Credit where it’s due: TFL now want to make Shooter’s Hill Road safer

Shooters Hill Road 4 - pedestrian crossingAt long last Transport for London is putting forward proposals to make Shooter’s Hill Road (the busy A2) safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Consultation has just started on proposals to improve the junction of Shooter’s Hill Road, Stratheden Road and Prince of Wales Road on the northern edge of the heath.

TFL are proposing to install new cycle lanes, remove the ‘sheep pen’ in the middle of Shooter’s Hill Road and make the crossing there straighter. A stranger part of the proposals is to put a new island in the middle of Prince of Wales Road, narrowing the left filter lane so only cycles will be allowed to turn into the A2: cars would no longer be able to make this turn. This is opposed by residents living on the slip road on the south side of Shooter’s Hill Road, who would have to drive via the Standard or Blackheath Village to join the A2 towards London. As this would increase traffic flow but do little to improve safety, I hope TFL will reconsider. Shooters Hil Road-stratheden road proposal map 2014

Overall the scheme  is not revolutionary and won’t do much to make it safer to cross the junctions from east to west (there still won’t be a proper pedestrian crossing from one side of Stratheden Road to the other). But it’s a start.

There have been safety concerns about this junction for more than a decade, and it’s high time TFL made it safer: there are four schools (Invicta, Blackheath High, Pointers, and Blackheath Nursery & Prep) nearby and if we want children to walk to them we have got to make junctions like this safer. As these old Westcombe Society minutes record, back in the summer of 2002 a school pupil was very seriously injured in a collision here and had to be taken to hospital by air ambulance.

A speed indicator device (a sign that flashes “30” at drivers that exceed that speed, pictured here with yours truly) was put in on Shooter’s Hill Road eastbound in 2008, but despite repeated requests from the council TFL have refused to put one up on the westbound side of the road, which has more of a speeding problem. Further east at the pedestrian crossing by Vicarage Avenue, it took several years of lobbying before TFL finally agreed in 2010 to allow people two more seconds to cross the road in safety: their first priority always seems to be keeping the traffic moving, not pedestrian safety.

Alex Grant by speed indicator device on Shooters Hill Road 2008 - 2Details of TFL’s latest proposals can be found here: please note any comments have to be sent to them by Friday March 21st.

TFL is also promising details next month of new measures to make the Woolwich Road roundabout (under the A102 flyover) safer for cyclists and pedestrians. I hope TFL continue this burst of activity by doing something to screen those living near the A102 from noise and pollution, too, and fixing the broken Charlton Road bridge over the A102, using some of the income they will get from the advertising screens that they have just got planning permission for at the Sun-in-Sands roundabout. I’m not holding my breath.

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TFL’s Sun-in-the-Sands adverts given the go-ahead

Sun in Sands from north - showing ad position

This is the view that drivers will have from the A102 later this year. Despite objections from local Labour councillors, the Blackheath and Westcombe societies  and the Greenwich Conservation Group, a planning inspector has just allowed Boris Johnson’s Transport for London to put up huge electronic advertising panels, 3m high and 12m wide, on the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout. A mock-up of the north-facing one is shown here, with the south-facing one below.

The plans were turned down by Greenwich Council in 2013 but TFL wouldn’t take no for an answer and appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which held a hearing on January 7th to consider the appeal. (For previous posts on the story see here and here).

The Planning Inspector’s judgement, published on January 29th, can be read here. The inspector has added some conditions limiting the brightness of the illuminated adverts, ordered that images should change no more frequently than every ten seconds, they the images should not move, and that it should not take more than  a second to change from one image to another. But generally this is a bad day for drivers on the A102, who may well be distracted by flashing adverts, and the roundabout’s neighbours who will now have to live alongside them.Sun in Sands from south - showing ad position

The inspector’s report is a dry read, but tucked away in the text are two intriguing details.

