[Note: Original posting has been changed substantially to reflect additional information]
TfL signs have appeared around the Oval Crossing indicating that the guardrails are to be removed. Here is what TfL have to say on the matter I’m in two minds about this. Should we be praising TfL for removing street clutter and making us safer or should we be condemning whoever wasted money installing guardrails and putting us at risk in the first place?
Anyone who watches the before and after guard rail videos can be in no doubt as to what is good from a pedestrian point of view but is it safer? Like most people I tend to take statements from official sources on trust. In this case we are being told that removing the guardrails will make us safer. No one can argue with that so fair enough. Or is it. Pedestrian Guard Railing:A Review of Criteria for Installation (Transport Research group 2003) seems to present a slightly different picture
A few points in the report caught my attention:
* Traffic speed, traffic flow and pedestrian flow did not differ significantly between sites surveyed with and without guard railing
* The all accidents rate at sites without railing was almost the same as that at sites with railing the difference not being statistically significant.
* The pedestrian accident at sites without railing was 2.5 times that at sites with railing, and the difference is statistically significant.
The first point seems to contradict one of the claimed benefits for removing guardrails “More careful driving and slower speeds”. The second and third points seem to suggest that removing guardrails shift accident risk from road users to pedestrians.
I welcome reduction in street clutter and changes that give greater priority to pedestrians. However, it does seem that in doing so we are placing pedestrians at greater risk. On a typical weekday, some 8,000 people come out of the Oval Station and even more on days when there are cricket matches at the Oval. I know this junction well both as a pedestrian, cyclist and motorist. I don’t claim to be an expert on road safety but the exit from the station is disgorging people right on the corner. The guard rails were put there in good faith. When I first wrote this posting I felt that money had been wasted installing them in the first place. Having reviewed the evidence, I’m no longer sure. Either money was wasted putting them in or money is about to be wasted taking them out and I don’t know which.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the Oval Crossing needs a lot more than removal of guardrails to make it safe. Motor vehicle traffic in the area has decreased by 30% over the last 10 years or so. In contrast, cyclists have increased four fold. It is clearly time for a major change. As a minimum, something further must be done to offset increased risks to pedestrians once the guard rails are removed. A 20MPH limit was mooted with TfL which would be compatible with Lambeth’s borough wide 20MPH limit. However, changing speed on local red route the corners/junctions does not appear very high on TfL’s agenda. A change in surface on the pedestrian crossings may also help. At the moment, the central reservation where the fountain is has almost become a virtual desert island. The whole junction is well overdue for a major makeover.