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.
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…
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.