Go Dutch: Greenwich Council passes buck back to TfL

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.

Old Woolwich Road, 5 January 2013

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…


  1. To be fair I think my sympathies lie with the Borough on this one.

    I don’t think its on to come up with big promises during an election campaign and then lob them at a Borough from the losing party.

    Come on Boris, man up!

  2. True, it’s a glorious example of our mayor thinking with his arse.

    But Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham councils have all responded – why can’t Greenwich?

  3. Hello,

    I asked the same question about the TfL ‘go Dutch’ comment and have been assured it’s not Greenwich Council that is holding things up. It seems to be a bit of a waiting game as TfL explores the possible options on other highways and how they can make proper segregation work on some rather narrow streets. [As an aside, what do people think about total segregation or cycle lanes in general? Some people have expressed their full support for segregation while other cyclists have said they feel safer outside cycle lanes. I’d be interested in views.] Furthermore, I think some serious reassessment of the approach they’ve taken to junctions on other superhighways is underway. We wouldn’t want some of the dangerous ‘solutions’ used in other parts of London in Greenwich. That being said, I still feel 2015 is too far away- we need this as soon as possible.

    The decision to stop the cycle superhighway at New Cross is a bad one. I have similar fears that it will be cheaper to stop the next superhighway in Greenwich without fully extending it to Woolwich (and beyond!) and that is a possibility we must prevent by continuing to apply pressure on TfL. Build it and they will come and all that. I’m already noticing more cyclists in the Woolwich/Charlton stretch into town and proper infrastructure will only improve those numbers. I’ll keep bleating on about it and I’m sure other councillors will too. Please email your local councillor about it as well.

    The Thames Path… I chair the Sustainable Communities and Transport Panel and we have asked for a report on the path on 12 February, including some explanation of the way developers can simply cut off the path for months or indeed years on end. It’s a public meeting so come along if you can. I’m always around before the meeting if you want to chat, alternatively email me on Hayley.fletcher@greenwich.gov.uk if you have any points you wish to raise. The paper should be published the week beforehand.

    Members of the panel that can cycle will be doing a site visit before the meeting to get a sense of what it’s actually like to cycle the path and experience first-hand the insanity of the ‘missing link’ and the lack of appropriate signage- not that I wish to anticipate their views! Those members of the panel that are unable to cycle will be attending at key points on the path. If there is a specific point of the path you want us to look at please let me know.

    Cycling is not an issue we expect to be addressed in one review; no one would expect that of any other crucial piece of transport infrastructure so we need to keep plugging away at it. I’ve asked that cycling come onto the Panel’s agenda regularly to keep it in sight and in mind. Please keep posting or emailing and issues or pictures of issues on the path. We’re only a scrutiny panel, not a decision maker, but we can be persistent, annoying and make recommendations which can be equally as effective!

  4. Thanks for commenting, Hayley.

    Shouldn’t the council be more proactive, though? After all, if if can campaign for an ill-advised new road, Harry Singh can pick up the phone and talk to TfL, can’t he?

  5. I agree. Officers have previously said they were in active discussions with TfL on a range of issues. I’ll email again and make sure this is always on the agenda. I’ll make that point as well in the public meeting.

  6. Just to add a bit on the end of what Hayley says – and she is quite right – I’ve asked about the block at the end of Old Woolwich Road – why does it have to cover the whole road and what about some signage for cyclists – a pedestrian link has been left in place. I know that there were problems with this short stretch of road some years ago when lorries used to turn right into it and knock chunks off the buildings – but that hardly applies to cyclists!

  7. Apart from that brief look at plans a few weeks back, has there been any other disclosure on just how they will implement ‘Dutch style’ cyclepaths?

    The Dutch did not have a miracle solution. All they did was make two-way streets one-way by closing one lane, removing parking bays and/or footpaths and put cyclepaths in their place.

    Can anyone explain just which of these options works on our narrow crowded streets?

  8. It seems TfL have gone dutch with the extension of the CSH into Stratford, and there is an excellent example of how to do in Camden around College Street.

    There are already areas the council could improve road space now, like Woolwich Church Street/Woolwich Road where the road is already pretty wide, and the pavements are massive and underused, and could be converted to either segregated lanes or shared space.

    Other things is making Shooters Hill Road a bit easier for cycling, with better signage and routes at Sun in the Sands, improvements to the routes around Charlton Village (the corner by the St Lukes is dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing) by doing work in Charlton Park, and getting the Riverside route completed around the Barrier so novice cyclist aren’t forced up onto the Woolwich Road.

    The Plumstead cycle route is a great example of getting in right, but once into Bexley, the experience as a cyclist improves massively.

  9. All good stuff, Sacha! We can create such cycle-friendly bus stops with paintwork while we wait for funds to build a proper traffic island.

  10. i said that I would try to find out about the road block – and I have only just had a reply to my query to Council Officers on this. Officers are allowed 10 days to reply to Councillors – and they have taken 10 days exactly. I can’t imagine at this stage that at this stage anyone at all will read this reply – but I said I would get one, so here it is. The reply I got confirmed that it was closed for building work and that this is ‘to keep the public safe at all times’, I am very happy to go back again and ask that while there was a pedestrian passage why there was not also space for cyclists, why there is no signage on the west side of the block (which is two way for cyclists, and one way for motor vehicles) and what notice was given. If people want me to do this please let me know.But it might be another 10 days,.

  11. ok will do, Meanwhile I have just had a super fast message from waste services about bikes that get slung in the refuse. Will put on marysdiary

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