Last week it was revealed that Barnet, shamefully, currently holds the record for the highest number of road deaths in London. Last year in this borough nine people lost their lives, and a staggering total of 1,520 people were injured, including 241 pedestrians.
Now who do we turn to for a response to this unwelcome news? Step forward Barnet's road czar: Councillor and Assembly Member Brian Coleman, who bears responsibility for such matters in his capacity as Cabinet Member for the Environment.
Brian is, as we know, is a firm supporter of the right of drivers to move swiftly around the streets of Broken Barnet with no obstruction, especially if driving in a car or taxi charged (at our expense) with the honour of carrying his divine being from one social function to another. Brian, no doubt, would prefer to be conveyed at top speed around the borough, in presidential style, with MetPro outriders, in his own designated traffic lane, admired by gawping residents, waving handkerchiefs and wishing him godspeed on his journey.
And Brian knows what he is talking about on the subject of safety and speed limits, of course. He is an expert, in fact, having himself lost his own licence, not so many years ago - for speeding.
Councillor Coleman is not so supportive, you may have noticed, of the rights of drivers with cars that are not moving, ie parked outside a resident's house. Because he only approves of cars moving around unimpeded, stationary cars must be fined, and firmly encouraged to get back on the road. So keen is Brian on this vital flow of traffic, in fact, pour encourager les autres, he has actually hiked all parking charges up to an exorbitant level, and removed free car parking spaces from CPZ zones, thus providing a welcome addition to the perpetual motion of vehicle movement here in Broken Barnet. A brilliant strategy, we must agree.
In 2003, Coleman was described by Richard Littlejohn in The Sun as 'a hero' for his stated determination to make Barnet a hump free zone within five years. The then Leader corrected this statement by asserting that removals would be done on a case by case basis. Since then, Coleman has continued his war against traffic calming, of course. He has done his bit in other ways, too, for the cause of traffic flow: seeing no contradication in suggesting that all roadwork temporary traffic lights should be banned from the borough and replaced at whatever cost by workers with stop and go signs, because the lights annoy drivers in a hurry, whilst sanctioning the loss of funding to lollipop attendants at our primary schools, with stop and go signs, who are protecting the lives of small children.
Richard Littlejohn has recently recanted his admiration for Brian after a tragic incident involving an obstinate One Barnet parking ticket machine outside a fish and chip shop in Finchley Central. And I wonder what Mr Littlejohn thinks of our not so heroic record breaking road death record now?
On local BBC news yesterday there was an item about Barnet's road accident figures. Local residents such as Dr Julia Hines and Dollis School headteacher Colin Dowland spoke of their concerns about traffic safety: Mr Dowland's petition in regard to his lollipop crossing attendant appears simply to have been ignored by the council, which is shameful, if predictable.
It had been expected that Brian Coleman would take part in this discussion. Strangely, he was unavailable for comment: not like our Brian to miss a media opportunity, but then perhaps his advisors have their sweaty little hands over his rentagob utterances these days.
Council spokespersons have spoken, however, and suggested, in a wincemaking headline story in the local Times group paper that it is 'inevitable' road deaths will be high in Barnet. Really? How so? Oh, because we have a lot of roads. I see. And anyway, shrugs our Tory council, those nasty big roads are the responsibility of Transport for London, and if they are dangerous, well: no good blaming Barnet, no blood on their hands, is there?
Yes, actually, I think there is.
I agree that it is inevitable that road deaths will be high in Barnet. It will be so as long as we have in power a smug, self satisfied Tory administration which puts the rights and well being of speeding drivers before the lives and safety of children and vulnerable residents.
Drivers convicted of careless driving and other offences are sometimes sent on courses where they have to watch footage showing in graphic detail the fatal consequences of such irresponsible behaviour. I think it should be a requirement of all councillors in charge of road safety to do the same.
Those who defend the removal of all traffic calming measures are usually reluctant to think about the results of injuries caused by speeding drivers. If you try to discuss this, you will be accused by the militant driving lobby of being subjective and emotive. (Just wait for the comments here: warning - Mrs Angry has her blue pencil out).
I really don't give a damn: I've had to witness two deaths from accidents caused by selfish, cowardly drivers driving in residential areas at unbelievable speeds. In both cases those responsible fled the scene, leaving their victim to die.
Take it from me, helplessly watching the life ebbing away from the eyes of someone thrown out of a car hit by a manically speeding hit and run killer is all it takes to leave you with a lifelong loathing of irresponsible driving, and I don't care if this is a subjective reaction: of course it bloody well is. This category of selfish, unscrupulous driver has to be deterred from speeding, and traffic calming does this. It is not just a matter of humps and crossings, and mini roundabouts - there are many different approaches, and yes, I would say on a case by case basis, each location requiring individual consideration.
There is barely a week goes by in this borough without a serious road accident: only yesterday there was a crash in Hendon involving no fewer than five cars. It's time our Tory councillors shook themselves out of their complacency and took urgent action to make the roads of Broken Barnet a safer place. Perhaps if they spent less time and energy devoted to One Barnet schemes for making money out of traffic management, and more devoted to the well being of the residents they are supposed to represent, we might actually start to think they are worthy of the job we pay them to do.
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