Inanimate object strikes again

This post is rather supplementary to my previous one, as it provides another instance of an inanimate object being party to a collision – indeed, in this case, it even appears to be responsible.

Bollard to blame for recent Wimbledon crashes, residents claim

Residents have called for the removal of a problem bollard which has taken the blame for several car accidents in recent weeks. The complaints have arisen following a crash on Thursday, February 2, when a woman driving a silver people carrier ploughed into the traffic island when turning right into Worple Road from Wimbledon Hill Road at 5.25pm.

At least in this story, the facts are reported plainly – ‘the car ploughed into the traffic island’. But read on…

The road, connecting the village to Wimbledon town centre, was shut in both directions for two hours while the driver was cut out of the car and treated for neck injuries, while her 11-year-old daughter was unharmed. Sarah Davies, a lettings manager at Haart Estate Agent at the corner of the junction, said she knew of eight accidents which happened in exactly the same way since the middle of November. She said: “To date I am surprised that no action has been taken…. In my opinion it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or worse.”

Sarah England, a nurse who lives in Griffiths Road, Wimbledon, saw Thursday’s incident reported on our website and revealed she had crashed at the same junction on December 20, 2011. She said: “I don’t see why a bollard of that shape has to be there in that position and I think there is an issue with drivers in people carriers trying to take this corner when it’s dark. I don’t believe for a second I was driving carelessly or too fast. I slowly turned right and felt a crash, thinking I had been hit, but it was the traffic island. My car was completely written off. The council needs to seriously think about whether it needs to be there at all.”

Quite why the bollard should be an issue with the drivers of people carriers, and not with the drivers of other cars, is not explained. Perhaps this is some kind of magic bollard, that selectively renders itself invisible once it spots an approaching Ford Galaxy or a VW Toerag Turan Toeran large VW?

Or perhaps, more reasonably, this is a clue that the cause of the ‘accidents’ might not be the bollard, but instead the people behind the wheels of cars, specifically mums in a hurry to get somewhere, who are ‘trying to take this corner’.

And while Sarah England cannot see why a bollard has to be there in that position, I can think of one very good reason, which emerges in the next paragraph of the news article –

Councillor David Dean, who represents Dundonald ward at Merton Council, witnessed Thursday’s crash scene and said the council needed to remove the bollard, which protects pedestrians standing on a traffic island. Councillor Dean said: “It was exactly the same colour and make as my car and so I got a nasty shock when I saw it. I told Councillor Andrew Judge at a Street Management meeting [in June 2010] there should be more space for cars to turn right there. They need to move this island back and cars should also be allowed to turn right from Worple Road into the town centre.”

It is there to protect pedestrians who have partially crossed the road, and are waiting to cross the other carriageway. You can see the location below –

People crossing the road from the left, while traffic is waiting to come out of Worple Road, can ‘seek refuge’ behind this bollard, while vehicles are turning into it. (The illuminated bollard in this streetview image has been replaced by the increasingly fashionable curved metal one that lies under the car in the image at the top of this post – doubtless the lack of illumination is also ‘to blame’.)

Obscenely, having correctly diagnosed, and then stated, the purpose of this bollard – the protection of vulnerable road users – Councillor Dean demands its removal. That is, he is proposing taking away a piece of street furniture there to protect of pedestrians, in order that incompetent drivers can cut the corner of the junction without risk to their vehicles.

The position of the car perched on the bollard in this latest incident demonstrates quite clearly that the lady driver was, indeed, cutting the corner, and turning in on the wrong side of the road. Despite being responsible for damage to the bollard, and for causing delays to hundreds of other people, I firmly expect she escaped the attentions of the police, when really she was driving without due care and attention.

Let us also remember that Sarah England, who also drove onto this bollard, said

I don’t believe for a second I was driving carelessly or too fast.

Newsflash – driving into a side road on the wrong side of the road (the only way you could have ended up hitting the bollard) is careless. It is only the increasingly consequence-free nature of driving in our towns and cities that deludes you otherwise.

