How does an important warning sign go missing and, even though major collisions occur, this does not prompt municipal officials, police or news media to detect, publicize and correct the problem? The following discussion of several collisions is a smaller issue compared to the much broader problem of how road safety problems come to be hidden from the general public. Let us first conduct a detailed review of the historical safety problems at the Brydges Street site in London, Ontario and then we will return to the broader issue.
On the evening of December 17, 2020 a single vehicle collision occurred at a curve of Brydges Street in London, Ontario. An eastbound Chevrolet Equinox SUV collided with several roadside objects just east of the intersection with Cornish Street. It was not the first time that such a collision occurred at this location. Was it a coincidence or was it a safety problem with the road? These are common questions that crop up in neighbourhoods across North America. But often there are no real answers. Yet, at this site, we can conclusively determine that a warning sign became missing for many months and nothing was done about it.
The two photos below show further results of the collision on the evening of December 17, 2020.
The four GoogleMaps views below show the collision site on Brydges Street at Cornish Street in London, Ontario. The first photo shows a location just past a curve where the above impact occurred and it also shows an area preceding the curve where a warning sign became missing.
The next photo shows a view looking east with an orange oval showing the area where the impact occurred on December 17, 2020. The three street views below were reportedly taken by Google in July, 2019.
We want to focus on the last Googlemaps street view shown below. In particular, we want to focus on the new utility pole that is highlighted by the orange oval. Note that this pole does not contain any signage on it. We will return to this matter later once we review some historical photos of the site.
We also want to draw the reader’s attention to the bottom of the pole shown in the above photo. There is a clump of earth surrounding the pole that suggests that the pole was recently replaced. Remember that this view by Googlemaps was taken in July of 2019. Later in this article we will be showing our own photos taken around April 9, 2019 where we observe a similar clump of earth at the base of the pole.
Returning to the collision of December 17, 2020, on the following afternoon the extent of the devastation could be appreciated as noted in our photos below. The next three photos show the tire marks of the eastbound Equinox as it left the roadway and struck the area where the Bell Canada trucks are shown in the background.
The photo above shows the tire marks approaching the camera. The Equinox did not appear to change direction much but appeared to follow the straight line of the road without following the curve.
The extent of the devastation in the vicinity of the impact is shown in the seven site photos below, taken on the afternoon of December 18, 2020.
Now we will revert back to the history of this site by looking at a number of photos. Two photos from the years 2013 and 2015 (shown below) establish that a yellow, curve, warning sign has existed at least since that time. This sign was mounted on the second pole west of the intersection with Cornish Street.
Detection of collisions at the curve is not always easy. As an example the following five photos from May 26, 2018 reveal that an eastbound motorcycle collided with the Bell Canada junction box, leaving minimal evidence of the occurrence.
A tire scrub at the south curb of Brydges, east of Cornish, is shown in the two photos below. This established the point where the motorcycle left the roadway.
Evidence of the motorcycle collision could be seen as the fence at the Bell Canada junction box was knocked over and there was minor damage to the junction box itself. An oil stain in the parking lot behind the fence demonstrated that the motorcycle has passed through the fence.
On other occasions the occurrence of a collision was more obvious. At approximately 1300 hours on November 15, 2018 a single vehicle collision occurred when an eastbound BMW car struck down several utility poles at the curve. The photo below shows an eastward view on Brydges, looking toward Cornish taken on the evening of the collision date. The yellow warning sign can be seen attached to the second utility pole west of Cornish.
The extent of the devastation at the site can be noted below as power was knocked out to a large part of east London and work crews had to work quickly to restore order.
The path of the BMW’s travel could be followed by noting that the bus stop sign located just east of the Cornish Street had been deformed, as shown below.
It was reported that the driver of the BMW was alcohol-impaired. This demonstrates that collision causation at such a curve is not just related to the absence of a warning sign. There are many causes. However single-vehicle, loss-of-control collisions are more prevalent at curves. It is apparent that this important fact has never been understood with respect to the curves on Brydges Street. Over the years our monitoring of this road segment has demonstrated that the presence of the curves on Brydges Street at intersections at Cornish Street and also at Spruce Street further to the east has never been properly understood.
Changes to the accident site after the November 15, 2018 collision can be seen in the four photos below, taken on November 29, 2018. In the westward view shown below one of the utility poles east of Cornish has been supported by an additional pole. Traffic cones are also strewn on the roadside closer to Cornish.
