as the Head of CIRAS has already informed us, no bus company is a member. Why are the Mayor and TfL delaying on this?

3) A Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport accountable to the Mayor of London and the London Assembly is immediately appointed to enforce danger reduction throughout Transport for London's Bus Operations.
Coupled with its manifest failure to make danger reduction a priority for its bus operations, TfL's dilatory stance on CIRAS just further evidences that the Commissioner of Transport for London and the MD for Surface Transport are examples of "regulatory capture" by the bus industry they are supposed to be regulating. Accordingly, the safety function for buses should be immediately removed from the Commissioner of Transport and his Surface Transport Subordinates. While the reason for this "regulatory capture" has multiple causes (in my opinion, the revolving door between TfL and its bus contractors is just one), an independent Chief Safety Officer (CSO) for Surface Transport needs to be appointed. The CSO would have the power to compel the Transport Commissioner and MD for Surface Transport to change contracts and operational practices that compromise safe bus operations. Why wouldn't this CSO position need to cover TfL's rail operations? Because, unlike TfL's bus operations, the UK rail industry already has an independent regulator with no links to the companies it regulates, codified safety procedures and practices, and danger reduction policies like CIRAS membership already in place. In fact, it's the law.

4) Make the TfL MD Surface Transport Job contingent on reducing Bus Collisions and KSIs involving TfL Buses
TfL's MD for Surface Transport has, inter alia, responsibility for overseeing the performance of London's bus fleet. London's Olympic Year 2012, was one of the worst in recent memory for KSI injuries on London's roads. Fatalities involving TfL buses increased by 83% at a time when London hosted the world. According to TfL's own data, since Boris Johnson became Mayor, TfL Bus Collisions have increased every single year. The Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport would review the MD for Surface Transport's performance in reducing collisions every quarter and this review would be a factor in determining, inter alia, whether or not the MD for Surface Transport was retained or replaced.

5) Current Bus Contracts to be immediately amended to include Collision and KSI Reduction Targets that would increase every year.
Just as TfL has set an "acceptable level" of deaths and serious injuries on London's roads at 6 per day by 2020, TfL should immediately amend bus contracts to set KSI reduction targets that would be increased every year and monitored by the MD Surface Transport and the Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport.

6) Immediately Deduct the Costs of KSIs and Bus Collisions from TfL payments to Bus Subcontractors.
Under TfL's "London-style" Quality Incentive Contracts, Busco Subcontractors can have up to 10 percent of their bus contract value deducted for failing to achieve contracted Excess Waiting Time (EWT) Targets. As already described by Bus Driver X, EWT Targets incentivise much unsafe bus driving behaviour. Quality Incentive Contracts contain no safety targets however. Making Bus Subcontractors immediately liable for all costs associated with collisions and KSIs taking place on their contracted bus routes would immediately concentrate the minds of Busco Managers on casualty and collision reduction.

7) Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport to receive, approve and publish every KSI Incident Investigation carried out by TfL Bus Subcontractors.
From various FOIA Requests and Mayor's Question Time Responses, TfL has admitted that:

  • It does not investigate bus collisions itself nor does it receive copies of its own subcontractors' collision investigations; and, 
  • It does not keep records of how many bus company drivers have been prosecuted or convicted for KSIs. 

These reports would be submitted to, reviewed, approved and published by the Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport on TfL's website every quarter.

8) Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport to inspect, analyse and approve the driver shift rotation practices of TfL Subcontractors
Bus Drivers have reported that fatigue brought on by shift changes is a problem. Since fatigue is a well-established cause of road casualties, TfL should be held responsible for the shift rotation practices of its subcontractors and these should be both inspected and approved by TfL on a regular basis. If shift rotation practices are found to contribute to KSI incidents (i.e., collisions resulting from driver fatigue), the Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport will enforce changes.

9) Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport TfL will collect and publish specific safety performance data about its Subcontractors.
Inter alia, we already know that TfL does not keep the key safety performance data about its Bus Subcontractors, e.g.:

The Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport will collect and publish Bus Subcontractor Safety Performance Data and Actions Taken on a quarterly basis.

10) TfL to enforce a 20mph speed limit for buses on all roads in Central London 
Just like Manchester does. 

11) 10 mph for all buses in London's West End, home to many of the highest pedestrian collision spots in London.

10 MPH for Buses within London's "Red Square" - Oxford Street & Regent Street 

12) Bonuses of TfL Bosses will be directly related to reduction of KSIs. No bonuses paid for any period where KSIs increase.
Just like the UK Railway Industry.

