It’s been a few months now since new cycle lanes were installed on parts of the A206 through Greenwich and Charlton, along sections of Trafalgar Road and Woolwich Road. While they’re nowhere near the Dutch-style lanes many cyclists want to see – and there’s still nothing happening to make the notorious Woolwich Road flyover safe – they’re bigger and clearer than their predecessors. They’re typical of the kind of cycle safety work Greenwich Council has put in over the past few years – while it’s not likely to entice anyone new onto two wheels, it tends to make things a little easier for those who already pedal. Until there’s a change of leadership, this kind of thing is the best we can hope for.
That said, there’s a few concerns. One I’ve heard is that sticking a traffic island at the foot of Victoria Way in Charlton has made Woolwich Road less safe for bikes by narrowing it. I’ve got no opinion on that, but I’ve certainly found that raising the level of Victoria Way at that junction has encouraged cars to divide into two lanes – blocking it for cyclists. It’s funny what the absence of a kerb does.
But more generally, it’s the fact that these shiny new cycle lanes carry no legal protection whatsoever. There’s not much point in creating a cycle lane if you then allow people to park in it.
I only do a few hundred yards of the Woolwich Road each morning, but the days when the cycle lane is clear all the way through are rare. But I’m lucky. Head into Greenwich, and things get a lot worse…
Thanks to Matt Drewry for this video, which he stuck up on Twitter when this came up in conversation. He shot it during yesterday morning’s rush hour as he cycled through Greenwich. The problem here’s pretty clear – Iceland and Tesco supermarket delivery lorries blocking the lane (and a great chunk of the rest of the road, too). There’s a similar issue on Creek Road in Deptford, too, with Tesco lorries blocking the bus lane.
So what’s to be done? A supermarket needs deliveries, but is it possible to shift those deliveries to a quieter hour? And with Sainsbury’s occupying space in the (Heart of East) Greenwich Square development, is this problem going to occur there, too?
There aren’t easy answers. But with cyclists’ safety back on the agenda after more needless deaths, this kind of thing has to be taken into consideration – not just when designing roads, but in wider planning, too.
Any council can spend as much as it likes on white paint and create a cycle lane. But if that lane’s always blocked when it’s most needed, then its really needs to go back to the drawing board.