Archive for the ‘cycling’ Category
A little postscript to the Greenwich Time ramble. The way the council’s weekly paper works, to promote the borough the way its leadership sees it, means that some of the many genuinely good works that come from the town hall are poorly publicised.
There’s a good example this week, as buried on page 22 is a one-paragraph plug for Greenwich Get Cycling day, which is this Saturday in Woolwich. It’s just a bit less prominent than the “star letters” GT runs criticising cyclists. So here’s a bigger plug for it.
You are invited to attend the Greenwich Get Cycling event on Saturday 27th April at the Royal Arsenal from 12pm-4pm. The cycling family fun day will include a series of led rides and other cycling activities to help you get cycling now Spring is on its way.
You will be able to take part in one of eight led cycle rides along the Thames Path, they are mostly flat and traffic free routes, perfect for families and new beginners:
* The shorter 30 minute route will travel eastwards to Thamesmead, leaving at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.
* The longer 45 minute route will travel westwards along the Thames to New Charlton, leaving at 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm.
All rides will start and end at the Woolwich Arsenal Pier in Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. (Book in advance – see details.)
As well as the cycle rides, there will be other cycle related entertainment near the Woolwich Arsenal Pier, so come along and get involved:
* Try out the Smoothie bike to pedal yourself a Smoothie
* Take part in the Pedal Powered Scalextric
* Find out about how to maintain your bike from the Dr Bike service
* Take part in the Limited Edition Cyclists cycling skills course and slow bike race
* Get your bike security marked by the Metropolitan Police
* Find out how you can get cycling to work and get your own personalised route plan
* Find out about cycle training in the borough
There’s a lot of good cycling work going on behind the scenes at Greenwich Council – and this is an admirable event which deserves support. In particular, I’m told the council’s cycle training is very good indeed. It’s something you’ll rarely read about in GT, but I did see tags on bikes in Greenwich town centre a few weeks ago promoting the service, which struck me as a very good idea. Indeed, I keep meaning to give it a go myself.
All of which makes it even sadder that the political leadership of the council isn’t interested. The Thames Path is a wonderful facility, but hopefully one day, cycling will be taken seriously enough that there’ll be a Greenwich Get Cycling Day that doesn’t have to rely on using the riverside walk.
You’ve probably heard about last week’s launch of Transport for London’s plans to boost cycling in the capital. There’s lots to like there, with eye-catching schemes like creating cycle lanes on the Victoria Embankment and the Westway. Whether they’ll actually happen will be another matter, though, as much of this will depend on London boroughs, who’ll be invited to compete for funds to turn their patches into “mini-Hollands”.
Other ideas which could get TfL backing include “quietways” (cycle routes in back streets) and suburban cycle hubs at public transport interchanges (which I’ve been banging on about for North Greenwich for about a trillion years, while Eltham or Kidbrooke stations would also make great locations.)
But it’s a start, and for now Boris Johnson’s cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan is talking a good talk. Unfortunately, Greenwich Council has decided not to talk to him. Of all London’s 32 boroughs, Greenwich is the only one to not respond to Boris’s pal’s overtures. Even barmy Tower Hamlets, to which the controversial journalist dishes out frequent written kickings, has responded.
The news is particularly disappointing, particularly as inviting Gilligan along to a meeting of councillors was discussed at a recent scrutiny meeting. It’s unknown what’s happened to that independent spark of thought, so whether this actually happens will be one to watch. On top of the lack of action over Greenwich town centre and the cycle superhighway, things aren’t looking good.
Heaven knows what’s going on inside the heads of the council’s leadership. You can disapprove of how Gilligan got the job. But if the mayor’s messenger comes offering goodies that’ll benefit the borough, then you talk to him. Anything else is self-defeating.
It must sound good at the next Labour Party coffee morning, though. “Oh, we just ignored Andrew Gilligan when he came along offering half a million for cycling. That’ll show the Tory bastards!”
Of course, this isn’t party political – London’s most cycle-friendly borough is Labour-run Hackney – but more a symptom of how Greenwich Council’s leadership wants to isolate its fiefdom from the rest of the capital. It’s rejected opportunities to bid for City Hall or government cash to improve local high streets, and at last week’s council meeting leader Chris Roberts even declared the council could run bus services better than TfL could.
