The revenge of the inanimate object

Last year I wrote about the mysterious case of a bollard in Wimbledon that had the temerity to make drivers crash into it.

Almost unbelievably, the council had placed a bollard in a position where drivers cutting the corner, driving on the wrong side of the road, and not looking where they are going, would inevitably strike it. Inattentive, unobservant and hasty drivers are being unfairly punished – and put at great danger – by these menacing stationary objects.

It seems the menace is not limited to south London. A bollard in north London, on Camden Road, also has a fearsome reputation for making drivers crash into it.

A WOMAN was airlifted to hospital after her car flipped over at one of Camden’s most dangerous junctions on Tuesday. The driver, in her 20s, had to be cut out of her car and was treated for minor injuries after the crash at the Camden Road junction with Brecknock Road in Camden Town.

The dramatic scene was a repeat of an accident this time last year when a car overturned at the same spot, leading to calls for safety measures to be put in place. Witnesses said it was the 10th crash at the junction this year and that accidents happened on a “weekly basis”.

Patrick O’Kane, 52, who was watching from the Unicorn Pub opposite, said: “The car went straight into the concrete island in the middle of the road. She didn’t see it, because only a few weeks ago another car crashed into it and knocked the yellow boulder off the top.”

Yes, the driver didn’t see a hulking lump of concrete in the road, because the enormous garish yellow beacon that normally prevents drivers from crashing into garish yellow beacons had been crashed into by a previous driver.

Here’s the offending object –

Screen shot 2013-04-10 at 09.42.04

Just as in Wimbledon, it seems the island has been put in place to protect pedestrians waiting to cross the road. But honestly, who cares about them, when inattentive drivers – ordinary, hard-working drivers – are at such great risk of flipping their cars over when they don’t look where they’re going?

Quite what the ‘safety measures’ that are being demanded would constitute is difficult to grasp. I can only imagine it would involve the removal of anything a driver might ever crash into, or the coating of every single object in gaudy reflective paint.

The driver speaks out

A BARRISTER who had a lucky escape after her car flipped over a traffic island on a road with a ­his­tory of traffic accidents has warned that cutting basic costs could have left her paralysed.

Carolyn Blore Mitchell, 51, who had to be cut out of her overturned car and airlifted to hospital, did not see a concrete island in the middle of Camden Road, Camden Town, because, it is claimed, the bollard there had not been replaced after the last accident.

She said: “It’s lucky I wasn’t driving my old car, which was 11 years old. Who knows if the airbags in that would have cushioned me from the windscreen. If my face had been mashed up then TfL really would have had something to answer to and they wouldn’t have scrimped on simple jobs like this again.”

Quite right. Illuminated keep left bollards should be replaced the very second someone crashes into them, not just to stop people crashing into them, but to stop people crashing into the kerbs underneath the bollards, which the bollards are designed to stop people crashing into.

And thank heavens this driver had chosen her car with better airbags, so she can crash into things with relative impunity (risk compensation, anyone?).

01_Camden Road_car upsidedown

Ms Blore Mitchell said: “If this many people have had accidents there then it’s not just me, it really is Camden’s collision corner. The last person who crashed before me was a cab driver, someone who was a very experienced driver.”

It’s not just you – it was also a taxi driver, who, as we all know, are never in a hurry to get anywhere, and are always patient and attentive.

She added: “There were no signs warning anyone of this island slap bang in the middle of the road. At the very least it should have been painted a different colour so it didn’t just blur into the road.

Perhaps, as well as warning signs, there should be bollards – pre-bollards? – alerting drivers to the presence of a bollard further down the road? Good idea.

“If they had just replaced the bollard as they should have, then we could have saved all the time and money for an air ambulance, an ambulance, two fire engines, police time and the whole road closed off all afternoon, which must have cost the public thousands of pounds in total.”

Yes. Replace bollards when they get crashed into by drivers, so drivers don’t crash into them.

Or – this might sound radical – drivers could not turn across junctions on the wrong side of the road, and look out for objects that might be in their way?

No, that would never work.

This entry was posted in Dangerous driving, Inanimate objects, London, Road safety, Transport for London. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The revenge of the inanimate object

  1. inge says:

    i think the drivers should wear a helmet and the cars too.

  2. Sam says:

    Wonderful blog post. Are you being sarcastic at all? 😉

  3. Barnie says:

    Jeepers, how hard do you need to whack them to flip a ton+ car over?

  4. inge says:

    And hiviz, the bollards should wear screaming loud hiviz with thin high flags on top of them.And those flags move and flashes with lights when a car approaches. And if that doen’t help one hears the voice of Maggie Thatcher:I have one thing to say: you turn if you want to.The lady’s not for turning!

  5. jamie says:

    this bollard – one of the falling and rising variety, installed to protect a pedestrianised town centre – gets regularly hit by ‘victims’. it is incredibly well signposted. but people still get caught by it.

    obviously the burton mail has labelled the bollard ‘notorius. oddly though, the bollard at the other end of the road is hardly ever hit.

    • It looks like someone has crashed into it just last week.

    • I wonder if the answer to the problem of vehicles hitting rising bollards is to install traffic lights – regular traffic lights – which go green for only a second or two to let the bus (or other permitted vehicle) begin to cross the white line, then the lights turn red again straight away.

      That way, any driver who hits the bollard has definitely run a red light, and there can be no doubt that they were innocent victims.

      Or maybe that’s how they’re operated already?

