New Year poll: Cyclists and Greenwich & Woolwich foot tunnels

Greenwich Foot TunnelFor the end of 2012, we were promised shiny and revamped foot tunnels at Greenwich and Woolwich – but they never happened. The Woolwich tunnel’s been left to rot, the Greenwich tunnel has gained new lifts which still aren’t working properly. It still looks a mess as well.

Funnily enough, the foot tunnel fiasco doesn’t make it into Greenwich Council’s back-slapping review of the year, available for a fiver – sick bags not included.

One thing that struck me before Christmas was the heated debate about cyclists in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, after this website revealed nobody had been prosecuted for cycling in there for three years. Ticketing errant cyclists would raise more than a Dear Leader’s Greatest Hits DVD ever would – but should, as some commenters suggested, the council officially adopt a more tolerant attitude to those who want to nip through on two wheels, rather than just unofficially doing so?

So, in place of any leadership from the council, let’s have a poll and see what you really think. I’ve taken some of the suggestions and tried to combine them into a series of options that’d work for both Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels. Maybe by this time next year, we could have a radical new policy that both cyclists and walkers could agree with.

Or maybe we could just have working lifts, and fixed-up tunnels instead…


  1. Well, I voted for ‘considerate cycling’ but I’m not at all sure how it is defined or how it could be brought about.

  2. I’m for considerate cycling at all times, here and on Cutty Sark Gardens. Thanks for this useful poll, Darryl.

  3. Not everyone would follow considerate cycling. there is not enough width for cycling lane/s (both directions). Whenever i used to walk through there were always young children to consider, so I think all-in-all for safety it should be cyclists walking through. But nothing can happen without the lifts being staffed properly/ working continuously, as well as the tunnel itself being finished to a high standard (not smelling like a latrine for a start). Has the mayor made any comments about the state of both tunnels? shouldn’t he be playing a part in the whole affair? as he is somewhat responsible for London river crossings isn’t he? Left to Greenwich Council nothing will ever happen and Greenwich will not be held to account for wasting residents’ council-tax.

  4. Boris has done precisely nothing about the tunnels – both are run by Greenwich (on behalf of Tower Hamlets and Newham). Doing something to knock the boroughs in line sounds too much like hard work for our do-nothing mayor.

  5. then perhaps that’s where our petition (?) might start? I.e. with our London Mayor, after all he seemed very motivated and encouraging about the Greenwich cable car river crossing and that didn’t involve cyclists, towards whom he is usually encouraging

  6. Jackie,

    This is an answer that Boris Johnson gave to Caroline Pidgeon, (leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group) in a question she asked to the Mayor two years ago. As Darryl says, in reality the Mayor has shamefully done nothing about the tunnels. He is too busy writing his Daily Telegraph columns and trying to get an airport built in the Thames Estuary.

    Mayor answers to London
    Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels
    Question number 3914/2010
    Meeting date 15/12/2010

    Question by
    Caroline Pidgeon

    Further to your decision to take no action to assist cyclists crossing the Thames during the refurbishment of both the Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels will you at least consider making representations to Greenwich Council to ensure that the publicised limited opening hours of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel are at least properly maintained by Greenwich Council and their contractors Dean and Dyball?

    Answer by Boris Johnson (1st Term)
    As I made clear in answer to your previous question 3551/2010 on this subject, the London Borough of Greenwich is responsible for these tunnels and the provision of alternative arrangements to assist cyclists. Greenwich has, as you know, published travel advice to tunnel users on their website. This link applies:


    However, TfL and I do recognise that the tunnels provide an important link for both cyclists and pedestrians, and I have asked that TfL raise the issue of the publicised opening hours of the tunnels with the London Borough of Greenwich.

  7. Jackie

    And this is the most recent answer provided by the Mayor of London. The answer to Caroline Pidgeon’s latest question was provided on the 21st December 2012.


    Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels
    Question No: 3833 / 2012
    Caroline Pidgeon
    In an answer to a parliamentary question Mark Prisk MP stated that: “Responsibility for these grants then passed to the Greater London Authority on 1 April 2012 as part of the wider transfer of the agency’s London responsibilities”. (written questions asked by Simon Hughes MP and answered by the Minister of State for Housing on the 6th November 2012 (Official Report, Column 544W)) In your answer to MQ 3334/2012 you stated that any remaining works were the responsibility of the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Can you tell me who is responsible for the refurbishment of these foot tunnels?
    Written response from the Mayor
    As stated in the answer to MQ 3334 / 2012 the Royal Borough of Greenwich are responsible for the refurbishment of the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels.

  8. How long does it take to walk through the tunnel…2-3 minutes?

    Are cyclists so full of their own importance that pedestrians should have to stay out of the way so they can get to their destination just that tiny bit quicker?

    The tunnels are narrow and cycling is rightly prohibited to stop the inevitable speeding idiots hitting pedestrians or yelling at people for not getting out of their precious way quickly enough.

    The tunnels are footpaths, not cyclepaths. Get over it.

