Greenwich Park: Police recommend raising speed limits

One of the best things about Greenwich Park in recent years is how it’s largely stopped being a through route for cars. On Sundays, crowds can meander up the hill safe in the knowledge they won’t get squashed by some berk speeding down in four wheels. The closure of the park at the top of The Avenue (the hill) as a through route during weekday daytimes and at weekends has played a big part in this; so has the park’s 20mph speed limit. Indeed, I know one cyclist who was stopped by police for doing 30mph down the hill one morning.

So it’s baffling to hear that the park police have been considering raising the limit back up to 30mph. A report from a meeting posted to the Greenwich Cyclists e-mail list says an outside police traffic unit recommended raising the limit “to improve safety”. Quite how allowing cars to drive faster in an area used by thousands of pedestrians, many of them small children, was not recorded. Happily, it was decided this would not be carried out “for the time being”.

But when councils up and down the land are implementing 20mph schemes on their side roads, it seems bizarre that anyone would even consider this. Many of east Greenwich’s back streets are already 20mph zones, and Greenwich Council is thinking about implementing it borough-wide (surely it should just get on with it rather than fart about with a “best value review”, but never mind). So Greenwich Park could end up being the fastest route down the hill for some miles around. Hopefully this idea won’t just sit on the back-burner, but fall off and quietly disappear.

Meanwhile, it’s all change at the top of the park as the new Blackheath Gate (English to NOGOE translation: “Olympic vandalism”) takes shape. Unfortunately, this has meant the park’s become a through route again, hosting one way traffic from Blackheath down to Greenwich. At the top of the park, nobody’s quite worked out what cyclists are meant to do to exit. Squeeze out with the pedestrians, or take your chances going against the flow of cars. Ah, sod it, take a chance with the cars…

The arrival of spring also means the start of the hard work in transforming the park into an Olympic venue. The Circus Field on Blackheath has already been taken over by LOCOG (the circus itself will be across the other side of Shooters Hill Road as usual this Easter), but the real work begins on Monday when the Queen’s Field – the land in front of the Queen’s House – is taken over for construction work on the equestrian stadium. If you want to enjoy the classic view from the Wolfe statue without a stadium or building works being there – you’ve six days left.

But will there be any NOGOE activists chaining themselves to construction vehicles next week? Not so, for it appears the anti-equestrian lobby has finally raised the white flag. An email sent out to media contacts yesterday says the group “is evolving into a monitoring group to hold the Olympic organisers, LOCOG, to their promises to reinstate Greenwich Park after the damage they cause, and to provide a record and running commentary of the activity and disruption that will interest the media, conservation groups, Park users and local residents”.

More tellingly, remembering the fiasco of the anti-Irish Twitter messages posted by its unofficial spokesperson Rachel “Indigo” Mawhood, is this line: “Also please note that Rachel Mawhood has parted company with NOGOE.” First broken here last month, the story eventually made it into the Mail on Sunday.

Considering the pitiful turnout for their July demonstration against the test events, and the damage done to their Olympics cause by their unofficial spokesperson, perhaps if the NOGOE-rs care about the park so much, they could turn their energies to ensuring it doesn’t become Greenwich’s fastest rat run in future.

Update 9.20am Tuesday: Thanks to Duncan Borrowman for reminding me of one sad reason why the speed limit should not be increased.


  1. Regarding the park-police proposed 30mph vehicular speed through Greenwich Park, I am shocked at this. With speed bumps on both outside downhill roads this suggestion would attract more traffic than ever. The park has indeed been transformed since through traffic has been stopped apart from “rush-hour” times, into a safe space for pedestrians of all ages. My daughter once almost sped into the road, aged 4years, when her bicycle unexpectedly turned toward the incline (opposite the lavatories centre of the road through), and she did not have full control of the breaks; luckily a friend who was not as stunned as me leapt to the rescue and saved her from rolling under the wheels of passing cars.
    In 1948, before my birth, my uncle’s youngest daughter was indeed run down and killed on the park road as she dashed out after a ball – a very sad tale that has haunted me all my life . . . . what “might have been”.
    You must discover the park-police rationale for this notion to allow increased speeds – is it intended to alleviate congestion on roads around the park perimeter? It is not sensible to attract more vehicles into Greenwich centre; the area is known to have the worse air pollution in England under certain weather conditions, and there are nursery and primary schools in the area whereby the asthma rates are higher than in other parts of England because of the traffic pollution. Efforts should be in deterring vehicular traffic from Greenwich.