Greenwich isn’t an anti-cycling borough. But most of what it does caters for those who already cycle – little tweaks to cycling routes as part of wider road safety improvements. What it doesn’t do, on the whole, is make changes that would encourage new cyclists – closing rat runs, opening up new routes – and it continues to denigrate cyclists by running critical letters in propaganda weekly Greenwich Time. The gem above appeared last week, while cyclists were instructed to “stop moaning” last year. Such a shame, when it could be promoting the free cycle training courses it offers both new and experienced riders.
This refusal to talk about serious change makes the council look like a laughing stock. But there are far more serious consequences to this pig-headed determination to isolate Greenwich borough from a process that should benefit the rest of London.
The pressure on City Hall to do something positive about cycling came as a reaction to the number of riders dying in accidents. In 2009, 31-year-old Adrianna Skrzypiec was killed under the Woolwich Road flyover; a few months later, 66-year-old Stella Chandler died after an accident at the foot of Vanburgh Hill.
But of course, sticking it to Boris’s buddy is better than taking action to protect the health and well-being of your citizens, isn’t it? To be the only one of 32 boroughs not to engage with a plan which could save lives should be a source of shame. Hopefully Greenwich Council’s leadership will get over themselves, grow up, and talk to Andrew Gilligan. I can think of a couple of people who aren’t around any more that they owe it to.
Hot off the press from the London Assembly, a written answer from mayor Boris Johnson.
A little recap. In May 2012, the mayor announced plans for a Dutch-style road scheme in Greenwich, to assist cyclists and pedestrians. Except he hadn’t told the council, nor had the council picked up the phone to ask what he was on about.
Seven months later, a TfL executive said it was waiting for plans from Greenwich Council. A couple of weeks later, Greenwich’s cabinet member for bins and cycling said there were “no definitive plans”.
Clear as mud, then.
Go Dutch development of Greenwich town centre
Question No: 8 / 2013
There have been a number of contradictory statements about who is responsible for bringing forward the flagship walking and cycling development in Greenwich that you announced shortly after your re-election. Will you clarify your promise to create a flagship walking and cycling development in Greenwich?
Written response from the Mayor
I am encouraged by the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s statement that they are taking forward an “ambitious action plan” for cycling in the Borough. My Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, himself a Greenwich resident, is arranging meetings with the Council to discuss its vision and how this can fit into our own equally ambitious plans for cycling in London. We do not wish to pre-empt the Royal Borough’s plans.
TfL is also working closely with the Royal Borough of Greenwich to plan and deliver a new Cycle Superhighway through Greenwich. Building on the lessons learned from the first Cycle Superhighways, and from the ongoing Better Junctions review, CS4 will be built to ambitious new standards.
TfL is also keen to work with RB Greenwich to explore how major new development areas such as the Greenwich peninsular [sic] and Charlton could be developed with the ‘Go Dutch’ cycling principles’ approach in mind.
You’ll see that nothing in his answer specifically mentions Greenwich town centre – just the woolly answer about Greenwich Council’s borough-wide “ambitious action plan”.
But the mention of his new cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, is intriguing. When the west Greenwich-based journalist’s controversial appointment was revealed last month, I wondered just how he’d cope negotiating with those he’s aimed brickbats at in the past. I’m barely one to talk here, but had he burned too many bridges locally?
It seems not. So it’s good to hear he’s going to take on cycling in Greenwich – which will involve dealing with councillors he’s branded as “forty-watt burghers”.
What’s even better is that I hear those same burghers are more than happy to meet him – with the council’s transport scrutiny committee looking at ways to get him involved. If he comes along for a meeting, be sure to bring some popcorn.
It’s also good to see another commitment to build Cycle Superhighway 4 (from London Bridge to Woolwich) through the borough – despite the neighbouring route being chopped short at New Cross. It may be a challenge through Greenwich, probably the narrowest section of CS4, but as the road widens through Charlton and Woolwich, will we see proper segregated lanes like the one above, planned for Stratford?
The mention of getting involved in plans for the peninsula and Charlton riverfront is also promising – but none of this should distract from the original promise to sort something out in Greenwich town centre.
It hasn’t been the best of weekends to enjoy it, but the Thames Path is one of the best things about this part of London. If you take the borough as a whole, Greenwich borough has the longest riverfront in London, and as well as a walking route, it’s a designated cycle route too.