The three views below show the presence of a Speed Display Board that was installed on the same pole as the curve warning sign. The posting of this board raises the question why the City of London needed to install it. For example, the collision on November 15, 2018 involved an eastbound vehicle. Yet the speed board faces westbound traffic.
This last photo above clearly shows the Speed Display Board on the east side of the second utility pole while the warning sign is mounted on the west side of the pole. We are not capable of detecting every collision that might have occurred throughout the history of this road segment. Therefore there could have been other collisions that the City of London was aware of and this could have prompted them to install the speed board. The presence of the curve at Cornish Street could logically cause collisions to occur from both eastbound and westbound traffic.
The next view of the site is from a photo taken on December 17, 2018, as noted below. Note the height of the warning sign on the pole. The height can be compared to its height in the photo taken on February 1, 2019 below.
In the photo taken on February 1, 2019, shown below, the warning sign is anchored at a lower level on the pole than what is shown in the December 17, 2018 photo. Furthermore, the shade of the wood of the anchoring pole in the February 1st photo appears lighter and newer. So was the pole struck down by a collision and replaced? Or was the pole replaced for some other reason? Unfortunately our lack of photos of the site between December 17, 2018 and February 1, 2019 prevents us from knowing why the pole appears to have been replaced.
We are now entering a time when the warning sign disappears sometime during the spring of 2019, thus we want to provide more detailed views around that time period.
We see the site again on March 15, 2019, as noted in the westward view shown below. The orange oval highlighting the second pole shows that the pole looks to be of a lighter, newer shade than the first pole closer to Cornish Street. Even though the pole may have been replaced, the backside of the warning sign can still be observed anchored to the pole. The sign appears to be anchored at similar (lower) level similar to what was observed in the February 1, 2019 photo.
It can be observed that in three photos, December 17, 2018, February 1, 2019 and in the photo above on March 15, 2109 there are some traffic cones strewn on the south roadside just east of the intersection with Cornish Street. It is not clear why these cones exist as there does not appear to be any road construction.
The site is viewed again on March 27, 2019, as noted below. The warning sign is still visible on the pole in the distant background.
Next we see the site four days later, on March 31,2019. Although the pole and sign are very far in the distance they are both still present. It is difficult to see from this view whether the traffic cones still exist therefore this view has been cropped in the next photo below.
Now comes the important photo taken on April 9, 2019 and shown below. Although the second utility pole is far in the background there does not appear to be warning sign attached to it.
We cropped the above photo so a closer view can be had of the utility pole and this cropped view is shown below. This cropped view clearly shows that the warning sign is not anchored to the utility pole. We can also note the difference in shade of the wood of the second pole which is more tan coloured as opposed to the other poles that are grey. Clearly this pole looks new.
So sometime between March 31 and April 9, 2019 the warning sign had gone missing. If one looks closely enough in the cropped photo at the location where the second pole touches the ground one might be able to detect a lighter shade of substance that is not the same shade as the surrounding grass. It suggests that this is the earth that was upturned when the pole was installed. This evidence was also shown in the Google Maps views of July, 2019 shown earlier.
In the photo taken on May 9, 2019 shown below we can clearly see that the second pole west of Cornish Street does not have a warning sign anchored to it. It is also of a lighter shade than the other poles. And when we look down to where the pole connects with the ground we can see a mound of earth that would be expected if the pole had been recently replaced.
Let us summarize these somewhat confusing set of events. Shortly after the major collision of November 15, 2018 involving an eastbound BMW car a Speed Display Board was installed for westbound traffic while no reason was found for its installation. There was no obvious evidence that collisions were occurring from westbound traffic travelling around the curve at Cornish even though such a possibility would not be expected. By December 17, 2018 the Speed Display Board was removed. Then sometime between March 31st and April 9th, 2019 the curve warning sign goes missing and the utility upon which it was anchored appears to have been replaced.
We now move a year later to the date of May 9, 2020 and we can see in the photo below that the second utility pole is still visible and that it still does not contain a warning sign attached to it. But there is more information from the photos on this date.
In the next photo, also taken on May 9, 2020, we can see that a blue tarp has been placed over the Bell Canada junction box east of Cornish Street and that there are several Bell Canada vehicles parked nearby.
As this tarp was placed at this location for a substantial time we finally approached the location on foot on June 6, 2020 and made the discoveries shown in the photos below. There had been an impact to the Bell Canada junction box, the fence and to a tree that was partially uprooted as shown in the photo below.
A second tree was also struck but only sustained surface damage. This surface damage can be seen in the photos of December 17, 2020 shown at the beginning of this article where this tree sustained more substantial damage.
