The Lavender Hill / Latchmere Road junction is being rebuilt

It’s been planned for some time, but works are now underway on rebuilding the Lavender Hill / Queenstown Road / Elspeth Road junction. It follows an investigation by the Coroner, John Caller, in to the tragic death in 2016 of Lucia Ciccioli, who was caught under an articulated lorry when the two ‘straight ahead’ westbound lanes merged to one. The lorry driver in the left hand of the two merging lanes was likely to have been more focussed on the lane to the right (and maybe also a phone call he was making at the time), and didn’t notice Lucia in the cycle lane (further left) also trying to merge in to the one lane after the junction, who also lost her balance when she hit a severe pothole. He didn’t notice after he had hit her either, and carried on for 200 metres with her trapped under the lorry until a driver flagged him down.

One of the purposes of Coroner’s reports is to establish what went wrong and try to prevent future deaths, and in this case the Coroner came to a very clear conclusion that the fundamental design of the junction, as well as poor maintenance that had led to a large pothole, placed cyclists like Lucia in a vulnerable position:

“There is an inadequate cycle lane leading up to the traffic lights. There is inadequate protection generally for cyclists riding towards the junction… particularly for those cyclists that wish to go straight over the junction towards Lavender Hill, or for those that wish to turn right into Latchmere Road. The narrow aspect of Lavender Hill immediately past the junction places cyclists in a vulnerable position. The dip in the road in Lavender Hill is dangerous and in need of urgent repair.”

He sent something called a “Preventing Future Death report” to Wandsworth Council and TfL, urging them to reconsider the junction and what could be done to make it safer. This left TfL and Wandsworth with a clear steer to do something about the junction. The immediate result was that the previous situation shown below – with two ‘straight ahead’ lanes merging to one – was eliminated, with the right hand lane becoming ‘right turn only’. This got rid of the clearly dangerous merging of numerous lanes just after the junction.

The pandemic, and changes to travel patterns, saw more changes – with the ‘straight ahead’ cycle lane being given some rather limited protection with a row of plastic bollards. These were by no means a miracle fix, but they did give a clear indication to vehicles that they need to keep right as they pass through the not-especially-well-aligned junction and leave some space for cyclists.

The left turn lane was also closed, to allow a clearer cycle lane that was not crossed by left turning traffic. This was controversial, as while most westbount traffice turning left does so on Cedars Road to avoid getting getting sent round more of the Clapham Common gyratory than necessary, it has made longer journeys for some residents near the junction.

As far as we are aware there have been no more serious injuries on this stretch since these changes. But the junction remains busy and poorly laid out, and has a lot of minor accidents – as well as a small but surprising amount of north-south traffic getting confused by the strange alignment of Latchmere & Elspeth Road and going the wrong side of the traffic island! So it’s now being rebuilt properly, with the main works shown in Wandsworth & TfL’s diagram above.

Most of what is happening now will make the ‘trial’ approaches that have been in use for the last few months permanent. In line with the Coroner’s recommendation, one of the most important changes will be removing the situation where two lanes merge to one for those going straight ahead, in the middle of the junction. This is always dangerous as cycles at the side of cars looking the other way as they try to merge get pushed out of the way and injured.

The left turn lane shown above that’s been blocked off with temporary barriers will be permanently separated by a narrow traffic island, and become a separate stretch of cycle lane. On the other side of the junction the lane will continue, with s narrow traffic island where the bollards currently are, so that cars and bicycles coming out of the junction are clearly separate for the first stretch, finally removing the design that proved fatal for poor Laura.

Smaller changes will happen elsewhere: the long traffic island on Elspeth Road will be mostly removed to improve the north/south alignment, and a small new area of greenery and ‘sustainable drainage’ (an area f plants that absorbs rainwater) is likely to be added to slightly shelter the really wide part of the pavement from the roadway.

It’s inevitably a bit disruptive – but conveniently there’s something much more disruptive to traffic just a little further along the road, where the railway bridge on St John’s Hill is completely closed to traffic for repairs for several months (our picture below!). So the works have been coordinated to happen at the same time.

Another change is that the whole of Elspeth Road will be confirmed as part of a 20mph zone, as shown below.

This removes one of the curious anomalies in local speed limits: Most of the roads around Elspeth Road are already running at 20mph (as shown in TfL’s 2021 speed limits map below – where green is 20mph and blue is 30mph). Elspeth is a lovely Victorian back street, whose main misfortune was to be just about aligned with Latchmere Road and so deemed suitable to become a ‘main’ A road and have the associated 30mph speed limit. As such it’s become one of those London ‘South Circular’ type nightmares full of long distance traffic, when it doesn’t really have the width and space – even after parking on one side was removed altogether and parking on the other side was pushed up on to the pavement. This change comes on top of the recent experimental (but likely to be made permanent) conversion of Lavender Hill to a 20mph street.

Meanwhile at the bottom end of Latchmere Road, there’s a campaign to have a pedestrian crossing installed between Amies Street and Sabine Road. As the main connection between the Shaftesbury Estate and Asda / the wider town centre (and the Fox & Hounds pub!), this is a notable desire line that sees a lot of pedestrian traffic; there is currently a pedestrian crossing but it is about 400 feet further up the hill and not well aligned with Sabine Road. This has been a subject of concern for a good few years now – as evidenced by this question that Leonie Cooper put to the Mayor of London back in 2018 asking whether a central island could be created to slow down traffic and provide a half-way point for pedestrians crossing –

My constituents are interested in whether a refuge can soon be installed, plus signage encouraging traffic to slow, at the desire line crossing point across Latchmere Road, close to the Sabine Road junction?

I understand that Transport for London (TfL) met with you and local residents on site near the Sabine Road junction on 19 January 2018, in response to concerns raised during Mayor’s Question Time in November 2017 (question 2017/4437).

TfL is carrying out a collision study on Latchmere Road, and has commissioned speed and pedestrian movement surveys. This work will inform proposals for pedestrian refuges and measures to reduce speed at the junction. Subject to funding availability, any proposed changes would likely be implemented in 2019

It’s not clear what came of the outcomes of the traffic surveys that TfL refer to. However there’s now a petition on Change.org by a local resident asking for the issue to be looked at again with a view to creating a crossing at the location shown below, which is addressed to Wandsworth Council (though TfL also need to be content with changes here, as unlike Lavender Hill which is managed by Wandsworth, Latchmere Road is one of the Red Routes that TfL control). It’s never easy to get new infrastructure built, but it pays to keep it high on local agendas – so if you are local and support this we’d encourage you to sign it.

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