    • Fred says:

      Surely if it’s getting hit it proves that it’s needed? Or they could put a camera in and charge the drivers £200 a time to drive through…

  6. Ha marvellous!

    Whilst I appreciate the sentiment I do have to think, if this were a design problem that caused cyclists to regularly have crashes, or if it were a design that cyclists chose to ignore we would say it was a design problem.

    Surely as part of sustainable safety we should hold all modes to the same standard, the road design should not allow people to have significant crashes and if single vehicle rollovers are happening regularly, even low speed ones, it does seem to be a design issue.

    • I agree, up to a point.

      But it’s hard to imagine what a ‘sustainable safety’ intervention would like here. Sustainable safety suggests the road environment should be predictable; but these bollards are pretty much universal at these kinds of junctions. Maybe this corner isn’t quite as sweeping as in other places, which would explains why people are cutting it and unexpectedly crashing into the bollard.

      I don’t think the answer should be to make the corner more sweeping; that will only encourage faster driving, and yet more corner cutting. Sustainable safety can only get you so far if people aren’t prepared to look where they’re going.

  7. arallsopp says:

    I hope the bollard was wearing a helmet. If not, its its own fault really.

  8. mikedroit says:

    More signs would not help as people also say that they become confused by too many signs.

  9. jonokenyon says:

    Reblogged this on Jono Kenyon and commented:
    It’s the bollards that jump out that you want to watch…

  10. I need to point out that most “road safety” engineers won’t actually realise that you are being sarcastic here.

    They actually think exactly like this, and their persistent commitment to make the highway (and car) environments “forgiving” to careless/dangerous/reckless, law and/or rule-breaking drivers has connived and colluded with this violence.

    Just throw this crap back at anybody who complains about rule or law breaking by cyclists and/or pedestrians.

    And go for stricter liability legislation for motorists to be assumed guilty in collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists. After all, if motorists are assumed to be so rubbish, we have to assume that they are so incompetent and/or unwilling to drive properly as a matter of course that they have to be assumed to be guilty unless they can prove otherwise. (And that is for any highway where motorists are anywhere near cyclists/pedestrians, so applies whatever kind of highway engineering you want).

  11. Fred says:

    I came across a mini cab which had managed to roll itself on the Euston Road in traffic which was pretty much stationary. The talents of these drivers are unparalleled.

    Seriously though, I cycle on Camden Road on my way back from work and this woman should be banned from driving. It is a traffic island in the middle of the road, it didn’t sneak up on her, it’s not unusual and it is perfectly reasonable to expect drivers to miss it bollard or no bollard. We can’t put a bollard on every corner, every other vehicle, pedestrians, parked cars, dogs & cats just so people like this lady think they might be able to look where they’re going.

  12. To have rolled the car over like that, I suspect she must have been speeding through the lights (amber gambling?).

    Surely a car driven through that junction at safe and sensible speed wouldn’t turn over like that, would it?

  13. Andrea says:

    She could have been driving either from Camden Road (in which case, she has no excuse, because there is a similar set of concrete islands before the junction) or from Brecknock Road (in which case, her action is inexcusable: she should have been turning carefully, because pedestrians may be waiting half way on Camden Road.)

    Either way, the driver is wrong and the journalist should have pointed it out in the article.

    That is why we don’t read papers anymore; they are written by non-thinking idiots.

    One needs to read our star bloggers to find the facts.

  14. 3rdWorldCyclinginGB says:

    Re the sustainable safety aspect, here are a couple of Dutch examples wth road layouts analogous to the Camden one (though obviously Camden lacks decent cycle paths).

    The differences are fairly subtle but probably signifcant. The give way markings for the crossing traffic going in the opposite drection are right up against the end of the bollard, not behind a pedestrian crossing as in Camden; you don’t get a pedestrian crossing on this arm of the junction in NL, and in one of the instances a curved line on the road guides the left turning traffic.

    I’ve no idea whether or not these (and other) bollards get taken out regularly in NL, maybe a Dutch reader knows. Personally I can’t think of a bollard in my part of Surrey that doesn’t get whacked at least once a year, never mind these high profile cases. It might be interesting to do an foi request to ask what proportion of bollards have to be attended to every year.

  15. Islands at signalised junctions are generally provided to carry an extra set of traffic signals so people can see the lights and to separate opposing traffic streams on the basis that someone might hit the island before another vehicle. They are sometimes used by pedestrians, but if a straight through crossing with a green man, the junction should be set up to allow people to cross in one go.

    There is no legal requirement for traffic signs or lit bollards on these islands, just that they need to be conspicuous – it never ceases to amaze me that people hit them – they are going too fast or not paying attention in my view – I hope the local council goes after the driver for the cost of repairs!

  16. Mike Chalkley says:

    Shouldn’t the council be able to claim 3rd party damages from the driver’s insurance company? If it was, surely there’s a commercial opening for firms to provide emergency restoration services (at an appropriate fee, of course) for putting bollards (and railings, lights etc) in place with no delay?

    Why should the taxpayer be liable for sorting out accident damage? This cost should be covered by the driver’s insurance! Emergency services should also be able to reclaim their costs. That way the cost of motoring would be fairly met by motorists.

  17. Alex Taylor says:

    Those who enjoyed this story may enjoy the one about Newark’s recently enlarged and modified bypass roundabout. I haven’t got time right now to provide any links (I’m at work and shouldn’t be doing this), but a search may turn up some amusing insights…

  18. Neil says:

    It does seem, especially at large junctions, that most drivers start turning far too early and end on a diagonal to the new lane. Rather than a later and more consistent turn that lines them up with the new lane.

  19. Pingback: Another attack by an inanimate object | As Easy As Riding A Bike

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