This is a subject quite close to home, because I was knocked off my bicycle in September last year by a lady turning into a side road on the wrong side of the road – she was cutting the corner, and worse, was not looking where she was going. As a consequence I ended up on her bonnet, before bouncing off onto the road as she braked rather suddenly.

This is what is happening here in Wimbledon. Drivers are lazily cutting the corner, and turning into Worple Road, again, on the wrong side of the road – doing so allows them to take the corner rather faster. The bollard is both there to stop them doing this, and, as Councillor Dean notes, before brazenly suggesting its removal, to protect pedestrians.

In an ideal word, of course, bollards like this one in Wimbledon would not be necessary;  we would be able to trust drivers to turn into side roads on the correct side of the road. But drivers have long since proven that they can’t be trusted to do this; that is the very reason why these bollards have sprung up everywhere. Their removal would therefore serve only to facilitate and enable the bad driving that made them necessary in the first place, without consequence for the person behind the wheel, beyond the cost of beating out the pedestrian-shaped dents from their bodywork.

Thanks to @bassjunkieuk

This entry was posted in Inanimate objects, Road safety, The media. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Inanimate object strikes again

  1. You mentioning the “taking corner too fast, entering on wrong side” reminded me of this chap I caught a while back:

    I reacted purely on instinct with the braking as it happened so fast. You’ll notice they not only enter on wrong side of road but also narrowly miss the lady crossing AND the van coming down the road.

  2. This isn’t unusual. If I had a quid for every time that someone had cut a corner as I was approaching a junction in my car I would be able to afford another holiday. The really amazing thing is that I get dirty looks for not getting out of their way. I can’t be alone in being blamed for being in the way of someone driving irresponsibly.

    • Of course, if you are trying to drive round a city fast, taking corners on the wrong side is the only way to get round the corners without slowing down.

      By not slowing and then accelerating again the car is saving fuel and CO2, which is something all you lentil eating tax-dodgers ought to care about. The presence of more and more bicycles on the road makes taking such corners harder -so all this pollution is your fault.

      The Bristol Traffic Project

    • kruidig meisje says:

      Are the roads designed so badly (for cars) that this junction (or junctions in general) are so hard to negotiate? I can hardly remember similar accidents on this side of the water, but then I drive a car less and less, so I’m no expert here.

  3. Paul C says:

    Begs the question of course, what would have happened had a pedestrian been standing there, thinking they were ‘protected’. There are a couple of 90 degree corners near me where it’s not uncommon to be faced with a driver heading towards me, well over the centre line, presumably be cause they are simply too lazy to turn the steering wheel properly.

  4. Do a few dead pedestrians really matter? There are cars being damaged here…

    • Now I’m sure you forgot the sarcasm smiley at the end there….however if you are serious I’m guessing your suggestion would be to remove the traffic island completely, along with the 30mph speed limit and “trust” drivers to pick a speed they feel is safe for the conditions?

  5. Denny says:

    Jesus, that corner is fecking HUGE, how the hell are they hitting that bollard?! That should trigger an automatic re-test before they’re allowed back on the road! I’ve put small lorries around tighter corners than that without any problems, and I’m more used to driving a motorbike or a small two-seater sports car.

    • Indeed – I was going to remark about how lorries don’t seem to have a problem negotiating this corner. I suspect that’s because they’re better driven than the vehicles that are crashing here, rather than due to any properties of the bollard itself.

  6. 1. As the co-owner of a VW Touran (8 years, 30k miles), can I point out that while the suspension is soft enough to discourage driving down country lanes at 80mph, they do go round corners if you turn the wheel. They also have working front lights and reasonable visibility. There is no inherent design flaw that sucks them in toward bollards. They may be less agile than a normal VW golf (which it shares the underpinnings of), but provided you don’t do something stupid that doesn’t matter. They are actually good vehicle for driving round town, m-ways and roads at sensible speeds, with bicycles and other bits of luggage, precisely because they don’t encourage you do drive fast. No acceleration, soft turning, good brakes and stopping distance.

    2. I would consider the repeated hitting of bollards by turning vehicles to be a sign that it is a dangerous crossing -and that the bollard is doing its job protecting pedestrians. The repeated problems show this is a danger spot. Perhaps it is the replacement of a plastic “expendable” bollard with something that actually stops vehicles that is the issue here -drivers have got complacent.

