Monday 14 July 2008

Another major smash on Forest Road

On Friday afternoon there was yet another major car smash on Forest Road. It occurred at the junction with Hale End Road. I cycled past about 90 minutes after it happened and took these pictures.

This is a location I have blogged about on a number of previous occasions. On this stretch of Forest Road thousands of drivers break the 30 mph speed limit continuously throughout the day, as I blogged about here.

Forest Road (aka the A503) is a major route which crosses the borough from the North Circular and M11 motorway in the east to Tottenham in the west. Most of it passes through a dense residential area, with schools, shops and homes. The A503 is a four lane highway at major junctions. It has an atrocious record of crashes and fatalities. The major problem is excessive speed, though there is also the problem of red light jumping. There are no cameras to catch red light jumpers at any of the junctions, and there are just two speed cameras, only one of which is in the built-up residential section of this very long road.

Hale End Road is another dangerous location, where almost all drivers, indifferent to the presence of a primary school and a school for children with special needs, break the 20 mph speed limit, as I blogged about here. I have also blogged about this particular junction, which is unacceptably dangerous for cyclists because it lacks an Advanced Stop Line, which means that cyclists continuing across the junction come into conflict with traffic turning left, as shown here. Finally, just beyond the site of this collision there used to a solar powered advisory speed sign, which the Council removed and did not replace. The pole which used to support the speed sign is still there, on the corner by Woodstock Road.

What caused this crash? The car shown above collided with the car shown below (which was moved to this location after the crash). The less badly damaged car was either turning into or out of Hale End Road when it was involved in a collision with the other car, which was evidently travelling east along Forest Road. There is a report on the crash here (although it is wrong in saying that the car landed in a front garden; the grass on the corner is public land).

Episodes like this once again underline the need for black boxes in vehicles, which would precisely identify the time of a collision and the speed at which the vehicle was travelling. Such devices could be cheaply installed in new cars but have always been fiercely resisted by the car manufacturing lobby. If we knew the exact time of this collision it would be possible to show if one or both of these drivers was jumping the lights. We would also know the speed at the time of impact. I find it very hard to believe that the driver of the car which either slewed through the gap in the railings or was catapulted over the railings, crashing into the brick wall on the corner, was driving at 30 mph or less.

This latest spectacular collision yet again reinforces the urgency of siting speed cameras along the entire length of Forest Road and putting cameras in at every major junction to catch those drivers who speed through at red. Imagine if a group of twenty primary school children had been waiting on the corner to cross here on their way back to their nearby school after a class trip; this would have been a massacre. Forest Road is a lethal location, where drivers contemptuously flout traffic law. This is the road where just under a year ago a cyclist was run down and killed by a speeding hit-and-run driver yet where this crap council puts parking before the safety of cyclists.

The other point worth noting is that the driver of the car which so spectacularly crashed seems to have escaped with relatively minor injuries. Twenty or thirty years ago the driver would probably have died. Nowadays reckless drivers are personally cushioned from the consequences of their lethal risk taking by rigid steel safety cages and air bags. Vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists enjoy no such protection. Nor do those in cheaper cars. The second car in this crash evidently didn't have air bags; the car which so spectacularly crashed had at least two, which inflated and can be seen in the photographs.

Footnote. I went back yesterday and took some more photos of the site. In the first two pictures below you can see the approach to the Hale End Road junction going east along Forest Road. This is almost certainly the direction the driver of the spectacularly crashed car was heading. It is a lethal junction because it is just beyond the brow of a hill. For cyclists, the cycling lane fizzles out and there is no ASL to protect from left-turning lorries. Motorists tend to drive at speed towards these lights. They are also in a hurry because regulars know that beyond the junction the carriageway shrinks to one lane, so there is the classic jockeying for first place beyond the lights. If you look carefully in the first photo you can see in the distance the pole on the corner of Woodstock Road and Forest Road which used to support a solar powered 30 mph flashing speed sign. A question which should be addressed to the council is: why was this sign removed a long time ago and not put back, despite the problem with speeding at this site? The other question, which should be addressed to Commander Mark Benbow, the local area police commander, is: how many speeding tickets has your force handed out on Forest Road over the past 12 months?

(Below). The sand - probably used to mop up spilled oil rather than blood - may indicate the site of the collision. One car either careered through the gap between the railings and the traffic light column or was catapulted over the railings.

(Below) The control box operating the traffic lights was destroyed by being hit by one of the cars. Two days later the lights are still out, creating a fresh hazard for traffic entering or leaving Hale End Road, and pedestrians faced with the task of crossing four lanes of fast moving traffic. This crash will probably enter the statistics as a minor injury crash. Its true social impact and costs in terms of traffic disruption, added danger for cyclists and pedestrians, the costs of the involvement of three emergency services, and the repair bill for reinstating the damage to the traffic lights and the wall, will probably never be measured.