Wednesday 2 January 2019

Guest Post: Accidents caused by the Mile End Junction Configuration

The aftermath of a car crash into a residential building in Grove Road.

Readers will know that the no right turns fiasco at Mile End Junction has been something MEOTRA, Mile End Residents Association (MERA), councillors and others have tried repeatedly to resolve. In this guest post, a resident of Grove Road describes a recent deeply-worrying incident.

If you have walked down the south end of Grove Road in the last couple of months you will have seen the sorry state of our railings, walls and front garden. This was the result of a road traffic accident on a Sunday night in October. A northbound car pulled out to do a U-turn without checking the mirror; the speeding car behind swerved to avoid it, crossed the road and ploughed into a traffic sign outside our front door, uprooting it and projecting it with considerable force into our railing, demolishing the upper wall, twisting the handrail so that the lower wall was also dislodged, causing damage to the tiling and poking a big hole in the boundary wall with our neighbours.

Luckily no one was hurt, though any pedestrian who happened to be passing would have sustained serious injuries if not worse. An alarming aspect of this was that because we had just had the front decorated, there was scaffolding covering the property, and the impact of the accident shifted the ground beneath one of the scaffolding poles. Happily the structure was robust and remained stable. What shook us the most, though, was the realisation that, with a larger vehicle, or a little more speed and force, the whole lot could have ended up in our daughter’s bedroom.

The blame for this incident clearly lies in several quarters. An underlying cause, though, must surely be the ridiculous no right turn at the Mile End junction. I know that MEOTRA and others have been campaigning for years about this. What happened that Sunday night is further evidence of the idiocy of this policy. A large number of vehicles coming up Burdett Road need to turn eastwards. Though a U-turn immediately after the lights was illegal, many performed it, and it regularly caused traffic problems for those coming down Grove Road to Mile End – already a traffic black spot for much of the day, as you will all know.

I wrote to TfL, as did our neighbours, and we got the same polite but bland standard letter. When I wrote back to explain that they had completely missed the point of my first letter, I got virtually the same reply back again! However, shortly after that they did change their policy to allow U-turns after 150 yards. But that means that the first legal opportunity for a U-turn is after the traffic lights for the bus station, and unsurprisingly that is where most people do it – just at the place where traffic accelerates after the lights. It is a recipe for disaster – we feel like sitting ducks here. Indeed, a couple of months after our incident, exactly the same thing happened again, at exactly the same place – luckily this time with only minor damage to the vehicles involved.

It is still completely beyond me why TfL cannot see how crazy the Mile End traffic lights are. Every wave of northbound traffic results in some U-turns – there must be hundreds of people performing this dangerous manoeuvre every day. This is a clear indication that the no right turn from Burdett Road is unrealistic and unacceptable. A lot of drivers coming up from parts of Poplar, Limehouse and South Bow need to journey eastwards. The no right turn policy makes the U-turns inevitable; the alternative would be a long journey through Bow’s already often clogged and polluted smaller roads. Allowing U-turns, as they have now done, is a tacit acknowledgement of this, but it is unsafe and doesn’t solve the real problem. A wide arterial road such as Mile End Road/Bow Road is much more suited to such through traffic.

I also fail to see what the issue at Mile End can be. Surely with the very careful and slow sequence of traffic lights, an additional 15 seconds or so for a filter light allowing traffic to turn right from Burdett Road would not add dramatically to the waiting time, and could be added without risk to cyclists or pedestrians.

We’d love to hear if anyone in MEOTRA has any suggestions as to how we can take this further. TfL really need to acknowledge now that the big traffic light experiment at Mile End did not get it right; it failed to take into account local needs, and all of us – residents, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists – are paying for their mistake in increased congestion, pollution, and risks to safety. We would really like to see a change of heart here – before someone gets hurt. I fear that may only be a matter of time.

[If you do have an ideas to help resolve this ongoing issue, please email]