13) TfL is to publish meaningful analysis of KSIs involving its buses every quarter.
The Casualty Data I successfully campaigned for TfL to publish every quarter is just a start. We deserve to see what TfL is actually learning from these incidents.

14) TfL to collect, analyse and publish the costs associated with all collisions involving its buses on a Quarterly basis
Collisions and KSIs cost the public money too...and it deserves to know how big this number is in real time.


VZL comment:

We will be presenting this list to Ben Johnson, Senior Delivery Planning Manager at Transport for London, who we met last month. At the meeting he was adamant that TfL has a Vision Zero strategy. Well Ben, ALL the above are NECESSARY to ensure that the biggest killer on London Roads is managed in a way that lives are not sacrificed for the sake of efficiency, and of the pay packets of Hendy, Daniels and their pals.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Is the media silence about TfL criminal management practices ending soon?

Transport for London is the biggest institutional killer in the capital, and yet, despite the devastating exposés by Tom Kearney of management practices that cause several of these killings, traditional media has been looking the other way.

Maybe they are waking up.

In this report, the BBC interviews Bus Driver X, one of the several drivers who are prevented by TfL to use CIRAS, the confidential incident reporting system used in the railways, and is forced to report his anxieties that safety is compromised in order to achieve performance targets, through Tom's blog. He admits compromising people's safety in order not to lose his job.

At 2:00 you will hear Leon Daniels, Managing Director Surface Transport, repeating the blatant lie, "Nothing is more important than safety. Safety is our top priority."

Any journalist worth her salt would "follow the money". And here it is, in the Commissioner and Chief Officer Performance Awards, we can see how much TfL values safety. Clearly not top priority. Customer satisfaction on the road network is 13.8%. Time reliability is 19.2%. Reduction in KSIs is only 8.2%. No wonder management is willing to sacrifice people's lives in order to achieve reliability targets.

The biggest scandal is that the Health & Safety Executive refuses to investigate these management practices which cause so many tragedies.

UPDATE: Here is a little parody by Tom Kearney, giving some context to the fantasies blurted out by Leon Daniels:

Friday, 21 November 2014

Interview with Swedish Vision Zero expert

Vision Zero originated in Sweden in the late 90s and one of the people at the heart of the implementation has been Matts-Åke Belin who last week presented 15 years of progress to the Vision Zero Symposium in New York, a city which has adopted Vision Zero principles earlier this year and this month has reduced the speed limit to 40kph (still too high).

Here are excerpts from an interview with Sarah Goodyear:

Barriers to adoption

The largest resistance we got to the idea about Vision Zero was from those political economists that have built their whole career on cost-benefit analysis. For them it is very difficult to buy into “zero.” Because in their economic models, you have costs and benefits, and although they might not say it explicitly, the idea is that there is an optimum number of fatalities. A price that you have to pay for transport.
The other group that had trouble with Vision Zero was our friends, our expert friends. Because most of the people in the safety community had invested in the idea that safety work is about changing human behavior. Vision Zero says instead that people make mistakes, they have a certain tolerance for external violence, let’s create a system for the humans instead of trying to adjust the humans to the system.

A more human-friendly system 

Why should we put the whole responsibility on the individual road user, when we know they will talk on their phones, they will do lots of things that we might not be happy about?
In Vision Zero, the accident is not the major problem. The problem is that people get killed or seriously injured. And the reason that people get serious injuries is mainly because people have a certain threshold where we can tolerate external violence, kinetic energy. And we know quite well now how much violence we can tolerate.
If you have places in your system where you have unprotected road users and protected road users, according to Vision Zero you can’t allow a higher speed than 30kph.
Mistakes will happen all the time. In our societies now, we are so dependent on road transport, we need to allow almost everyone to use this technology. That brings it back to those of us who design the system: We need to design a system that supports these people so you don’t have catastrophic failure, i.e. KSIs

Read more here.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The people in charge of London roads do not understand safe road design

From the monstrous victim-blaming TfL Commissioner, Peter Hendy, to simpleton Councillors, like Phil Jones in Camden or Robert Benham in Havering, the people in charge of London roads have no clue on the principles of safe road design.

They are quick to blame victims or drivers, but refuse to learn the lessons from the killing fields.