Firstly, the inspector seems to have been swayed by the fact that Transport for London had, funnily enough, not objected to their own planning application:

In reaching this conclusion, I have given considerable weight to the lack of objection to the proposal from the highway authority and to the compliance of the advertisement displays with the guidance adopted by the highway authority in relation to proposals of this nature. Whilst I note that, in this case, the highway authority is also the appellant, the evidence before me indicates that the highway safety assessment of the proposed advertisements is undertaken separately to any commercial assessment of site suitability and is subject to a safety audit. In the light of this lack of objection, whilst I have had careful regard to the concerns of the local planning authority, including those relating to drivers potentially breaking the speed limit, I have not found the evidence presented by the Council in this respect to be compelling and, as such, I am not satisfied that it would be appropriate to find against the proposal for this reason.

Translated into plain English, this means that the planning inspector thinks that TFL are the best-qualified people to judge whether flashing adverts are safe on a road run by, and bringing revenue to, TFL itself. Hmm. Read more of this post

TFL take seven weeks and counting to fix a broken bridge

Charlton road - broken bridgeLate on Saturday October 26th a car veered off Charlton Road, struck the railings on the bridge over the A102 and knocked part of them onto the motorway below (causing a major traffic jam I remember well – I was stuck in it on my way home from a family outing to celebrate my 40th birthday).

Nearly two months after the accident Transport for London (which is responsible for the A102 and the bridges over it) have still not fixed the bridge.

Thankfully, no-one was injured and the railings were made safe by the council that night. The gap is now cordoned off with concrete blocks, metal fencing and red plastic guard-railing to prevent anything falling through. But these temporary repairs are unsightly and clearly not a long-term solution. Read more of this post

Taking pride in our streets and public spaces

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Here are seven words that should be said more often: Hats off to Greenwich Council’s highways department.

The council has just completed the resurfacing of the Royal Standard one-way system (the first half was done in June and the second in November). This busy junction now has no potholes and new road markings, and the work was completed smoothly over four nights with very few complaints about noise. This follows work in the spring to make the corner of Charlton Road and Westcombe Hill, where cars often used to zoom round the corner at high speed, safer for pedestrians to cross.

I am sorry that local Conservatives keep claiming that Greenwich’s Labour council neglects the Standard: as well as the recent highways works, over the last five years the council has  frozen shop rents on Old Dover Road, planted more trees, refurbished Blackheath Library and extended its opening hours, and helped to get an office for our local police team opened above Marks and Spencer’s – and helped defeat Boris Johnson’s recent plan to close it.

Half a mile south of the Standard, the council’s Highways department has just responded to residents’ concerns about the ridiculous amount of signage on the mini-roundabout on the corner of Kidbrooke Gardens and St German’s Place. The council’s highways engineers simply took half of the signage away, within just a couple of weeks of a site visit in late October. Read more of this post

TFL puts advertising income ahead of protecting A102 neighbours from noise and pollution

Sun in Sands from south - showing ad positionI’ve posted before about TFL’s crazy plan to put two huge illuminated adverts on the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout – see here. The advertising panels, 3 metres high and 12 metres wide, would go on the bridges facing north and south with different images flashing up six times a minute. They would distract drivers on the A2/A102 motorway, and be a nuisance for neighbours, as these mocked-up images show.

Greenwich Council thankfully refused TFL’s planning application in May 2013, because of the impact the signs would have on the adjacent Blackheath conservation area, as well as road safety concerns.

Sun in Sands from north - showing ad positionBut TFL are not taking no for an answer and are determined to get advertising revenue from the site.  In August TFL lodged an appeal against the refusal, arguing that “the proposals will improve the tired condition of the underpass and will signify investment into the area.” That’s right – TFL thinks this part of Blackheath is so economically deprived that it must have advertising hoardings to show it’s open for business. Read more of this post

How TFL has its priorities all wrong

Sun in sandsAnyone living near the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout take note: Transport for London wants to transform the road junction into  a site for “LED Media displays” featuring  a” digital display… of static adverts which will change sequentially no less than every ten seconds”.

In other words, TFL want to put illuminated screens on the bridges facing north and south, 3m high and 12m wide, showing ads to drivers on the A2/A102 motorway that passes underneath, with different images flashing up six times a minute. (May 18th update – GOOD NEWS: the Royal Borough of Greenwich has refused TFL’s planning application, although they could yet appeal against this refusal.) Read more of this post