A scrutiny panel of councillors has been looking into ways of improving it as a cycle route, and officers have come up with a report – you can read it here (4MB PDF). It features some good ideas, such as sorting out the irritating cobbles at Greenwich Millennium Village, changing signs so they read “North Greenwich” rather than “Blackwall Point”, and (yes!) installing cycle stands outside the Pelton Arms pub.
Councillors are meeting on Tuesday night to discuss it – and the public’s welcome to come along and ask questions if they want. A lot of attention will be on plugging the gap between the Thames Barrier in Charlton and King Henry’s Wharf in Woolwich, something which would dramatically change the way the path is seen – as well as helping people access the fantastic Second Floor Arts facility at Warspite Road.
That said, hopefully there’ll be room for my own gripe to be addressed – sticking some signs up to get pedestrians out of the cycle path by the cable car (and cyclists out of the pedestrian bits), where markings were worn away by the cable car contractors and not reinstated, while the pedestrian bit was never marked.
I’ve seen some sights commuting along the path over recent months, and sooner or later someone is going to come a cropper – or prompt someone else to come to grief – some day for paying more attention to their iPad than their surroundings.
My other gripe is that it doesn’t do much about improving access to the path – but this seems like an encouraging start.
Here are some arsey tweets from the police.
What brought those about, then? Well, these “burglars, we’re coming to get you”-style messages (can’t wait to see the same tactics used for ALL car drivers because a few arseholes use their mobile phones behind the wheel) came as a result of Greenwich Park being closed as a through route for motorists, but most of all, cyclists.
The Avenue (the hill which runs into Greenwich town centre) was closed suddenly a couple of weeks ago for repairs to be carried out to repair damage caused by the heavy vehicles used when the Olympic equestrian stadium was being constructed.
LOCOG is coughing up for the repairs, and the all-new road will open at the end of March – which should also be roughly the time the stadium site will be fully back in use, too. So it’s fair enough the road should be shut. And since no pedestrian is going to want to share a pavement with a downhill cyclist (and neither is a downhill cyclist going to want to share a path with pedestrians), then it’s understandable the whole thing’s shut – although whether or not the whole thing could have been planned better is another issue. Royal Parks only gave about a week’s notice of the closure, and seems to have allowed its contractors to dictate the timetable.
The loss of The Avenue only affects car drivers for a few hours each weekday. But it’s a cycle route throughout the day, weekdays and weekends – something which seems to have been lost in the planning of this closure.
So if you’re approaching the park from Blackheath, expecting your normal ride down the hill, what notice are you given of this closure? There’s nothing at all on the paths crossing the heath approaching the park. The best you’ll get is a sign like this on Charlton Way…
…which is aimed at the tiny minority of motorists who drive through the park. If you’re on a bike, a diversion towards Blackheath Village is absurd, and you’ll probably think you can squeeze round the roadworks, which is what you can normally do – bikes being a bit more agile than cars – so you’ll enter the park with no warning signs at the gate, ride down, and then find a rude shock.
Well, at least it says “please”. But if you’re in a hurry, you’ll probably think you can get around this by nipping down the pavement – or, as the cyclists in the picture above did 30 seconds after I took the photo, riding down the other footpaths. And then that leads to the unpleasantness and bad feeling and, for some, £50 fines.
Yet if some warning signs had been put up before people cycled into the park expecting to ride down the hill, pointing people towards diversions, perhaps there’d be less need for the arsey messages, and fewer £50 fines. But even in Greenwich Park, the supposed needs of a tiny group of car drivers outweigh those of the hundreds of cyclists for whom this has become a reliable and safe route to travel along.
This isn’t a plea for special treatment – it’s simply a plea for the same treatment that drivers get. There’s been some interesting discussions going on in Westminster with an all-party inquiry into cycling, which is finding that cyclists are largely ignored when it comes to road planning. In Greenwich Park, cyclists have been ignored when it came to planning the road works, except for sticking the “no entry” signs up.
If a cycle route, which Greenwich Park effectively is (albeit shared with cars for a few hours), has to close, then some proper diversion signs should be put up – like cars get. Then nobody has the slightest excuse for breaking the law. This isn’t rocket science. But I can’t help thinking Royal Parks would rather not have cyclists spoiling their park, which is a shame bearing in mind it’s such a vital route for people from all over south-east London.
A genuine bit of Olympic legacy at North Greenwich – and no, not the pink direction signs which have reappeared as blue pointers to the cable car.
