A petition signed by over 500 people has been submitted to the London Borough of Bromley. It requests a push-button request for pedestrians (a “Pelican” crossing) be installed at the traffic light junction on the A222 – the Chislehurst war memorial junction. The petition is to be discussed at a full council meeting on the 14th October.
Is such a change justified and what would be the impact?
Anyone familiar with the junction will be aware that this is a heavily congested part of the road network in Bromley. It is key route between Sidcup and the A20 into central Bromley and vice versa. During rush hours queues of traffic back up from the existing traffic light controlled junction to the A20 in the mornings, and back down Summer Hill in the evenings. This already causes some vehicles to take routes on narrow roads around the junction, e.g. via Bull Lane/Church Lane/Watts Lane or via Prince Imperial Road/Ashfield Lane. Traffic on the other arms of the junction (the A208) also experiences lengthy queues during busy times of the day.
However, there are common complaints that pedestrians perceive it as unsafe or difficult to cross at the junction, e.g. schoolchildren heading for Coopers School or St. Nicholas Primary School from central Chislehurst, or disabled people. The schools have clearly supported this petition.
It is obvious that the current junction cannot cope with the current volume of traffic but plans to improve it have always been blocked by the Trustees of the Chislehurst Commons who are reluctant to give up land to enable widening of the junction.
The impact of incorporating a pedestrian phase into the existing traffic lights might be very significant and it would presumably need to be installed on all four arms of the junction. Traffic modelling could be undertaken to see the likely impact on traffic delays and vehicle throughput, but that is quite expensive to undertake.
How should one judge the merits of this proposal? Like all allegations of road safety hazards, one should start by looking at the accident record and try to determine the likely cost/benefit. The last time I looked at the detail statistics related to road traffic accidents in Chislehurst, this junction had been the scene of a number of accidents and the A222 is like many of London’s A roads in that it runs through heavily congested areas with pedestrians often present. Thus Perry Street has seen several fatal accidents and there was one at the Memorial junction when the traffic lights had failed in the night. You can see other accident information at the junction by looking at the Crashmap web site (www.crashmap.co.uk).
Many of these accidents are not at the junction itself but some distance away as pedestrians choose to cross elsewhere than at the traffic lights or vehicles collide for other reasons. Clearly a review of the latest police reports of road casualties (the STATS19 records) could be examined for more information, but I do not recollect that there have been any serious accidents involving pedestrians at the junction itself.
I suspect the answer would be, if such an analysis as I suggest be done, that the cost/benefit of spending money on a change to this junction would not be justified, particularly if the value of the additional delays to vehicles was taken into account as they should be. It is also unlikely that pedestrians would change their habit of not crossing at the junction lights.
There is one simple question that can be answered now though. Do pedestrians actually have any difficulty crossing at this junction? This writer has personally walked across the junction at the traffic lights at least once per week for the last 20 years. I do not find any difficulty in doing so. It just requires one to wait until the lights change.
One can argue that improving pedestrian facilities might encourage people to walk rather than use other modes of transport but I doubt that this would have any significant impact in this case. Nobody who can walk would be deterred from using that junction at present. Do the disabled or visually impaired have some difficulty in crossing this junction? Perhaps but that will be the case even if a Pelican Crossing was introduced and the rights of a minority cannot be taken solely into account. The thousands of other people that will be affected by the change have also to be considered. In practice even if a Pelican system was installed at these lights, disabled people would likely have to cross other unsignalized junctions to get to the war memorial crossing.
Readers might wonder who the organisation named Chislehurst Safer Streets are who organised the petition. It is led by Chris Wells who is also a supporter of 20sPlenty and who has campaigned for a wide-area 20 mph signed only speed limit covering Chislehurst. That suggestion has been rebuffed by both Bromley Council and the Chislehurst Society. You can see what Mr Wells had to say about that proposal on the Visit Chislehurst web site. This is what it says about the Atkins study of 20 mph zone published by the Department of Transport (DfT): “In summary, what Atkins found is that 20mph zones that are poorly implemented have little appreciable effect on traffic speed or accidents”. This is grossly misleading. The study was solely focused on signed-only 20 mph schemes and made no comments on how they were implemented – only signs can and are used in such schemes. This kind of special pleading is common among those who are less concerned with the truth than in arguing and winning their case.
Note that Bromley Council had already responded to the petition on the War Memorial junction by Mr Wells. They say that adding a pedestrian phase would “lead to exceedingly long queues at peak times resulting in increased pollution and likely diversion of vehicles into residential areas”. You can read their full response here with details of the Council meeting: https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=62672&PlanId=0&Opt=3#AI62776 . Clearly diverting traffic onto other narrow roads might be a road safety hazard in itself.
Readers are encouraged to attend the meeting as members of the public, as I shall be doing, or Bromley residents should contact their local councillors. It is important that those who shout loudest do not override a sensible and rational analysis of this issue and the needs and views of the vast majority of the residents of Bromley and its visitors.
Photo above shows long queues of traffic even at lunchtime on a Tuesday.
You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.