Ex-cycling czar criticises council ‘cowardice’ after Deptford bike death

Childers Street
The collision took place on Sunday afternoon on Childers Street, Deptford

London’s former cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan has accused Lewisham Council and City Hall of “cowardice” after a cyclist was killed in a hit-and-run collision on a road which was originally planned to be closed to cars.

The man was killed on Sunday after his bicycle was hit by a silver B Class Mercedes at the junction of Rolt Street and Childers Street, Deptford, on the Quietway 1 cycle route. The driver fled the scene.

Witnesses told the Evening Standardthe bicycle was dragged 200 yards up Childers Street before the driver ran away at the junction of Abinger Grove. Police have appealed for help in finding him.

Childers Street had been planned to be closed in original plans for Quietway 1, which opened in June 2016 and provides a route from Greenwich station to the South Bank which TfL describes as “ideal for people who want to cycle on lower-traffic streets”.

Childers Street, Deptford
Quietway 1 on Childers Street was supposed to be closed off just ahead of the van

Unlike the higher-profile Cycle Superhighways – which are mostly TfL’s responsibility – the Quietway schemes are largely put in place by London boroughs, and Lewisham Council took out the car-free section of Childers Street after a public consultation.

After Quietway 1 opened, instead of a physical block being put in place on Childers Street, part of Rolt Street was made one-way for motor vehicles to stop them turning right into the road. The collision happened at this point, by the old Donovan Brothers paper bag works, recently converted into housing.

Gilligan, who was cycling commissioner from 2013 to 2016, said on Twitter after the incident: “Another cyclist dies at a spot where improvements we planned haven’t been delivered by Sadiq.

“Childers St/ Rolt St jct (on Quietway 1) was meant to be filtered both ways. It has only been filtered one way (and in practice cars can still drive both ways)

The original plan for the Rolt Street/Childers Street junction

This was our proposed design at the death junction: a full filter on the Childers Street arm. Instead, after I left, they installed a supposedly one-way-only filter on the Rolt St arm. But with no cameras or one-way-only flaps, many ignore it and drive both ways.

City Hall and council cowardice may have cost someone’s life here.”

The death came after two fatal collisions in two weeks in Greenwich in locations where improvements for cyclists’ safety had been cut by Khan.

The first, on 9 May, came on Romney Road, which would have covered by Cycle Superhighway 4, originally meant to run from London Bridge to Woolwich but shortened under Khan to link Tower Bridge and Deptford Creek Bridge. CS4 was due to run via the Old Royal Naval College, Gilligan says.

The second was on 18 May at the Woolwich Road roundabout, which was due to be improved under both CS4 and the cancelled Better Junctions programme.

Campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists is holding a “die-in” at Woolwich Town Hall from 6pm this evening (Thursday) to protest about the deaths.

Quietway 1 map
Quietway 1 links Greenwich station with the South Bank

Quietway 1 was due to open in May 2015 but did not open until 13 months later, shortly after Khan took office.

Much of it is off-road or on roads that have been blocked off to through traffic, but Childers Street remained an exception.

“They just decided in the end to wait me out,” Gilligan said on Twitter.

“I refused to approve anything that retained the rat-run – that was where we left it when I left post.

Rolt Street, Deptford
Rolt Street from the south: drivers can still travel, albeit illegally, towards Childers Street

“Quietway 1 was largely done under my watch but was not opened. I wanted the filtering in Childers and a few other things before we declared it open. The new regime declared it open without these things in June 2016.”

“It wasn’t finished then and it still isn’t,” he added.

Discussing the incident with Scott Barkwith, vice-chair of residents’ group Deptford Folk – who had said the incident was the driver’s fault alone – Gilligan continued: “Infrastructure ought to allow for the fact that some drivers are dangerous dicks – and the proposals we made would have. Don’t make excuses for useless Sadiq.”

Childers Street, Deptford
Rolt Street from Childers Street: The collision happened at this point

Lewisham Council recently won £2.9m in funding from TfL to create a “liveable neighourhood” in the area, which is undergoing redevelopment.

A consultation on the scheme saw a number of people comment that the Childers Street/ Rolt Street junction was dangerous both for pedestrians and cyclists and that it needed blocking off.

North Deptford consultation
One of the comments left on the North Deptford liveable neighbourhood consultation

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the cyclist who sadly died on Sunday after being hit by a car in Deptford.

“We urge anyone who has information or witnessed the crash to get in touch with the police on 101 quoting CAD5060/3June or by calling Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

12.40pm update: Despite the death at Childers Street, and the issues at the junction, London Cycling Campaign is holding a “summer ride” along Quietway 1 on Saturday, aimed at cyclists looking for an “easier ride”.

Story updated again at 1.40pm to include Lewisham Council statement.

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