Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 3 January 2014

Crossing Globe Road near Stepney Green tube station - it could be a bit easier

I'm really crap at crossing roads, I can't read the traffic signals (never learned to drive) and so tend to cross with an above-average amount of caution, and often plenty of mocking from whoever's with me ;)

Whenever I'm crossing an unfamiliar road where the traffic looks a bit confusing I tend to wait until a 'crossing cycle' has ended so that I can watch how it starts and see when it's supposed to be safe for me to cross.

The first time I encountered Globe Road, which is stage left of Stepney Green station's exit on Mile End, I realised that I was going to have to make a bit of an effort rather than meekly wait for my allotted time. In fact there isn't an allotted time for pedestrians and we must judge for ourselves when the occasional break in traffic will let us cross. Generally I just wait until a bus on Mile End Road travels past heading towards Mile End station / Bow Church (fortunately this happens regularly) and cross under its 'cover' as nothing can drive in or our while one of those goes past in parallel.

There are several traffic routes into and out of Globe Road:
  1. Traffic turns left from Mile End Road into Globe Road, coming from the direction of Stepney Green
  2. Traffic turns left from Globe Road (by Ladbrokes in picture below) onto Mile End (it cannot turn right onto Mile End)
  3. Traffic turns right into Globe Road, driving across Mile End Road, from the opposite side of the road.
I bet that's a bit confusing, let's have a picture.

Pinched from Google Maps with green arrows drawn on by me.

Traffic waiting to turn right into Globe Road (number 3 in the list) is the cyclist and three silver-coloured cars facing towards the photographer (Google Maps).

All three traffic routes are controlled by traffic lights however as far as I can see, after two years of using this crossing, there is never a point in the cycle where they all stop at once to let pedestrians cross. Pedestrians must wait for Globe Road exiting traffic to be stopped, then keep an eye on the other two directions.

After seeing a cyclist dust himself down after a minor collision (didn't witness the actual collision) I wondered how many accidents there might have been at that crossing. I then wondered if the confusion about when to cross means that we're all a bit more careful, resulting in fewer accidents. I had a lot of time to wonder about plenty of things given that I was standing at the crossing at the time hoping for a break in the traffic ;)

There's a page on Tower Hamlets' website which has information about requesting a new pedestrian crossing:
"A pedestrian crossing cannot always be provided in the location requested. Following a request, each site is surveyed and the results compared with national criteria to judge whether the location is appropriate.

The main factors measured are the number of people crossing and the amount of traffic. Other factors include the number of injuries on the road near the site, sight lines for approaching traffic, parking demand and local features such as hospitals, schools and shops.

Once the site is approved funding will be sought for implementation."

So I asked them if they'd build me a proper pedestrian crossing!

"Dear [blah]

[Pre-amble bit asking where the actual online form was for requesting a pedestrian crossing]

...My request relates to Globe Road, off Mile End Road, just by Stepney Green station. It's a bit of a mess to be honest, in terms of knowing when to cross safely. I've no idea how many accidents there are though my request is prompted by seeing the post-incident events last week when a cyclist with a grazed leg and a bent bicycle was chatting to a policeman about his recent mishap.

It's quite possible that there are relatively few accidents for the simple reason that, with so few clues for pedestrians to know when it's safe to cross, their attention to the road is heightened - mine certainly is. However because there's no timed opportunity for pedestrians we are waiting for a natural lull in traffic, or when someone lets us across, or when a bus is passing (blocking off entrance in or out of the road thereby making it safe to cross).

My request for a crossing is perhaps less to do with avoiding accidents (I'm all in favour, obviously) but more with just making it easier to get to the other side.

I note that the first line of the criteria relates to 'the number of people crossing and the amount of traffic' but that doesn't take account of the type of traffic at that crossing. There are three routes in or out of the road and the flow of the lines of traffic seems to be sequential but without including a sequence for pedestrians (or at least it's not at all obvious). This means that there's no point at which it's guaranteed that no traffic will flow in or out, which makes it a bit hard to cross. It's not really the amount of traffic that's the problem, it's that it's coming from all directions.

Fit young people don't worry about these things and zip across the road, confidently negotiating breaks between cars. Relatively fit and relatively young people like me manage well enough but I think a crossing here would make it easier and pleasanter for everyone to get to and from Stepney Green station.

