Posts Tagged ‘cycling’
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.
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.
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…
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…)
South-east London’s first cycle superhighway will only run as far as New Cross Gate after Transport for London abandoned plans to run it as far as Lewisham.
Route CS5, which is due to open next year, is being cut short because “opportunities to introduce Cycle Superhighway-type infrastructure are limited” at the New Cross one-way system and on Lewisham Way, where the route was due to run towards Lewisham town centre.
The Barclays Bank-backed route will run from Victoria, across Vauxhall Bridge, and through Kennington, Camberwell and Peckham to meet the A2 at the Queen’s Road/ New Cross Road junction. It is due to open next year.
A letter from TfL told cycling campaigners it had “decided to concentrate investment in the area of highest potential demand” but would still deliver 700 metres of cycle lanes between New Cross and Lewisham, albeit without the distinctive blue branding.
CS5 will be London’s fifth cycle superhighway, and is due to the the first to head into south-east London. A further route, CS4, is due to run from London Bridge via Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Deptford, Greenwich and Charlton to Woolwich in 2015.
While some parts of the fledgling superhighway network, like the one pictured above on Cable Street in Wapping, are generously-sized, other parts of it have been criticised for being too narrow and too dangerous. Last year, two cyclists died within three weeks at the end of CS2, at the Bow flyover in east London.
If TfL is unwilling to alter roads in New Cross to accommodate safe lanes for cyclists, it remains to be seen if CS4 will run to its full length, since it has the obstacle of the Woolwich Road flyover in east Greenwich to cross – where a cyclist died in 2009 – as well as the Greenwich one-way system.
Mayor Boris Johnson told a London Assembly meeting in May there was “a plan” to introduce Dutch-style cycling infrastructure at Vauxhall Cross – on the route of CS5 – and “in Greenwich”. Six months on, neither he nor TfL have elaborated on what he meant, or where he was talking about.
2.55pm update: London Assembly transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon says: “Just one week after the Mayor and TfL were boasting about the new Victoria to Lewisham Superhighway we now discover that the plans have been seriously scaled back.
“The excuses for not linking the Superhighway to Lewisham show a total lack of ambition by Transport for London.
“This foolish decision suggests the Mayor of London is not really serious about introducing Dutch-style cycling infrastructure across London.”
This video, from Lewisham Cyclists, was doing the rounds a couple of weeks back, but perhaps it needs a bit of post-Olympics attention. Would you want to ride a bike along here? Turn the sound up for the commentary.
This is the junction of Greenwich High Road, Deptford Bridge, Deals Gateway and Blackheath Road, right on the border between Deptford and Greenwich. This is what cyclists who leave the housing at Deals Gateway are expected to deal with – being left stuck in a box junction in the middle of the A2.
It’s the ideal spot for politicians to sit on their backsides and do nothing – it sits just off the border of Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs, and the A2 that cuts across this junction is the responsibility of Transport for London. But London Assembly members Darren Johnson (who’s also a local councillor) and Len Duvall have both put this to Boris Johnson – and so far, have had no joy.
I’ve done a piece for Snipe about whether the mayor can keep his promises on making the capital safer for cyclists. If an obviously dangerous junction like this can’t get sorted out – and it’s not on TfL’s list – then you do have to wonder if the mayor’s simply taking trusting campaigners for a ride.
Word reaches me that Greenwich Council is scratching its head and looking for places to stick more cycle parking racks. Now, it could have asked the public directly, but instead it asked the London Cycling Campaign, which has, in turn, asked Greenwich Cyclists.
But this reluctance to talk openly doesn’t mean you can’t suggest somewhere – the LCC has a fantastic website, cycleparking4london.org.uk, where you can suggest places across the capital which need somewhere to tie a bike to. Greenwich is watching the map, so if you’ve got an idea, stick it on there.
PS. As a follow-up to last week’s post about the Greenwich Go Dutch mystery, “Greener Greenwich” cabinet member Harry Singh told last week’s council meeting that the mayor’s office had not been in touch with Greenwich Council about the supposed plans (see Q3), nor had Greenwich Council bothered to ask City Hall, but would now be in touch to ask about “the cycle lane” [sic].
A funny thing happened at City Hall a month ago. Boris Johnson said he wanted to do something in Greenwich. It’ll be more significant to more people than his baffling cable car, yet nobody knows quite what he was on about.
During Mayor’s Question Time, he was asked about his commitment during the election, after pressure from the London Cycling Campaign, to introduce Dutch-style measures in London to assist cyclists and pedestrians.
In response to Lib Dem assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, he said…
“These are early days, but I can give you an indication of where we want to go on two schemes. We are looking particularly at Vauxhall Cross and Greenwich and obviously these are still plans that are being developed very fast.”
Vauxhall Cross is specific enough, but Greenwich? Did he mean the town centre? Somewhere else in SE10? Or somewhere in the wider borough? I asked around, but nobody knew. And nothing more’s been said since.
Some people thought they knew. The London Cycling Campaign jumped to the conclusion that he meant Greenwich town centre. Greenwich Liberal picked up the ball and ran with it, declaring Greenwich would be a “flagship Go Dutch area”.
But, in reality, nobody knows. It would take an earthquake to shake Greenwich Council out of its institutional inertia and to create and promote something like this, instead of hiding behind dusty old bye-laws – the Cutty Sark Gardens farrago is proof of that. That’s not to say it won’t ever happen – Waltham Forest Council, once notorious for its lack of interest in promoting cyclist, recently did an about-turn and has launched a cycling action plan. See, it can be done.
So, if we rule the council out, the biggest influence TfL will have are on the roads it controls, and on its plans for a cycle superhighway along the A206 (CS4 to Woolwich, due by 2015). This could mean Greenwich town centre and its one-way system, but I suspect not – traffic moves so slowly around the market that even a scaredy-cat like me can navigate it without much bother.
For my own money, I reckon this is about changing the Woolwich Road flyover. Even in the dead of night this is a terrifying junction. It’s a king-size deterrent to seeing cycling in Greenwich as something practical and achievable for most people, for good reason.
Two years ago, Adrianna Skryzpiec died here after a collision with a lorry, and tributes to her remain there. Not far north of the river, the shortcomings of the cycle superhighway scheme were exposed in the most tragic manner after two deaths at the Bow flyover, with TfL belatedly attempting to make things safer with special traffic lights for cyclists.
Since the Woolwich Road flyover’s construction in the late 1960s, it’s been redesigned twice – until the late 70s, it was a traffic-signalled junction; and it was a free-flowing roundabout until about 1999. After the Bow flyover deaths, TfL simply could not get away with using the current design for a cycle superhighway, a battered and discredited scheme which needs a relaunch.
Add that to the fact that Vauxhall Cross is also earmarked for a cycle superhighway (CS5 to Lewisham, due next year), and that makes me think the flyover is what Boris is talking about.
So to go with a Dutch festival at the top of the peninsula, there might well be a Dutch traffic system at the bottom of it.
Of course, my hunch could be wrong. It could be somewhere else in Greenwich, or somewhere in the wider borough – Kidbrooke Park Road springs to mind, where the new Thomas Tallis School has loads of cycle racks, but nothing’s been done to make cycling there safer.
What do you think could be done to persuade more people to walk or cycle? Do you know any more about what Boris meant? Share your views below – and the London Cycling Campaign is looking for your ideas, too.