These chunky cycle racks appeared a couple of weeks before the Games, along with the security bollards, and have remained there ever since. And they’re always busy. Quietly, something worth building on is happening at North Greenwich. Not that the area wasn’t short of racks anyway – as well as the thief-friendly stands at North Greenwich bus station, there’s a load outside Ravensbourne and an underused set outside TfL’s Mitre Passage offices under the watchful eye of CCTV (and smokers).
But these ones seem to be getting more popular. I saved myself £200 and a ton of stress by cycling to North Greenwich and buying only a zones 1/2 travelcard rather than taking the train from zone 3 Charlton (or taking a bus to North Greenwich) and getting wound up. Getting onto the peninsula is fiddly, but riding along the Thames Path remains a joy. Now I look forward to my ten-minute bolt down the hill and along the river each morning, rather than dreading the hassle of taking a train or bus.
Hopefully others are getting the same message. You can even hire a bike and give it a go thanks to this amazingly underpublicised local NHS scheme (Greenwich borough residents only, sadly). And you get used to the hills. Honest.
One last bit of business left over from Christmas – but it’s an important one for the future of Greenwich town centre, battered by shop and restaurant closures, and the unappealling prospect of the old Greenwich Building Society HQ, shut by Nationwide 18 months ago, becoming yet another estate agent and yet another bloody bookies.
You’ll recall Greenwich town centre has emerged as one of the places where mayor Boris Johnson claimed he wanted to put in a “flagship Go Dutch cycling scheme” – essentially, redesigning the roads to Dutch standards to give cyclists and pedestrians more space and priority. But details have been sketchy, to say the least, and despite the likes of the London Cycling Campaign getting very excited, it looked very much like Boris had just thought it up off the top of his head.
Then, last month, TfL executive Ben Plowden gave an interview to the LCC’s house mag. He said TfL was waiting upon “ambitious plans for its town centre” from Greenwich Council, before deciding quite what to do. So, what was Greenwich planning? I put a question in at the last council meeting, just before Christmas.
And the answer is… nothing. It’s TfL’s issue, according to cabinet member for “Greener Greenwich”, Harry Singh. (You’ll notice Greenwich Council relegates cycling to the mystifying “Greener Greenwich” portfolio along with bin collections, rather than the regeneration portfolio which deals with roads.)
Mr Plowden’s interview, and specifically the comments regarding the Royal Borough of Greenwich, took place with no consultation or input from the Royal Borough.
This latest statement from TfL to London Cycling Campaign (LCC) has similarities to one made earlier in 2012 by the Mayor of London at his Question Time and alludes to work in Greenwich which has not yet been defined or discussed with the Royal Borough.
In relation to cycling we are taking forward an ambitious Action Plan which has arisen from the recent Cycling Best Value Review. This is intended to increase cycling in the Royal Borough through improved training, facilities and infra-structure.
We are aware that Cycle Superhighway 4 is scheduled to be implemented in the Royal Borough by TfL by 2015.
Any proposal to take a Cycle Super-Highway through the World Heritage Site will represent a significant challenge. However the Council is looking forward to seeing TfL’s proposals for this piece of work and will work with TfL to ensure whatever is proposed, if delivered, is built to the highest possible standards.
There are currently no definitive plans to pedestrianise all or parts of Greenwich Town Centre although the Council continues to recognise that the current traffic gyratory system is detrimental to Greenwich’s World Heritage Site status.
Proposals for the pedestrianisation of part of Greenwich Town Centre were developed in principal [sic] before the Olympic Games. However they were not progressed. During Games time the temporary one way system which was put into place to support events in Greenwich was monitored. The results of that monitoring are now being examined to see what lessons can be learnt for any future proposals.
You can read the original here. So, the buck is passed back to TfL. Between Greenwich’s lack of interest in cycling, and TfL’s decision that running a cycle superhighway to Lewisham would be too difficult, I guess we’ll be lucky if CS4 makes it past Deptford Church Street.
Unless cycle campaigners pull their fingers out and harangue both the council and TfL about this, Greenwich will be more likely to see Dutch-style coffee shops than Dutch-style cycling.
In the meantime, cyclists can enjoy using this fantastic piece of cycle infrastructure in Old Woolwich Road – a contraflow cycle route (on the national cycle network, no less) blocked without explanation, warning, or diversion. It’s this joined-up thinking which really makes Greenwich borough such a… oh, never mind.
