There are two things that annoy people about the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. Firstly, it’s a mess. But secondly, it’s people riding bikes through it.
Just like bad driving annoys drivers, bad cycling winds cyclists up, too. Sometimes, bad road design might force someone on a bike to nip across a pavement rather than compete with juggernauts – I have to do it most mornings for about 10 seconds to lessen my risk of being squashed under a lorry.
But there really isn’t the excuse in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. The morning I spent with BBC London down there was enlivened by watching one cyclist bawl out another for riding in the tunnel’s shadows. The miscreant shrugged it off, and muttered under his breath as he took his bike into the lift.
But will the law ever catch up with him? Clearly not, as a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that in the past three years, Greenwich Council has prosecuted nobody for cycling in the tunnel.
This comes despite the fact that earlier this year, the council’s mysterious yellow-clad wardens were out “mob-handed” trying to stop cyclists cycling through Cutty Sark Gardens, suddenly rediscovering long-disused bye-laws which prohibited… cycling on a national cycle route. Pressure from Greenwich Cyclists forced the council to stop its clueless caper, and there’s been some slow progress towards a resolution.
But even though the council would be on much firmer ground, would be lauded to the skies by many, and could possibly generate a small windfall in fixed penalty notices, it’s not bothered to do the same inside the tunnel. Instead, it has installed barriers, which just annoy everyone.
While the council has made a mess of the £11.5m refurbishment of the Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels, it’s staff cutbacks that have led us to this situation. The former lift attendants have been given the boot, and replaced by passenger-operated lifts. In the past, attendants would merely refuse to let people who’d been riding bikes use the lift. That sanction’s not available now, despite the council’s claim that it’s using CCTV and PA announcements to police the tunnel.
We’re waiting for a report into the tunnels fiasco (a preliminary one, about big council projects in general, was presented last week), but while it’s clear that Greenwich Council screwed up on the nuts and bolts of the scheme, it also seems to have no idea of the kind of environment it wants to create in there.