Take the killing of Harry Keller & Colin Hicks in Romford last year. The couple was mowed down by a bus driver who ran a red light. The driver has been recently sentenced to 30 months in jail. For TfL and Havering Council, that is the end of the story: a rogue driver caused the death of two people. 

Any intelligent person would ask: "Why did someone with twenty years of experience driving buses do such an evil act?" The prosecutor at the trial said:
The driver pulled out from a lay-by 12 metres from the pedestrian crossing that already had been red for two-and-a-half seconds, continued accelerating towards the crossing which remained red. [CCTV] footage shows he did not slow down. He carried on over the stop line and drove head on into and over both Mr Keller and Mr Hicks narrowly missing a third pedestrian. The defendant simply did not see, or if he did, he did not register, both the victims at the pedestrian crossing.
And the idiot Judge William Kennedy's answer to why, was:
All those who drive: look in the mirror, tell me if you ever got to the end of the road and wondered what happened in the last 150 yards. Thank god in that 150 yards nothing dreadful happened. If anyone tells me that that’s never happened to them I will tell them I don’t believe them. A tragedy occurred inexplicable of proper decision.
i.e. "inexplicable behaviour" by the driver was the reason of the collision.

I often wonder if these people are just idiots or are so arrogant that they think we can just believe any idiocy that they say.

Dave Holladay, who is not an idiot, made these simple observations:

  • There are 27 (twentyseven!!!) bus routes stopping on this stretch of road
  • The speed limit is 30mph
  • The bus stop is only 15 metres from the pedestrian crossing
  • Bus drivers at the head of the bus stop have to pull out to progress; in other words, the driver instead of looking ahead to the pedestrian crossing, has to look to his side mirror to make sure no vehicle is coming at 30mph.

Suddenly we have a likely explanation of what happened; the "inexplicable behaviour" is simply due to the fact that bus drivers are tasked to look ahead for vulnerable pedestrians and at the same time look to the side mirror for oncoming traffic from behind. Most of the time, a human being can do it; but it is totally reasonable to expect an occasional failure, when a driver looks ahead, sees a green light and then spends too much time looking at the side mirror and fails to register that the light ahead has changed.

It is an error which should not be a death sentence for two people and a jail sentence for another.

The real error is designing what is basically a bus garage in the middle of a shopping centre, allowing vehicle to drive at 30mph and having conflicts of sight for drivers of buses.

Those are the errors which should be punished with jail sentences. 

David Holladay makes these simple recommendations:
  • 10mph speed limit (as in all bus depots)
  • zebra crossing (so drivers don’t rely on the lights)
  • bus stops should run straight to the road rather than be angled away from the pedestrian crossing (as is the case in the opposite direction)
In the two years prior to the killing of Keller and Hicks, there were five other collision at that crossing and yet Cllr Robert Benham, cabinet member for StreetCare, denied road design played a part in the deaths.

He should be the one serving time; as Tom Kearney said: They got the wrong guy

Sunday, 16 November 2014

National Funeral For The Unknown Victim Of Traffic Violence 15.11.14

Video by DrMorocho

Here is the speech by Tom Kearney:
I shouldn't be here today.

When the ambulance pitched up 27 minutes after a 15 ton TfL bus hit me in the head & chest on Oxford Street, I had no pulse from the bleeding out of my ears and mouth and I wasn't breathing through my two collapsed lungs.
The police had reported me as a fatal.
I shouldn't be here today. This could have been my funeral too.
But I am just one of thousands here today protesting the lethal conditions for pedestrians and cyclists all across the United Kingdom.
But I am just one of thousands of people who've been hit by a vehicle on Europe's Busiest Shopping Street since the new century began.
But I am just one of thousands of cyclists and pedestrians who've been killed or seriously-injured from a collision with a TfL bus since Boris Johnson became Chairman of Transport for London.
And I am just one of millions on this planet who’ve been killed or seriously-injured as a result of our species' addiction to the motor vehicle in the past decade.
We are not alone today.
There are countless lives who we honour, remember and evoke today who can only be here in spirit.
Those who've already passed ahead of us…taken unjustly from the road on which we're all travelling together.
We've lost fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, friends and lovers.
People we loved or liked, knew or just knew of, respected or just spent a nice time with have become:
Unused numbers on our mobile phones that we can't bear to delete
Empty places at the dinner table sadly noticed every day
or a visceral-but-fleeting memory evoked by a song, a smell, a photograph, or an anniversary.
And, having myself been taken to the end of road we're all travelling on by an Oxford Street Bus five years ago at Christmastime, I found that my spirits only asked me:
"Why are you here? There's so much more that needs to be done where we come from.
Remember us...because we'll see each other again.
Remember making it better"
And that's the thought I woke up to when I emerged from my near death-coma in the new year.
Boris, you can’t ignore us. We’re not dead.
You can see us.
You can hear us.
You can remember us.
Stop the Killing.
Enough said.

