Every time something catastrophic happens on the roads, rules and regulations are blamed, and a consultation takes place to see how they can improve things to make the situation safer. From layout changes, to change in infrastructure, there is no end to the changes which can take place once the reason for the incident is decided on.
A few years ago, cyclists took centre stage, with a rising number of cyclists using London's roads, the volume could not be safely handled, so we saw the introduction of cycle superhighways. A little strange at first, but eventually people warmed to them, and main routes started being used by the masses, giving them more space, priority in places, phased traffic signals etc.
All in all it was a win, but for some strange reason, in the following years injuries to cyclists were still as high, deaths were monitored, and it seemed all had failed.
But then when you take a step back, and look at what is going on, the cyclists, increasing in number still, were taking unnecessary risks, putting themselves in danger, inheriting a feeling of priority and self importance, and causing some to think "right of way" was another phrase for immortal. You have right of way when you are visible to all, if a vehicle fails to give you right of way, you WILL be injured when you still try to force your point.
OK, I am not going to go on about cyclists, being one, they get a bad enough name as it is, so lets not pick on them any more.
My point was of course, whenever bad things happen, things change. And with those changes, so peoples mindsets change.
But there is one group of users of the roads who never seem to be held accountable, or even considered in these consultations. In most models for road traffic flow, they are the well behaved little dots that wait at crossings, and cross when the light changes. However this is so far from the truth, it is ridiculous .
For decades now, if you watch London's road, you will see pedestrians diving into the road left right and centre. As both a cyclist and motorist, I have lost track of the number of times I have had to come to an abrupt halt, because some lazy halfwit has decided the crossing is too far away, they are too engrossed in their phone screen, or just don't appreciate that cars hurt when they hit people. As does my roadbike carrying my 220lbs at 20-30mph!
Now I am a realist, and know that people on foot are not going to change their ways any time soon, especially when all other groups around them have to abide. Stop at lights, crossings, informal crossings, chain of commuters pouring out of a station straight in to the road. Of the road user doesn't do this, they are to blame, plain and simple. A car pulls out in front of you, you hit it, they are to blame and pay for your car. A pedestrian walks in front of your car, you slam on the brakes, stop, they walk on just as the car behind rear ends you and is blamed for the accident.
Worst case, you hit them. They walked out 5ft in from of your car, no stopping distance will help them, BANG! they are down. It IS their fault, but legally you are the one who will go through the process with the police. Breathalised, questioned, report the accident to get your car repaired, and again get grilled by the insurance company, judged that you hit a poor human, lose your NCB.....
It is a bit unbalanced.
Introducing the new 20mph speed limit has changed all that though. No longer will any pedestrians be hit by cars in Lewisham or any other borough with such a limit. Even though it chops and changes depending what road you are on. Some main roads, not all, over the borough line and it increases.
All the while a message has been sent to pedestrians that they will all be safe from mean nasty cars forever more.
Truth be told, it is confusing as hell, and somewhat frustrating. Watch the road, watch out for cyclists, motorcyclists, emergency vehicles, road signs, road markings, oh and for humans throwing themselves in front of you in the split second you look up to check a road sign, and get done for driving without due care. Rather than the pedestrian being charged or held accountable for "irresponsible walking" maybe?
You can chew through statistics all you want, dream up the perfect scenario (no roads, obviously!) and change speed limits making them lower and lower. But there will still be accidents. Of course there is always the "if it saves just one life" campaign that we all love so much. The phrase used all the time to say (in most cases) I know it's a crap idea and really will make life awkward for all, but I bet we can get statistics next year to show that 1/3rd of a person was saved from an accident, and therefore it is a success. And then start planning the 15mph limit.
Let us start with the basics. Pedestrian vs car, in most cases occurs in the road.... The road! Let the first question be, why was the pedestrian in the road? It wasn't a crossing, it wasn't even a safe place to cross, and they were looking at their phone, wearing headphones and didn't look (had one of those today actually). But somehow the only person with any responsibility, is the motorist, who was doing everything they should.
I am not saying motorists are perfect, I am not saying pedestrians are always to blame, not by a long shot.
However what is really apparent from conversations with people, commuters etc, is that the main consensus of opinion is "they should let me cross" (wherever the hell I choose). There seems to be no common sense in the thought process, no understanding of how long it takes a car to stop, where is safe to cross, or what will happen if it all goes terribly wrong. Immortal minds conspire to produce a very stupid and dangerous way of thinking.