So when this collision occurred sometime before May 9, 2020, there was no warning sign posted on the second pole that we have been discussing. That warning sign was missing for over a year, as noted in the April 9, 2019 photo shown previously. Due to the severity of this collision just before May 9, 2020, one would assume that someone would make note that the warning sign was missing and that this could have been the reason why the collision occurred. For example, Bell Canada would have sustained a substantial cost in repairing their junction box since workers were observed conducting repairs at the site at least until June 29, 2020. And the driver of the vehicle that caused all the damage would also have sustained damage to their vehicle and possibly sustained some injury. So surely the driver or their insurer should have taken action against the City of London for failing to place the warning sign before the curve. And even the City of London would surely see that a warning sign was missing and make a quick correction. But it appears that this is not what happened as we shall soon see.
We now fast-forward to a date of December 2, 2020 and the photo below shows the eastward view on Brydges Street toward Cornish. As usual, the second utility pole west of Cornish Street still does not contain a warning sign attached to it.
And we finally return to the collision events on the evening of December 17, 2020 where began this article. On the afternoon of December 18, 2020 photos were taken on approach to the accident site and two of these are shown below. Not surprisingly these photos show that on the afternoon after the collision there was no warning sign anchored to the second pole west of Cornish Street.
When the site was observed again on December 23, 2020 additional arrow-hazard signs were installed on the south roadside just east of the Cornish intersection, as shown in the photos below.
With respect to damages, it was noted that seven Bell Canada vehicles were packed at the area of impact and at a church parking lot next to it, as shown below.
And a number of Bell employees were at work to repair the damage to the telecommunications junction box, as shown in the two photos below.
The utilization of these manpower resources should have incurred a substantial expense. And by all logic this expense should be claimed in legal proceedings against the driver of the Equinox, the City of London or both. But will that happen? Clearly if that had occurred in the previous collision, at the beginning of May 2019, then the City of London would have reinstalled the warning sign that had gone missing. But that did not happen. It would be difficult to believe that, if a civil suit had been launched the City of London would simply ignore its obvious negligence and continue to ignore the missing warning sign. One possibility is that the civil suits are still forthcoming. Claims can be delayed up to two years of the date of the occurrence. So it is possible that legal counsel for the parties involved could still be preparing their Statements of Claim.
However there are wider concerns that need to be addressed beyond the safety issues at this single site. One concern has to do with the lack of police notification of this safety problem. When the collision occurred in early May of 2019 police should have made note of the absence of the warning sign. In the obligations of police the danger of the missing sign should not be any different than the danger posed by a drunk driver or a defective commercial vehicle or any other safety concern. The safety concern should have been made public and it should have been corrected. In the many months from the spring of 2019 up to the collision of December 17, 2020 that safety problem was not corrected. Police vehicles would have travelled past the safety problem on numerous occasions but nothing was done about it. Why did this occur?
The undiscussed fact is that police in London, like any other jurisdictions in Ontario, Canada and elsewhere are paid by the municipality that could be held liable for unsafe road conditions. This is a conflict of interest. If the conflict of interest cannot be avoided then legislation needs to be enacted causing the conflict to be nullified. Legislation must require police to publicly report and act upon all matters that endanger the safety of the public and that legislation must have teeth.
The second concern is that the public was not made aware of the safety problem at the Brydges Street site because no one in the news media properly informed the public. Neither the collision in May, 2019 nor the collision of December 17, 2020 were ever revealed in the official news media. And even if an article was published or presented in a newscast it would be unlikely that the problem of a missing sign or other roadway safety issues would be revealed. Part of this problem may be the lack of investigative journalists in the field. The problem may also be with the concentration of the official news media into a much smaller pool of news conglomerates. When news is provided by a wider base of independent sources it is less likely that inconvenient findings can be snuffed out and more likely that one or two independent sources are able to leak a story that cannot be snuffed out.
And lastly, the public deserves to be made aware when the negligence of its municipal staff and/or politicians have created a safety problem that endangers its citizens or that results in a civil claim against the municipality. Voters have the right to be informed as to who they will place in office to represent them and why. The public cannot demand change when it is unaware of the actions that occur behind the closed doors of its municipality.
The actions of a small consulting firm such as Gorski Consulting cannot keep track of all the road safety problems that exist in the City of London or Southern Ontario. By virtue of our independence stories that do not reach the official news media will land in our news articles but these are small results that reach very few viewers. It requires the dedication of more persons to recognize some of the problems, such as the one presented here, and to spread the message that change is required for the benefit of all of the public.