    As for your comments on the olympic vandalism in Greenwich Park, I applaud the efforts of NOGOE for bringing to our attention just how far-reaching these acts of vandalism are. Staging the equestrian events in Greenwich Royal park is nothing less than rape in my opinion; since the introduction of the London Marathon Greenwich Park has ceased to be the tranquil jewel of enjoyment for its visitors it used to be.

  2. The should cut the speed limit to 15mph and actually enforce it using an average speedy camara system at the top and bottom of the hill. Actually they should try and enforce the speedy limits on any number of local roads. As I was crossing South Street by the sign that tells you how fast you are going the other morning whilst taking my daughter to school someone shot past at 68mph!

  3. re.speed limit. This is redicolous. It should be brought down to the effective 8mph if anything at all. Cars are already speeding down the hill. The park was full of families on both Saturday and Sunday, many of whom think the hill is closed to traffic at weekends, I and importantly thye dog i was looking after were confronted by a stream of cars speeding down the hill. I realise this is only because of the construction work but this should be the reason for tighter controls. The only justice was that cars were then backed up King William Walk on Saturday afternoon spoliing of course what is invariably a mixed use avenue at the weekends.

  4. “Staging the equestrian events in Greenwich Royal park is nothing less than rape in my opinion”

    I’m left speechless by that.

  5. I hope the horsey events go well. Me, I’m just gritting my teeth and hoping for some peace again in October, and maybe some improvement in air quality, assuming we haven’t all suffocated by then.

    Chopping and changing on speed limits creates uncertainty and, thereby, danger. And when there is an accident, a speed of twenty mph is much less likely to kill. A consistent, strongly enforced limit of 20 mph on all but through highways — such as the A2, for instance — would prevent confusion, save lives and let us do away with speed bumps. We can learn to leave home earlier when we have to drive, and to drive at a sensible speed. Twenty is plenty.

  6. The one time I drove through there I got stopped by the police who had clocked me at 24mph. And I had no complaints at being given a telling off.

    30mph is fairly safe if it’s stuck to, but 30 quickly becomes 40 (or 68!) and there will be a nasty accident before long so this is a terrible idea.

  7. Jackie, I am so sorry for your cousin’s death. How tragic and what a waste of a life. Even if it was a long time back, the same hazards persist.

    A recent police traffic survey records that the average speed in a week in January (with a limit of 20mph) was 23 mph, with 15% of vehicles going at 30mph or more (and this on the upper, flat part, so no doubt the speeds were higher on the longer downhill stretch). This fits with the observation that cars went more like 35mph and often even 40mph or more when the limit was 30. On an unlit road with no physical speed restrictors through a park where there are children and cyclists and, not infrequently, dogs off leads, to propose raising the speed limit seems curious.

    Once over the age of, I think, 11 or 12, children are not allowed to cycle on the footpaths in the park and so are thrown in with the traffic on the downhill stretch and the school journey becomes potentially lethal. The lowering of the limit to 20mph recently is the best thing to have happened in the park since it became car free at weekends and during the day. I agree with Richard and Malcolm above – why not make the limit 10 or 15mph?

    Personally, I would ban traffic completely rather than just at certain times of day, and certainly change the 4pm traffic start time to 4.30pm to let children get home from school on foot or on bikes before opening the park up to cars. A park is not well served by being used as a commuter rat run when it is such a precious and loved amenity.

    In any case, what is the rationale for raising the speed limit? The police claim it is for “safety reasons” but that seems odd – in what world is a 30mph speed limit through a park safer than a 20mph limit? This road is one of only a very few in Greenwich to have had more than one pedestrian/cyclist death in the last 5 years so should have more traffic calming, not less.

  8. It has been wrongly suggested that Greenwich Council has a part in this crazy proposal. The Royal Parks (a Government agency) are solely responsible for rules in the Park , such as speed imits, and they are beyond the coucnil’s control. Greenwich Coucnil argued, along with others, for a reduction in the speed limit to 20mph following a fatal accident a few years ago, and I am strongly opposed to any reversal of this reduction. I have asked the Royal Parks why they are considering this and await a reply.

    Alex Grant
    (Labour councillor for Blackheath Westcombe ward)

  9. Thanks for commenting, Alex – I’m not sure where the idea that the council is to blame came from (other than a link to here from the Blackheath Bugle). I’d be interested to hear what the Royal Parks have to say…

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