The mini-roundabout on the centre of Chislehurst Commons in the London Borough of Bromley is the scene of numerous road traffic accidents. It is one of the worst accident black spots in the borough. There were 8 personal injury accidents in the last three years alone despite several previous attempts to improve the junction. Above is a photograph of one incident.
A Bromley Council Committee considered proposals on the 18th June for changes to the junction in another attempt to reduce accidents. Council staff forecast a reduction of 50% but I spoke at the meeting and queried whether that would be the case. Surely it would be better to try and cut out the accidents altogether? This is some of what I said in a note to the Committee Chairman and to others:
- I fear that the latest proposal will have no great impact and will just be another half-baked solution that does not stop all such accidents from happening. It also has other considerable disadvantages.
- The probable cause of these accidents is that vehicles approaching from right angles to each other at similar speeds are concealed by the now wide windscreen pillars on modern cars. This is compounded by the fact that the junction is not that obvious to those unfamiliar with the roads. I do not see how building a speed table will solve those issues.
- In addition it is proposed to build a speed table when the Council has an adopted policy of a preference for “non-vertical traffic calming devices”. That policy was adopted for good reason to placate those people who find such devices very uncomfortable, particularly those with certain medical conditions, e.g. back pain which is an enormously common complaint.
- Loop Road is also a bus route and any traffic engineer will tell you that it is not recommended to put speed humps (or tables) on bus routes because bus suspensions cope very badly with such humps and passengers are discomforted or jolted around.
- Speed humps also generate considerable noise from passing traffic which will hardly make a positive contribution to the environment of the Commons.
- In addition it is proposed to install bollards and widen the pavements which will also be detrimental to the visual amenity of the Commons and might themselves be a safety hazard.
- It is in my view most disappointing that we have yet another half-baked proposal being proposed which is very unlikely to stop all accidents at that junction. I doubt the suggested 50% reduction will be achieved, and why cannot we have a proposal that will achieve 100%?
- There have in the past been proposals put forward to revise the roads over the Commons that would remove that roundabout and also enable improvement of other junctions on the Commons (e.g. at Heathfield Lane/Ashfield Lane where they are also numerous accidents including one to my personal cost). These would enable the release of more road space to the Commons green space and improve the visual amenity, unlike the latest proposals.
- I would even consider the closure of Ashfield Lane to be a better solution than that proposed and I doubt that it would increase traffic congestion substantially as there are good alternative routes.
- In summary, I doubt the current proposal is going to be the best solution to the road safety problem at this junction, and we will be looking again at this junction in another few years’ time. The short-term expenditure will effectively be wasted yet again with the other disadvantages of the scheme being ignored. We need a full and comprehensive solution to the road safety problems on the Commons.
In the meeting I also criticised the persistent obstruction by the Commons Trustees to any significant changes in the roads over the Commons that might fully resolve this problem. For those unaware, the Commons are governed by an 1888 Act of Parliament that enables the Trustees to block any changes. The Trustees are an undemocratic and self-appointed body who are accountable to nobody. Is it not time to replace that Act by a more modern one, as I suggested in the Committee Meeting?
However, the Committee decided not to oppose the proposals and just made a minor suggestion to make the roundabout more visible. I fear in another few years’ time this subject will come up for discussion again after a few more serious accidents occur.
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