Going back to a forum thread which has raged on for years now, calling for a crossing outside a local station, many points have been made, most valid, but some truly scary. For example, the belief that if there is a crossing in place, this somehow makes the road completely safe to cross. A red light or a flashing belisha beacon somehow enforces the rule of immortality. Even though in the same thread, the same people state how poor the line of sight is.
So, we have the exit to a station, where sometimes 100+ people can emerge at a time, pouring onto the pavement, and some wishing to cross the road. Obviously the most logical place to cross is IMMEDIATELY outside the station, at one of the worst sight lines on the road. Boldly walking out with headphones in, staring at the screen of their phone texting or messaging to say they are almost home (or under a car as the case may be). Those who frequent this patch of road, and many others like it, will insist the road needs making safer, and not for one second question their own responsibility. Of course it is their right to cross wherever the hell they want, without risk of being held to account.
I am sure if new legislation was passed tomorrow, copying the USA and having jaywalking laws, there would be outrage, and cries about human rights, pedestrian cattling, freedom of movement and much more. God forbid pedestrians being responsible for their own safety.
The average person doesn't walk across rail lines, busy motorways, fast moving A roads etc. No, at this point somehow the common sense switch is firmly on. But come into a town or city, and watch the behaviour changes, it is truly stunning.
So that brings me to the point of the blog.
When was the last time pedestrian movement and behaviour was studied in depth. At various locations which are bad for people ignoring safe crossing spots, and opting to walk in front of cars with the "YOU WILL STOP FOR ME" mentality?
It is a hard one I know, but with software available these days, I am sure cameras capturing the junctions or hotspots could effectively count those crossing in dangerous places, throw up some statistics and see what can be done about the prime cause of a lot of these accidents.
It is all very well lowering speed limits, even on roads where there is no call for it, which rightly or wrongly causes frustration and stupid behaviour, and in fact probably raises the chances of an accident. Of course the motorist is at fault here, that goes without saying. But the introduction of these badly thought out measures will be the cause.
I think it is about time that human traffic flow is taken into account when considering changes to the roads. Once it was a good idea to have railings to stop people crossing at hotspots, now the onus is on the motorist to be able to stop when someone makes a stupid decision. I wonder how long it will be before schools stop teaching the green cross code, and introduce the "right to cross" code!
With the schools going back this week, it has been a baptism of fire for some motorists. 6-7 weeks of lower road volumes, less people on the pavements. And now all of a sudden, parents, kids, mummies with buggies, all willing to throw themselves out in front of your car without a moment of thought.
Seriously the change is dramatic and worrying. Parents walking their toddlers up the main road, running free while mummy or daddy stares at the screen of their phone, or natters to another parent. I had one on Brockley Road yesterday, and saw it happening before it did, then out ran the kid, just getting into the road before daddy saw and reacted. It could have been horrific.
In short, peak times on the roads are hell, and it is not so much the wheeled road users to blame. A balance has almost been found amongst all. Bus drivers do as they please, black cabbies can stop and do a U turn on a dime at will, or just cut you up. PHV's mainly Prius's can roll down the road at 5mph while using their device to get a new fare, then just stop or accelerate away, cyclists won't stop for red lights, and will weave like nutters, coming up on both sides of you at lights, overloading your mind with spacial awareness. Motorcyclists, speed, weave, and rev up for no reason. We all know our places.
But pedestrians.. Well that is another matter. Ignore the tourists, and those who are no used to London roads, and just focus on the pretentious little princesses who demand that they may cross a road, or just walk down the middle of it, at a moments notice, and in no way should be berated, held to account, or challenged for their stupidity. Phone in one hand, Starbucks in the other, headphones in, and out they go. Shortest route to work, or in some cases hospital.
In short, I am fed up of the main users of the roads being blamed for interactions which occur when pavement dwellers dare to venture into the world of roads, fast moving vehicles, and the consequences of a collision between themselves and the vehicle.
I say bring in legislation to hold pedestrians accountable more often, allow prosecution for times where a thoughtless pedestrian causes a collision between others, and start handing out some tickets to idiots who refuse to abide by the guidelines.
I have missed so many points I have thought up over the week that this post has been brewing in my head, so might return to the matter soon.