Will 2014 be the year of cycling in Greenwich borough?

Blackheath Royal Standard
An interesting plan crept out of Greenwich Council with zero publicity before Christmas – it wants to put in a special cycle lane at Blackheath’s Royal Standard, to make pedalling through the area easier and safer.

The idea came from Greenwich Cyclists. If you’re cycling from Vanburgh Park towards Old Dover Road, it’s intimidating for new cyclists to have to circumnavigate the Standard, and can feel a bit dicey. So why not have a contraflow lane to cut straight across to Old Dover Road?

Blackheath Standard cycle plan

So, there it is. It’s a notable plan, because while Greenwich has been pretty good at widening cycle lanes and improving what’s already there; this might just be the first scheme on an existing road aimed at newer cyclists.

Most experienced cyclists will find the Standard a cinch (especially now it’s been resurfaced with new lighting) but it’s a worry if you’re a newbie. So it’s an important development, and I think it’s one which deserves credit.

You could have commented on it, but the oh-so-quiet consultation ended yesterday. Some things still need some work…

But there’s another way to have your say about cycling in Greenwich borough – the consultation into Greenwich’s cycling strategy ends this Friday. If you pedal around SE London, it’s worth a read and worth having your say too.

18 comments

  1. Chris Taylor

    Hmmm, the Standard contra flow is a start, but you’d still have to get across two lanes (potentially of traffic) to join it. Then you’d still have to cross another two lanes at the other side of the green.
    I use this stretch quite often and it can be very daunting getting to the right hand lane to go towards Charlton, especially if you have to stop at the crossing or junction. Perhaps cycle lane along the left lane (next to Barclays) and cycle provision AT the existing zebra crossings?
    Definitely good to see some thought at all going in though and, like you say, this deserves credit

  2. Matt

    The more I think about it, the more it seems that this “newbie/experienced” division in cyclist ability (or confidence) is a serious consideration within the whole debate. It feels like most cycling improvements are going to be aimed at the newbie cyclist, and as a result have the potential of actually reducing the enjoyment for experienced cyclists.

    Take the clamour to separate the cyclist from the rest of the road traffic. I understand the benefits for the inexperienced cyclist, but for me as someone more experienced averaging 15-20 mph across London if I’m made to use these lanes I can see a lot of feeling sitting behind slower cyclists.

    Here’s an example from Southwark which I always ignore and remain on the road. It’s only wide enough for single file cycling, and you’ll notice the priority is still for the cars from the adjoining roads rather than allowing the cyclist continuity, so I’d argue for the faster cyclist, its actually a more risky option.

    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/preview#!data=!1m8!1m3!1d3!2d-0.072115!3d51.492632!2m2!1f128.2!2f57.88!4f75!2m9!1e1!2m4!1sD1YcWyQBtkK-0pxT6uUT2Q!2e0!9m1!6sBalaclava+Road+%2F+Southwark+Park+Road!5m2!1sD1YcWyQBtkK-0pxT6uUT2Q!2e0&fid=5

    Of course I hope I’m wrong, and these “Dutch style improvements” can be made to cater for cyclists of all levels, but with thin budgets I do fear all the money will be spent on improvements for the newbie cyclist only. Or to put it another way, the cyclist who covers far less ground than I, and mostly only during the good weather.

  3. Chris T

    Matt, it’s a really tough balancing act, isn’t it? For my part, I think it’s a wrong way of thinking at all to see it as “newbie” vs “experienced” cyclist. It’s high time that cycling provision was made for the new and the experienced at the same time. I simply want a more pleasant environment to cycle in.

    My cycling commute is just over 7 miles from Charlton to St Pauls and I travel via main roads, except for a bit through Greenwich Park. So, I have to cycle in traffic and I keep my speed up. Generally I find this OK and I much prefer cycling to getting the train / tube.

    However, since I took up cycling to work about 7 years ago I’ve got more and more fed up of the aggro of contesting my space and “keeping my wits about me” (to use someone’s phrase) all the time. I’d dearly love to sail along at 15-20 mph all the time but I’d also like a bit of road space and respect. I don’t think the current infrastructure will give me that. I’d settle for 5/10mins longer commuting time in a completely friendly environment.