I've attached a picture [it's the one above - Jo], it's a screenshot of Google Maps streetview with green arrows stuck on (by me) to show the three sequences / directions in which traffic flows. There is clearly a crossing there, but no timed sequence or visual cues for pedestrians to guide them when it's safe to use it.

Many thanks,

They acknowledged my email and then a short while later I got a nice response from them with a bit of information from Transport for London inserted into it. Since the exchange was all good-humoured, and I can kind of see their point, I'm not going to name names or post the entirety of their response - but here is a summary of some of the comments made:

They (TfL) have previously (recently) looked into the feasibility of introducing a pedestrian crossing here (1) but despite large volumes of pedestrians using it, few collisions (see below) have happened and, for several reasons, the resulting report was 'no' to a special pedestrian crossing. They did like the idea of there being a 'green man' installed to enable vulnerable users to cross safely and at a reasonable pace however the report concluded that to do so they'd have to ban left-turning traffic from Mile End Road into Globe Road. Alas this would need to be enforced (because motorists tend to ignore these, apparently [!]) and we'd end up getting into a bit of a problem with diverting traffic onto other residential streets / massive queues and general woes. If an opportunity arose to improve the crossing they'd be up for that I think, but I suppose there's unlikely to be one.

Those who like walking can walk further into Globe Road and cross a bit further down near the Post Office where it's slightly easier (there's no pedestrian crossing there but it's a nice straight line of sight so at least the cars aren't turning into you at that point), but not ideal for anyone with mobility issues. (They didn't suggest doing that by the way!).

(1) I wonder what prompted them to look into it - perhaps they periodically go through all their crossings and review them, or possibly lots of other people have asked.

Cyclist accidents - at January 2014
1 accident involving a cyclist on Globe Road and 9 at the junction with Mile End Road in the last 3 years. 

Possibly this didn't include the cyclist I saw, either because of the timing or the non-severity of his collision - he was chatting to a Police Officer / Community Support Officer but they might have just been checking he was OK rather than taking a report. There could be umpteen near-misses (2) or minor prangs / dented wheels that go unreported.

Pedestrian accidents - at January 2014
4 collisions between pedestrians at this junction in the last three years - this is apparently lower than the rate of pedestrian accidents at other similar junctions.

I don't know how similar they are (traffic volume, right next to a tube station, three traffic streams), also I don't know how seriously hurt the people were, I'm guessing it's a bit harder to be a near-miss if it's a car rather than a bicycle that's colliding with you.

(2) near-misses are by definition rather under-reported - because people avoid disaster and survive - yet information from them can be extremely useful. 

Edit 15 November 2014
I realise that visually impaired people will have a particularly difficult time in getting across as they can't judge how quickly a car will turn into Globe Road and whether or not they've got a chance to nip across - also I'm assuming that the car-that's-turning-in is sufficiently far away and / or masked by other traffic noises that it would be difficult to hear and locate it.

According to a news report from 2010
"Nine crossings in Tower Hamlets fail to meet minimum government guidelines – one of the highest numbers of any London borough.

The figures were revealed after London Assembly Liberal Democrat leader Caroline Pidgeon put Mayor Boris Johnson under the hammer last week, asking him how many pedestrian crossings failed to meet basic standards.

It was revealed 115 pedestrian crossings across London do not meet Department of Transport guidelines, failing to provide the minimum time for people to cross and sonic aids for the vision impaired."
However, there isn't a formal crossing at Globe Road so this cannot be included in that. It's a busy crossing and you can't get anywhere to the left of Stepney Green without passing across it so I think it should be friendlier to the many pedestrians who cross there.

Collisions I've spotted via Twitter and elsewhere
I realised that traffic reports are often filed on Twitter but might not be more widely publicised, so I thought I'd collect some here that I've become aware of.

26 December 1863
Original article: 

"on the evening of 26th December I was at Mr. John's, Mile-end-road, and saw the prisoner - he was racing; he was in a cart and horse - there was another cart alongside of him - this was in the Mile-end-road; Globe-road crosses the Mile-end-road - I saw an old gentleman knocked down in Globe-road by the horse the prisoner was driving - there is a crossing there across the road - there were not many persons about - the two horses and carts were racing together; one was trying to get before the other - it was pretty light; it was about 5 o'clock, between 5 and 6."

19 April 2011
Original tweet:

23 March 2012
Original tweet:

10 July 2012
Original tweet:

19 July 2013
Original tweet:

20 December 2013
Original tweet:

5 February 2014
Original tweet:

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