This site has covered closely over the years TfL’s killer junctions in Kings Cross. We have several dozen testimonies of people’s day to day experiences. The recent death of cyclist ‘Deep’ Lee at the junction of Grays Inn Road and York Way despite explicit warnings to TfL of severe problems at the junction led me to suggest that the police should examine whether TfL is liable under the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act. TfL have largely ignored warnings and persisted over many years with basic design failures at that junction.
TfL is about to remodel the junction so I paid it one last visit to the bottom of York Way to try to understand why that junction is so deadly.
Armed with a Stanley Surveyors Tape from Franchi I measured the roads during red light stops. In an entirely non scientific process I tied the tape off to a bit a street furniture close to the kerb, scampered across the road, read the mark at the opposite kerb then subtracted the figure where the tied end crossed the kerb. This is accurate to within a few centimetres, if anyone has a theodolite please feel free to repeat this to millimetric accuracy.
Grays Inn Road (two lanes of traffic) is 7.2 metres wide at the pinch point.
York Way is only 6.65 metres wide, the road narrows as you ride or drive across the junction
But TfL’s own guidance (see below) says that this type of road should be 8 to 8.5 metres wide - the junction is almost two metres too narrow at the York Way end and almost 1.5 metres too narrow on Grays Inn Road.
So on Grays Inn Road two cars can more or less fit side by side
But crossing from Grays Inn Road to York Way traffic faces a 60 degree right turn as well as a road narrowing. This causes the two lane traffic to weave together into one lane as the two cars A and B demonstrate in the pictures.
This is really tough to deal with when you are on a bike. For Deep Lee it was deadly as she sought to find her own space on the road (the police showed me and local Councillors the harrowing footage when they asked me in to discuss the investigation). A narrowing twisting road like this is known as a chicane.
TfL’s own technical guidance sets out standards for such pinch points:
TfL London Cycling Design Standards Chapter 3, page 58, section 3.6.4
Chicanes and pinch-points
It is important to ensure that the feature is designed in such a way that cyclists are neither squeezed nor intimidated. Options include:
• raising driver-awareness of cyclists with an advisory cycle lane (with or without coloured surfacing) and cycle-symbol road markings through the pinch point
• providing a clear one-way width in accordance with figure 3.1
• a cycle bypass that allows cyclists to travel past the obstruction without losing priority or having to ‘give way’.
Figure 3.1 page 58 goes on to set out lane widths that increase with traffic speed and weight of traffic. This is a fast two lane junction with construction HGVs and buses constantly running through it:
Figure 3.1 says: …with buses, HGVs etc….<21-30 mph, 4.0 metres [wide]…>30 mph 4.5 metres [wide]
So for two lanes of traffic the road should be at least 8.0 and preferably 8.5 metres wide according to TfL’s own guidance at the prevailing speed limit. The road at this junction is at its narrowest 6.65 metres according to my amateur measurements.
TfL with the vast resources available to it has been managing a junction for years that does not comply with its own design guidelines, despite stark warnings about safety in reports TfL itself commissioned. This reinforces my calls for a proper investigation of TfL under the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act – in the face of clear evidence about danger the dysfunctional bureaucracy has failed to take adequate action in a timely manner, leading, in my view to death.
There is strong public interest in understanding how such bureaucratic dysfunction has come about in order that we can ensure it doesn’t happen again. It would be great if Caroline Pidgeon as Chair of the GLA Transport Committee could ask the Mayor and his Transport Commissioner whether the York Way/Pentonville Road/Grays Inn Road junction complies with TfL’s London Cycling Design Standards with regards to lane/carriageway width, if it does not when TfL first became aware of this non-compliance, what correspondence TfL has had with the Met Police about the compliance of this junction, why TfL has failed to act to make the junction compliant with its own standards, which officers are responsible, which other major junctions do not comply with TfL’s own Cycling Design Standards, when non-compliant junctions will be rectified etc etc
TfL’s belated plans to widen the junction appear only to have emerged thanks to arm twisting by the Olympics Delivery Authority, and these plans are mired in controversy. Behind the scenes our excellent local Councillors Convery (Islington, Lab) and Braithewaite (Camden, LibDem) are both pressing TfL hard to consult locally and implement plans that work for cyclists. The brilliant Sophie Talbot has enlisted Councillors and GLA members to track down the latest plans TfL engineers are working from, but we can’t even get hold of them. It’s a sorry state of affairs.