    There are certainly problems of designing with only one type of cyclist in mind and there are equally problems with assuming that one solution suits all types of cyclist. Your example demonstrates the paucity of thinking that goes on in providing any cycling infrastructure. If you moved your streetview image about 100 yards further up, to the end of the cycle lane (which should ideally be continuous as you say) you are shot back onto the carriageway at a horrible angle. The visibility is so poor that sign you are forced to stop at the Give Way marker and then have to perform a whole body contortion to see enough of the road to ensure you are safe to exit. That isn’t cycling provision designed with a newbie cyclist in mind, in fact doing that more than once would be enough for someone to get the bus and put their bike up for sale on Gumtree. That’s simply cycling infrastructure designed by someone with no brains! I claim no expertise in these matters, of course.

    Finally, I strongly suspect that if the Dutch were making “Dutch-style improvement” to Blackheath Standard they would get the majority of the cars the hell out of this whole area!

  4. Sarah

    Hello Darryl. I’m involved with Greenwich Cyclsits and put this suggestion forward to Greenwich Council after noticing many cylists making the short cut across the zebra crossings. Before making the suggestion I did a cycle count, during three Friday evening rush hours in the summer, of how many cyclists cut across the crossings versus how many went round the gyratory. On all occasions the number who cut across the crossings was much higher. Most of those who cut across the crossings seemed to be experienced commuter cyclists, but most of those who went round the gyratory also seemed to be experienced commuter cyclists.

    I’m hoping this contraflow cycle lane will help all cyclists; I see it as legitimising something which a vast number of cyclists do anyway.

    I also agree with Chris T that the best improvement would be less cars.

  5. Matt

    Chris, good comments. I agree with most of that, and you’re right “newbie” and “experienced” pigeon holing probably isn’t helpful.

    But I do question whether moving all cyclists off the road into a thin strip beside the road will create a more friendly environment? Like you, over the years I’ve felt decreased feeling of pleasure from cycling, and if I’m honest, at least some of that is due to the behaviour of other cyclists. During our daily commutes I bet we both encounter the “shoaling cyclist” who can’t keep their place in queue and will either push their way to the front at the lights, or overtake under braking. only to then maintain a slower speed than everyone else once things pick up again. Once you can forgive for not judging the flow, but when I’m overtaking the same bikes 3-4 times in a stretch, it can get tiresome and substantially more dangerous every time I have to leave the edge of the road.

    So the point I think I’m labouring, is that I wonder if the cyclists who even now can’t ride considerately of others will actually accept that being 5-10 mins late is OK? Instead I fear the environment will deteriorate further with cyclists edging and pushing to get past each other in order to be that lead bike.

  6. Deborah

    I would endorse any scheme that encourages more cycling and fewer motorised vehicles. However, can I put in a plea for cyclists to obey laws? I worked for many years in the city and was forever having to dodge (mainly courier) cyclists who mounted the pavement when their speed on the road was impeded, then shouted and rang bells at pedestrians in their way. It is very encouraging to see the great number of cyclists who use the lower road through Greenwich, Charlton and Woolwich – however, a great number also fail to stop at Pelican Crossings, particularly the one near Riverside House. One more thing – please, please wear high viz – and all round. It’s amazing how many display bright yellow at the front but have black (or a black rucksack covering the high viz) at the back. The red lights at the rear need to flash and be bright and not be limited to the bike. It’s the drivers behind you that need to see you.

  7. EGN

    I have read these comments and the proposals with interest. I originally suggested a cycle lane such as this to Greenwich Council more than two years ago. I did not know about this proposal until today and welcome it in principle but am concerned about how cyclists will be helped to cross Charlton Road. I had suggested a cycle lane adjacent to both zebra crossings linking to the Pelican crossing across Charlton Road. I feel that if this is to serve cyclists properly they need to have a means of requesting a safe crossing as pedestrians do at the Pelican.
    My other thoughts are about the tone of the distinction between ‘new’ and ‘experienced’ cyclist by both the original post and some of the comments. I find this unhelpful and bordering on offensive. I have been cycling in London traffic for more than 40 years and have lived in this area for more than 20 years. I use my bike all the time in the local area and also take it into Central London. I used to cycle all the way into town but these days I usually take the bike on the train because I come back late at night and feel unsafe on my own but I still cycle in on a regular basis. I regard myself as an experienced and fairly confident cyclist but have never been a fast cyclist (what I interpret people to mean by ‘experienced’ in this case). I have also never felt safe on gyratory systems and avoid them where possible by taking minor roads even if this lengthens my journey. I find that the comments about this cycle lane being unsuitable for ‘experienced cyclists’ very unhelpful. If some cyclists find they travel faster than than others and prefer to use they road and not the cycle lanes then that is their choice, it is not helpful if they are negative about proposals that will help many of us.
    I also support the view that all cyclists should be encouraged to wear high vis, use lights and obey the highway code. I am also a driver and find it really frustrating that so many cyclists give others a bad name by jumping lights. I also find it very frightening to see so many cyclists almost invisible at night because they are wearing dark clothes and have minimal of no lights. There are so many bright lights on our streets at night these days it is getting more difficult to spot road users who are not well lit or wearing high vis.

