Cycling in Greenwich borough: Two steps forward, one step back

It’s the simplest things that make cycling easier – and safer. Until recently, the single greatest improvement to my pedalling life was Lewisham Council resurfacing the main road out of Blackheath Village. Prince of Wales Road was treacherous, potholed, and grim. Now it’s like velvet. No more uncertain bouncing around, no more swerving around great dents or slowing down to absorb the bumps. Safer, and with fewer surprises for drivers. (Other areas of Lewisham borough haven’t been so lucky, mind.)

Together with Greenwich Council putting down a new surface at Blackheath Standard, it’s made a kilometre-long stretch a simple ride.

New cycle lanes on Charlton Road as well as Woolwich Road and Trafalgar Road have helped too. They’re not perfect, the deathtrap that is the Woolwich Road flyover is still being swerved while more radical ideas like redesigning side streets are being ignored. And the less said of the leadership’s road-building policies, the better. But they’re encouraging moves in the right direction.

Thames Path, Greenwich

Greenwich Council’s done some more super, simple cycling things recently. Nearly four years ago, I grumbled about the 1990s cobbles that interrupted the Thames Path at Greenwich Millennium Village. A couple of months back, they were finally sorted.

Now, all they need to do is indicate the pedestrian and cycling sides of the path a bit more clearly, and it’ll be nearly perfect (which is more than you can say for pedestrian and cycling provision in the rest of GMV).

Charlton Road

Back up in Charlton, the wider cycle lane was blighted by a dangerous build-out into the road at the Charlton Road/Wyndcliff Road junction, just as you approach a zebra crossing.

Build-outs – where the pavement juts into the road – are a 1990s thing. But with cyclists encouraged to ride on the left of the road, this can bring bikes into conflict with motor vehicles – particularly as many drivers have an unfortunate habit of trying to race you to a point where the road narrows. One – to assert the primacy of buses on the A206 – was removed from a bus stop on Woolwich Road when the new cycle lanes were put in last year.

Now, the Charlton Road horror has been fixed – though it could do with resurfacing – and the street is much safer.

So, at least in the north-west of the borough, some positive’s action’s being taken to make cycling safer. Sadly, though – the reverse is happening in the deep south. Head out to Eltham, go down Avery Hill Road – a hairy stretch treated as a racetrack by many drivers – and you’ll find a brand new build-out…

Avery Hill Road, 24 August 2014

From what I can gather, it’s to make it easier for Greenwich University students to cross the road after they’ve taken the 286 bus to their Avery Hill campus. But the first time I came across this, I found myself with a speeding berk bearing down on me as I moved to avoid this new obstruction in the road.

It’s not safe, and considering the good work being done in the north of the borough, it’s baffling as to why this would be installed in the south.

But it’d be churlish to ignore the good work that’s being done in areas like Greenwich, Charlton and Blackheath. If Greenwich Council really wants to encourage cycling – and there is a strategy now in place – then it needs to be consistent across the borough, and its highways engineers need to checking their “improvements” against this, rather than going for the first solution they can think of.

6 comments

  1. Would be good to see some policing of the cycle lanes in Woolwich and Trafalgar Roads. Whilst the resurfacing is very welcome, the lanes often have parked cars in them where people are nipping in to the shops or take aways. They should only be driven in to or parked in if it is unavoidable, I don’t think shopping can be classed as this.

  2. I’m interested to see so many councillors in Greenwich (and Bromley) claiming cycling credentials. Bodes well though seen almost no change so far.

    Not trying to be churlish, but cyclists are not encouraged to ride on the left side of the road except by those bull shit green (blue on the ‘super’ highways) paint advisory paths. All guidance says ride where you need to be, to be safe. Usually this is a good metre plus in from the left kerb, moving to full primary (middle of road) to manoeuvre or prevent dangerous overtakes. Appreciate that for most cyclists this is easy to say and hard to do. One day segregated paths will hopefully make this a problem of the past.

  3. Stuart – cycling 1 metre+ in from the kerb on Shooter’s Hill or Trafalgar Road would mean you had a death wish!
    It’s good to have the green paint job on Charlton Road and I wish it were possible on Shooter’s Hill.
    The roads aren’t designed or wide enough for physical separation unfortunately.
    Is there any way of reporting potholes to GC for repair btw? When they redid the Standard area, they left one horrible one on Charlton Road as you approach the intersection with Old Dover Road (near the bus stop). It’s deep and often full of water too and it’s in a part not covered by the green paint.
    Thanks Darryl for continuing to campaign for safer cycling in Greenwich.

  4. Frankly it would mean you had a death wish to hug a kerb, at the mercy of close passes, drains, glass and potholes.

    Ultimately this encapsulates the decision cyclists have to make right now. I move down Shooter’s Hill faster than traffic so definitely not a problem to take lane, but understand others will not want to or be able. Therefore I defend the need for segregated infrastructure, even to my personal detriment, as it’ll encourage more cycling with all the benefits that offers to society and the individual.

    The lack of space on any road is untrue. Its the choice in the way the space is used. I have sod all interest in allowing motorised traffic unfettered space to speed. One minute from my house is the urban motorway that is Tweedy Road. Four lanes of choking, speeding and lethal traffic basically bypassing/bisecting Bromley. Plenty of room for walking, cycling and driving. But all anyone did was build a drag strip.

    Use: http://www.fillthathole.org.uk/ to report potholes.

  5. I agree that something needs to be done about the cars parked in the cycle lane along Trafalgar Road, particular west of Vanbrugh Hill. I’d also like to know when the new layout of the junction of Charlton Church Lane and Anchor and Hope Lane. I assume the works are part of the promised down grading of Woolwich Road, and the diversion of traffic to Bugsby’s Way, but the current junction makes cycle in the bus lane from Charlton Station to Anchor and Hope Lane feel a lot less safe.

  6. So, cyclists don’t like build-outs. And there was me thinking what a great benefit they were for people who can’t walk that fast, for example the elderly, disabled, mothers with pushchairs etc. Yes, pedestrians. Slightly more numerous than cyclists. If only pedestrians had such media coverage and money lavished on them. I remember visiting that cyclists’ nirvana Amsterdam as a pedestrian a few years ago. What with cars, trams and cyclists’ lanes, life as a pedestrian was extremely unpleasant. If the tram didn’t get you, the cyclists would. One particularly aggressive rider shouted at a group massing outside the Anne Frank house instructing them to get out of the way. I almost pushed her in the canal. I suppose the great build-out in Eltham High Street, used by thousands each day, should be ripped out for the peddling fraternity?

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