  9. It’s just not practicable to oversee and fine those cyclists who are “irresponsible” – how would you identify them and catch them? Greenwich won’t even staff the lifts let alone oversee the whole tunnel (although I think the lift workers had a set of cameras inside the lifts that showed up any wrong-doing. Cctv cameras only capture actions on film, not the culprits. I agree with Nelson’s left eye above, cyclists should dismount as they have done since 1902; there is simply not enough room for cycling alongside pedestrians -particularly young children who tend to skip and jump etc. It would not be safe and never has been safe and that is why it has never been encouraged. I have seen many cyclists with one foot on a pedal and free-cycling along without mounting over the saddle and this seems to have been okay, as they slow down more easily when passing a crowd of people.

  10. What if we fined irresponsible cyclists but allowed the others to carry on as normal?


    That’s a sensible suggestion. But what you forget is, Greenwich Council don’t do sensible!

  11. J J how would you identify the irresponsible cyclists and then fine them? and what if that did not deter them and they continued to be irresponsible cyclists who were fined a lot, that is if they could be identified and then caught. And who would catch them and fine them. And how can a fine ever compensate for being knocked over, or finding it impossible to ever walk through the tunnel again in case you were knocked over and hurt badly?

  12. I’m pleased to see that the poll does not reflect the views of Nelson and Jackie.

    No one disdains bad cyclists more than good ones. I have ridden, and coasted off saddle (which incidentally Jackie gives one less control of the bike but hey-hum) through the tunnel a thousand times without incident or complaint. There is plenty of room so long as the cyclist is sensible and slows if and when they pass other pedestrians (or even gets off at these points as I often do, particularly where small children are concerned).

    There is no sense in punishing the majority for the (perceived) bad behaviour of a minority.

  13. we’ll have to agree to disagree – I agree with you in principle but think that even one accident of a pedestrian by a thoughtless cyclist in my opinion makes the entire issue a non-cycle tunnel one. The considerate-cycling lobby probably consists of majority cyclists. I cannot perceive how such a scheme would be monitored and ‘policed’ effectively. Greenwich Council believe we do not need anyone staffing the lifts as there is cctv, and so far the lifts are rarely operative due to vandalism. But are the vandals identified, prosecuted and deterred?

  14. Considerate cycling in the tunnel ? Might just as well have considerate driving at crossroads ! Can you imagine the problems ?

  15. Chris2: “There is no sense in punishing the majority for the (perceived) bad behaviour of a minority.”

    A fantastic response from someone who proudly admits he’s illegally cycled through the tunnel “a thousand times”.

    Going by such matchless logic, we might as well rescind all laws!

  16. This is off topic but who should I complain to? I managed with help to walk the length of the tunnel only to find the lift on the far side out-of-action. I’m too disabled to manage stairs. Greenwich – look after the crossings you already have!

  17. Jackie, you say ‘I agree with you in principle but think that even one accident of a pedestrian by a thoughtless cyclist in my opinion makes the entire issue a non-cycle tunnel one’ – doesn’t the logic here mean that we should also be saying ‘even one accident of a pedestrian by a thoughtless driver … makes the entire issue a non-car road one’ after any crash on the streets?

    In more general terms, can we accept that most tunnel users, whether children or adults, whether on foot or on bikes, are likely to be decent people? They’re not out to cause alarm, they may be a bit thoughtless but they’re not generally trying to cause harm. As such, we should try to design a set of rules which inconvenience and ‘criminalise’ as few of them as possible – the rules should catch the truly unacceptable or dangerous behaviour that a minority indulges in.

    At present, cycling is banned, and, in no particular order, we see some ‘decent cyclists’ obeying the ban and walking through, some ‘decent cyclists’ scooting through, and some ‘decent cyclists’ riding through considerately, with (I would suggest) crossover between all these groups depending on how busy the tunnel is, and a nagging feeling of resentment about the blanket ban common to many. We also see some ‘inconsiderate cyclists’ racing through without a care in the world. The last three groups – all of those who were on their bikes – would be breaking the rules.

    If we instead permitted considerate cycling, I’d suggest that instead we would see (again in no particular order) some ‘inconsiderate cyclists’ racing through without a care in the world, some ‘decent cyclists’ riding through considerately, some ‘decent cyclists’ scooting through, and some ‘decent cyclists’ walking through, with crossover between these last three groups depending on how busy the tunnel is. There would be no feeling of resentment from the any of the ‘decent cyclists’ about the rules, and only the first group, the ‘inconsiderate cyclists,’ would be breaking them.

    Assuming common levels of enforcement between the two scenarios (whether that is practically none, as at present, or something a bit stronger), can someone explain to me how the current situation is better than the one where considerate cycling is permitted?

  18. I always cycle through the tunnel (safely and considerately). Changing the rules won’t change that.

    I would ask them to remove the barriers that don’t cause me any problems on my bike (probably easier to get round on your bike than off them), but I imagine are a pain for people with prams or wheelchairs.

  19. I voted for “considerate cycling at all hours”, but I’m also strongly in favour of allowing cycles on the DLR across the Thames. This should be easy for TfL to introduce, outside rush hour at least.

  20. Am interested in the commments as I’m just about to start using some form of river crossing to get me to work from Woolwich to Barking. I love the free ferry but in this weather I don’t fancy cooling down once I get to the terminal to wait for the ferry so I thought I’d give the foot tunnel a whirl…. I’ll report back.

  21. Lift at North Woolwich end still out of action….very disappointed. Got on ferry. Is it actually a ploy to stop cyclists using the tunnel at all??

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