  8. Chris Taylor

    Matt, I don’t think that cycling provision should be compulsory to use once installed. Cyclists should not give up their right to use the road.

    Personally I’d rather take my chances with a slower and inconsiderate cyclist than a mardy taxi driver. But, if provision doesn’t suit you, then you shouldn’t have to use it.

    Sarah, thanks for the info. Thinking about it more I ca. Definitely see how thus could benefit. Once again, though, my only concern would be the challenge of crossing two lanes of traffic to get to the island (I realise exiting the island should be easy on a red light phase for cars). How were the cyclists you observed getting to the central island?

    Deborah, I sympathise but don’t forget not all cyclists ride like some couriers! It’s like me complaining about all car drivers based on aggressive van drivers I’ve encountered. The Met Police report that in Operation Safeway ALL types of road user were found breaking the law, in staggering numbers. I’m not saying “2 wheels good, 4 wheels bad”, just pointing out cyclists aren’t the only scofflaws.

  9. EGN

    In answer to how cyclists reach the island, I move to the right in Vanbrugh Park before reaching the one way system. One then has to wait, as the cars do, for a break in the traffic so as to be able to cross to the island. I haven’t found this particularly difficult as there are natural breaks in traffic because most of the traffic turning from Charlton Road into Westcombe Hill uses the slip road between the two parts of Batley Green. My problem is how to cross Charlton Road to get to the Old Dover Road. The is often a continuous stream of traffic coming along Charlton Road that is only broken when a pedestrian uses the crossing.

  10. Stuart

    I’m not a local but I know the Standard and this sounds sensible.

    On the subject of new vs experienced I think the prevailing view amongst cycling advocacy is that we need to encourage mass cycling, and to do this infrastructure must focus on inexperienced or nervous cyclists. This means segregated provision.

    As a relatively fast club cyclist I fought against this for a long time, but I reconciled myself to the advocacy position on the basis that provision must favour the weak, not reward the strong. The situation in Belgium is that where cycle lanes exist you must use them, but that hasn’t limited their ability as a nation to race bikes, rapidly.

    And just a quick note on bad cycling. It’s a mode of transport like any other, so admonish the bad behaviour of the individual. In Operation Safeway as many drivers got fixed penalty notices for jumping red lights as cyclists.

    Finally, if the git on the bike is riding on the pavement and dinging a bell, they definitely aren’t a courier. Fakenger maybe, but definitely no courier.

  11. Peter

    I’ve no objection to the proposal, but surely the safest way would be for cyclists dismount and use the two zebra crossings and the pelican crossing to safely get to Old Dover Road then remount and continue. It may be inconvenient , but unlikely take significantly more time than cycling round the system.

  12. Sven Ellis

    An eminently worthwhile scheme which will spare me the temptation of ten yards pavement cycling, although all that’s really required is two dropped kerbs and shared-use signs. Cyclists won’t have a view of or control over the crossing lights, although they’ll have a decent view. I suspect the poor sightlines make emerging from Old Dover Road on the return journey a more fraught experience for the nervous. Well done to Greenwich Cyclists.
    PS Agree with EGN re the distinction between ‘nervous’ and ‘confident’ cyclists, which is made explicit in Greenwich’s Cycling Strategy.

  13. Gordon of Greenwich

    I have been cycle commuting from East Greenwich to Chalk Farm for ten years now. My journey now takes ten minutes longer than it used to. The reason? – Just getting through Greenwich. The junction at Blackwall Lane/Maze Hill is just a nightmare, HGV’s then block the cycle lanes in Trafalgar Road and the newly installed crossing that has narrowed the road by the bike shop in Creek Road have all conspired to make cycling a slower and more dangerous experience.

  14. EGN

    Just a note to clarify one of the points made by 853. This was actually a Stakeholder Consultation on the initial design. This is the standard process of consulting. A public consultation will follow later. The final proposal will take into account the comments made so far by key stakeholders. As I understand it there is a standard set of key stakeholders consulted for highways proposals which include Ward Councillors and bodies such as the police, ambulance service, TfL, guide dogs, local amenity societies, cycle groups etc. Therefore it is not surprising that not everyone knew of this consultation.

  15. Pingback: Charlton Road shows how cycling can be made easier and safer | Blackheath Westcombe Labour

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