Friday, 31 October 2014

If the Coroner refuses to issue a PFD, we will

"Sub-standard" "Extremely poor" "Takes no account of human nature" "Effectively works as uncontrolled crossing"

This how PC Simon Wickenden described the crossing in front of Euston Station where Peter van de Bulk was killed by a bus.

Wickenden was speaking at the Coroner's Inquest held on 28.10.14.

As we described shortly after the killing, the traffic signals are completely dysfunctional. The cycle time is 96 seconds, of which the green man is on only for six seconds (there is an additional "black out" period of 12 seconds). This scandalous disrespect for people who walk is aggravated by the fact that only buses are allowed to use this road, and there is less than one bus a minute driving here. This means that in front of a mainline train station pedestrians are supposed to wait for 78 seconds just to let one bus (or possibly two) through.

The obvious result is that NO ONE waits at red.

Wickenden completed a thorough study of the speed of the buses as they pass the pedestrian crossing. There is a large 10mph sign painted on the ground and yet 66% of drivers were recorded at higher speeds with 15% driving at more than 16mph. As a result of this survey, Camden Council has narrowed the carriageway, to slow down bus movements.

The new paving shows the width restriction. Notice that as the lights are turning green for the bus, there are four pedestrians crossing or starting to cross in front of it. Picture by Dave Holladay

Wickenden has not yet carried out a study to see whether this intervention has had any effect

The inquest was marred by amateurism, typical of Coroners Courts. For instance, in spite of the bus driver admitting that he was late on his schedule, the Coroner did not ask any questions about the pressure he had been in to complete his route; as Tom Kearney has described in his blog, this factor greatly affects the standards of driving of bus drivers. The bus driver had waited nine seconds in the middle of the carriageway before turning; as soon as a taxi coming the opposite direction had passed he made his turn. The Coroner did not ask how big a gap was there between the taxi and the next vehicle. We have seen this before so many times: a bus driver, bullied by a controller to finish his route on time (otherwise their managers lose their performance bonuses) makes a risky manouvre at inappropriate speed and enters an area where many pedestrians are crossing the street and drives through with no consideration to their safety. This btw is exactly how my father was killed by a TfL bus.

The Coroner has in his pocket a Yellow Card. He can issue a Prevention of Future Death report, asking the relevant Transport Authority to make appropriate changes to reduce the risk of future deaths. The risk of future deaths does not have to be strictly related to the death examined in the Inquest: all is necessary is for the Coroner to discover, through the process of the Inquest, a situation which creates undue fatal risks to members of the public.

Coroner William Dolman refused to issue a PFD report saying as an excuse that "It was an one-off". This is reprehensible for two reasons:

  1. It is contrary of the rationale for PFDs. The P stands for Prevention; we don't have to see many deaths before fixing dangerous infrastructure. Wickenden has clearly shown that the signal phasing remains "sub-standard" and needs to be changed. The present phasing is dangerous and can lead to further deaths. The change needs to occur before Wickenden's warning is confirmed by another tragedy
  2. Dolman has been told that 66% of bus drivers exceed the speed limit at this junction. It is rational to think that this is not a one-off, but that bus drivers ignore many speed restrictions, especially the ones of 20mph and below. Therefore Dolman should have issued a PFD to TfL to investigate this widespread disregard of speed limits by the contractors it regulates and take appropriate action
This is a scandalous dereliction of duty and shame on Coroner Dolman. A young person has lost his life and no lessons have been learned.

BTW, it is NOT a one-off. This is a tweet by Dave Holladay who went to see the crossing after the Inquest.

Peter van de Bulk was a Transport for London employee. I am forwarding this blog to Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport. It is a formal request

  1. to change the phasing of the lights at this junction, so that pedestrians do not have to wait more than twenty seconds
  2. to carry out a thorough investigation of the speed of buses in areas where the limits are 20mph or lower, and especially near train stations and bus depots
  3. to carry out measures to ensure that contracting companies have clear systems to prevent speeding.
She owes this to the family of one of her colleagues, to all the victims of buses and to all Londoners.