'It finally happened': Christoph Jankowski on his son being hit by a car on Grove Road (via Twitter)

‘It finally happened’: 8-year-old hit by car in Mile End sparks calls for pedestrian safety improvements

The boy, who attends Malmesbury Primary School, was hit by a car on a busy cycle crossing on Grove Road during a school run.

On Thursday 9 February, an 8-year-old boy was knocked from his bike after coming off Lichfield Road onto Grove Road.

The driver was travelling north at 40 miles per hour, 20 above the legal limit at 3.25pm, said the boy’s father Christoph Jankowski, but has faced no charges.

This has prompted calls for Lutfur Rahman and Tower Hamlets Council to better protect cyclists and vulnerable road users.

There has been a spate of dangerous incidents in the last year. In October 2022 a child was hit outside by a car at Olga Primary School and in August a young man was left with life-changing injuries after a crash on Old Ford Road in Bow West.

‘The fact that people can speed and drive dangerously with impunity, as there’s no apparent enforcement of road laws, will contribute to this kind of behaviour,’ said Jankowski.

‘There is plenty of signage around about speed limits but clearly very little care about it.’

Nearby East Enders stepped in to help Jankowski’s son, who was with his mother, and confronted the driver. The boy’s father said the driver had time to stop, but instead sounded his horn and proceeded without slowing down.

The driver stopped briefly after the collision to shout abuse then drove off, added Jankowski.

Nathalie Bienfait, Green Party Councillor for Bow West said: ‘The person who was driving saw that he hit the boy and left because of a total lack of care and a knowledge the law was not going to be enforced.

‘Without the funds to put in a proper cycle lane and make improvements to the pavements, without proper speed enforcement and the real teeth of the law, it is hard to do anything,’ she said.

Jankowski’s son was left bruised but has since recovered, though is understandably reluctant to get back on his bike.

Tamara Barklem, who has three children at Chisenhale Primary School, said: ‘The recent incident is every parents’ nightmare. We would like to see bolder action by the Council to keep our young people safe.’

Barklem called for the Council to reinstate school streets to increase safe crossings for pedestrians and cyclists. ‘The current system is not good enough for our borough’s children,’ she added.

In a statement last September, mayor Rahman spoke about the need to reduce car use, but reiterated his manifesto pledge to reverse liveable streets measures.

‘One of the central pledges of my manifesto was to get Tower Hamlets moving by removing the road closures implemented across the borough by the previous administration,’ he said.

Grove Road is notoriously busy and shared by lorries, cars and cyclists. Jankowski said routes from East to West in Bow are especially dangerous for younger riders. Cycle lane lines along the road are poorly marked so drivers often cut in, he said.

Bienfait added that the mayor has prioritised housing and youth services at the cost of road safety.

‘He [Rahman] has the impression that road safety is not really a problem and finds it easier not to act,’ she said.

While debate continues on the efficacy of liveable streets in improving road safety and reducing pollution, Jankowsi hopes solid, practical action can be taken to avoid more children like his son being hit by cars.

‘We have had really close calls already when cycling or walking in Tower Hamlets,’ he said. ‘The Council needs to show that speeding and dangerous driving will not be tolerated, and right now it is passively tolerated.’

Jankowski said he spoke to Tower Hamlets Police on the day of the incident but no arrest has been made, the fundamental issue a lack of evidence.

Bienfait said poor surveillance was a crucial problem and asked Transport for London to install a speed camera on that section of Grove Road, but was told it could take more than two years, two years too long for residents who feel their safety is under threat now.

‘We have community speed watch events which have been great to show people that they are not alone, but these offer incremental improvements,’ she said.

For Jankowski and many others like him in Bow and Mile End who take their children to school daily, more must be done to tackle speeding, a problem they feel the Council has wilfully neglected.

Tower Hamlets Council has been approached for comment.

If you have any information on the Grove Road incident, please contact CEMailbox.StPeters@met.police.uk

For more of our content on local news, read about Tower Hamlets Council’s move to a £115 million town hall.

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