PS. There may be some good news on the Thames Path – fingers crossed…
For the end of 2012, we were promised shiny and revamped foot tunnels at Greenwich and Woolwich – but they never happened. The Woolwich tunnel’s been left to rot, the Greenwich tunnel has gained new lifts which still aren’t working properly. It still looks a mess as well.
Funnily enough, the foot tunnel fiasco doesn’t make it into Greenwich Council’s back-slapping review of the year, available for a fiver – sick bags not included.
One thing that struck me before Christmas was the heated debate about cyclists in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, after this website revealed nobody had been prosecuted for cycling in there for three years. Ticketing errant cyclists would raise more than a Dear Leader’s Greatest Hits DVD ever would – but should, as some commenters suggested, the council officially adopt a more tolerant attitude to those who want to nip through on two wheels, rather than just unofficially doing so?
So, in place of any leadership from the council, let’s have a poll and see what you really think. I’ve taken some of the suggestions and tried to combine them into a series of options that’d work for both Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels. Maybe by this time next year, we could have a radical new policy that both cyclists and walkers could agree with.
Or maybe we could just have working lifts, and fixed-up tunnels instead…
Nearly six months after Boris Johnson first announced it, the tiniest detail has emerged about the mayor’s vague plan to have a pro-cycling scheme somewhere in Greenwich, to Dutch design standards.
It comes in the Christmas edition of the London Cycling Campaign‘s magazine, London Cyclist, which interviews Transport for London executive Ben Plowden. He says:
We are now looking a how we an represent the Go Dutch principles, as far as we are able… In the case of the ‘flagships’ [Vauxhall Cross and Greenwich], the critical question is making sure that we choose locations where other things will be happening on a large scale anyway.
Asked when something will happen, he says…
That will depend partly on when these other changes take place. I know the Greenwich local authority has ambitious plans for its town centre and I think it would be sensible to align the cycling changes with the other changes, rather than doing something quicker then having to modify it.
So, a plan announced by Boris Johnson within days of his re-election ends up relying on Greenwich Council to help kick-start. It may well be news to them. At least we now know it’s the town centre, rather than the (horrifying) Woolwich Road flyover. But what are Greenwich’s “ambitious plans”?
We’ve been here before, of course. In 2010, Greenwich proposed pedestrianising College Approach and King William Walk, but the plan collapsed after Transport for London objected to its other plan to create a gyratory system around Norman Road.
So what happens next?
This summer saw Greenwich Church Street temporarily pedestrianised during the Olympics, which may have given more food for thought. But that still relied on a gyratory around Norman Road – so what what these “ambitious plans” are is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the plans to create a cycle superhighway by 2015 will focus minds – or give Boris the excuse to cut it short at Deptford.
Funnily enough, when Greenwich canned the pedestrianisation/gyratory scheme in 2011, Chris Roberts referred to “a wide range of traffic proposals” for the local area from… Transport for London. Is there real discussion going on, or just buck-passing?
In the meantime, the nearest cyclists might get to Dutch-style cycling in Greenwich town centre centres around often-mooted, never implemented plans to create a cycle contraflow up King William Walk, to make accessing Greenwich Park easier. While I’m not sure it’s exactly a high priority, it’d be a welcome and symbolic gesture from a council that’s not really quite got cycling over recent years.
PS. The consultation into the truncated Victoria – New Cross Gate cycle superhighway (with token concessions down the A20 to Lewisham) is now on the TfL website.
PPS. I’m going to ask about this at next week’s council meeting, assuming I remember to send the email. You want to ask Greenwich Council a question about something that’s bugging you? Drop firstname.lastname@example.org a line before noon on Wednesday – find out more details here. Like I always say, don’t expect someone else to do it for you – the results might surprise you.
It’s another secret Greenwich Council consultation! This one’s about putting cycle lanes on Trafalgar Road in east Greenwich – which I’m actually not so sure about. The road’s so narrow, I’m not sure motorists will respect the lane anyway; if safety’s the issue, surely raised tables at the traffic lights would slow traffic down at the few times it’s not at a snail’s pace anyway. I can’t help thinking these are just token gestures. You may disagree – so take a look at the questionnaire and the drawings, tell the council what you think – oh, and where you saw them.
(9.45am update – hopefully these links to the documents will now work…)