    3. Did the bollard have hi-viz and a helmet on? If not, it clearly was the one at fault.

    4. Regarding cars cutting corners, here’s my video, this is a school run with a child on the tagalong. Car didn’t see the need to care about the oncoming bicycle in its decisions to overtake a bike and then turn in on the wrong side of a road

    • Roddy Pattison says:

      That video is appalling.

    • Jules says:

      Can u recommend a helmet cam?

      • SteveL says:

        That video was from a Veho Muvi on the hbars. Bumpy ride without suspension, low quality but light. Unreliable mount too. Affordable. The contour ones are very high quality but weighty. All handlebar mounts suffer from road shock and only film where the bike is pointing, which is why helmet cameras are more flexible -better coverage of the sides

  7. realcycling says:

    Agree with Steve L. These smug, holier-than-thou bollards have had it easy for too long. They should have insurance and licence plates and pay road tax.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Hah! And I foolishly thought that these things only happened in Australia!
    As a driver & a cyclist I get so MAD when I see the laziness, complete lack of awareness & lack of driving skills exhibited as I commute around Brisbane. They can’t park either! I am convinced they have no idea where the edges of their vehicles are or where they are on the road. On every single road trip I witness drivers turning from a dual lane into a dual lane and going into the other lane next to them. If they can’t even recognise when they get close to another car how can they possibly recognise something like a bike or a pedestrian, let alone a bollard!

  9. Rob says:

    I live locally to said bollard and have seen a number of beached cars stuck on it since it was installed last summer.

    Unfortunately at this busy junction right-turning drivers have a tendency to go even when there’s not enough time to safely complete the manoeuvre and as a result end up cutting off the corner (and going too quickly). I suspect this was the reason it was installed in the first place, as I’d not like to be the pedestrian waiting in the middle of the road who gets struck by a speeding car.

    Of course none of this is the drivers fault! On balance, it is a difficult junction as when you turn right you are stuck in the middle of two lanes of traffic passing close by, and the turn’s not as wide as the street view image makes out but thousands of cars/lorries/buses do it safely every day. If there is a safety issue they should ban turning right IMO.

    Since the last crash (the one mentioned in the article, where the lady had to be cut out the car by the fire brigade) they have painted white lines on the road which ought to encourage a wider turning circle and stop damaging that poor bollard!

  10. Dave H says:

    Been T-boned twice in 14 months first time by 7-seater failing to stop at give way into roundabout (“I can’t see that front corner because of the sloping roof pillar – I’ve hit things before” – Well bloody well allow for that when you are driving the thing!)

    Second time busy and crawling traffic – his lights change to red, mine change and I set off but he decided to start off to ‘squeeze’ in behind queue before our flow gets into the space. Wrecks forks and wheel but I roll over front of car. Apparently £500 for new screen plus bodywork, advised not worth chasing claim, although I have a witness, who has been reluctant to respond to follow up calls.

    All drivers hitting that bollard should be re-tested – such poor car control makes them a massive liability in road safety terms.

  11. Yep cutting corners is wide spread and so are annoyed looks and beeping horns when you are waiting in the correct position to turn right and the driver has to go through the exhausting effort of turning the steering wheel a bit more.
    But why have a go at ‘mums’ and ‘lady drivers’? I’m not used to sexism on this blog.

    • No sexism intended – I’m having a go at the people who are crashing into this bollard, who happen to be mums, and the person who crashed into me last year, who happened to be a woman. It could just as easily have been a man, of course – I make no claims about relative standards of driving.

  12. Towerhil says:

    I live locally too and quite a few junctions around here aren’t straightforward as the roads are two lanes in both directions, with the effect that you have to drive forward in a box junction before turning right. I mitigate the risk of these junctions, however, by not driving like a complete bellend and blaming inanimate objects for jumping out and nobbling my vehicle.

    David Dean invented the “You’ve been Tango’d” Tango ads btw – maybe we’ve got a new name for this practice of bollard-humping?

  13. Pingback: Blaming bollards and trees – and why it’s important | Road Danger Reduction Forum

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