Greenwich and Charlton’s new cycle lanes – what do you think?

Trafalgar Road, Greenwich

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.

Woolwich Road, Charlton

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.


  1. Don’t forget the Co-op – it usually has a delivery lorry parked-up during rush hour too. I sometimes cycle to work at 6.00am and, funnily enough, the road is clear all the way. And the cycle lane is great. I don’t think I’ve ever had a clear route when I go about 8ish. And that’s when you actually need it given the usual slow-moving queues along that way. The council simply needs to enforce more effective single yellow parking restrictions.

  2. whooo – I used to ride a bike a lot in london, some years ago when cycle lanes weren’t even a dream in anybodies head, but that seems to me to be a shockingly dangerous piece of cycling at 0:34 when the cyclist in front of the camera comes up the inside of that lorry without any apparent caution – if the cyclist is experienced this manoeuvre is OKish but I suspect the number of cyclists hurt, and worse, coming up the inside of lorries, is greater than any other type of accident.

  3. I think you’re right, asking all the businesses on the Lower Road to delay deliveries until after the peak rush, would make the world of difference. It really is a surreal situation when it feels like a treat to be able to use the entire stretch of the bike lane!

  4. Glad it isn’t just me that’s fed up with the cycle lanes being blocked. Between Victoria Way and Woolwich Road heading to Greenwich there are normally lorry’s and vans parked up to get there breakfast in the cafe down that way. Coming home on Woolwich Road there are the pizza delivery bikes parked in the cycle lanes. It ought to be illegal to block a cycle lane with fixed penalties for anyone caught doing so.

    On the flip side and in the spirit of fairness, there should also be on the spot fines for the numerous cyclists that ride through red traffic lights!

  5. I’ve been reading the LCC article about Holborn and Aldgate:

    Quick quote:

    “From the moment we saw the designs for this “superhighway” back in 2011, we pointed out that it was desperately flawed, and that advisory blue paint – over which motor traffic is directed to drive – is worse than useless.

    It’s worse than useless because it can create a false sense of security for those very people who are being encouraged by the Mayor to take up cycling, and take advantage of the “new, safe routes” for cycle commuters.”

    Worse than useless. That’s how I feel about the new cycle lanes on Trafalgar Road. They are intermittent, disappearing when the road narrows or there’s a bus stop. In the day they are occupied by lorries unloading. In the evenings they are occupied by parked cars. Where ASLs are provided (and I’m no great fan of ASLs) there isn’t necessarily a cycle lane to take you safely up to the “bike box”.

    For the faster, more experienced cyclist the solution used to be to overtake the motor vehicle traffic, particularly when it’s snarled up westbound. That’s still possible, but it’s now more dangerous as the cycle lanes have forced drivers away from the edges and towards the centre of the road. So it’s not really a win for keen cyclists who are used to London’s roads.

    For the beginner or the less confident cyclist the new lanes are useless. Having to repeatedly pull out into the general traffic lane in front of buses, lorries, white vans etc. is no fun, and I certainly wouldn’t allow any child of mine to try it.

    But shops need deliveries, so what do we do? Would it better to scrap the cycle lanes and instead impose a 20mph speed limit with measures to curb the speed of traffic (clear signage, raised crossings, bumpy road surfaces, speed cameras)? Perhaps delivery times could be further restricted too. People on bikes would still have to mix with motor traffic, but it may at least feel a little safer. Who knows, if we tame the traffic a little it may make Trafalgar Road a more friendly place to be for pedestrians leading to increased footfall and better trade for the local shops…

    This is all a live issue, because TfL are planning Cycle Superhighway CS4 to come down here on its way from London Bridge to Woolwich. Apparently TfL were involved with the recent cycle lane design, but hopefully they can come up with something better before 2015 when CS4 is due to be installed. And don’t start me on the need in improve the junctions – the cyclist deaths at Woolwich Road / Vanbrugh Hill and under the Woolwich Road flyover make it clear that improvements are well overdue.

  6. Its a number of things on that section of Trafalgar road. Firstly the mess of the junction as you enter it, forces cars, buses and lorries all over the place, so you struggle to get to the bike lane, then the deliveries, and not to forget the bus stop outside the CoOp too which is really busy, and finally the crossing outside Christchurch which causes the traffic to bunch. Add it all together, and hugging the kerb in safety isn’t going to work

    Riding on the outside of slow moving traffic isn’t that unsafe along there, its probably safer as you’ll get seen by all motorists, and there is a quite route along parallel via Pelton Road to go for if the road looks a bit busy

  7. The Rochester Way facing from Kidbrooke towards Eltham – always cars parked in marked cycle lanes. I contacted the council who replied that the lanes are currently non-enforceable/advisable only – which means they are basically as good as useless. I agree with a previous poster, by having them, and not enforcing them, it actually leads to a false sense of security for both motorist and rider.

    I’m also concerned about the quality of road surfaces in the borough (I know we’ve had a hard winter etc etc), but swerving into traffic to avoid pot-holes does not a safe ride make!

    Worse stretch I’ve found so far is Shooter’s Hill Road going towards Greenwich (just before the lights by the opposite side of the road to the Esso Garage) – road surface (near the kerb) is really difficult to ride upon, and a rider can easily be jolted into the traffic. I’ve noticed the council put a new red (route) line on the road there….and has now even painted over the holes….nobody thought to fill/repair them first! (again I’ve contacted the council about this. No reply as yet.)

  8. Trust me, Greenwich borough road surfaces are like velvet when compared with much of Lewisham’s – cross Blackheath via Prince of Wales Road and you feel it.

  9. You inner Londoners don’t know you’re born ;-). Try Bromley and Kent roads, potholes like moon craters.

  10. The island at the bottom of Victoria does make the Zebra crossing a lot safer for pedestrians.

  11. Hmmm, I’m going to piss a lot of you off by saying that you are an articulate and vocal minority who command attention far greater than your numbers merit. I’ve backed cyclists on these pages before, but come on, you can be a bunch of moaning minnies.

    You’re all whinging about the cars and yet it is those car drivers paying for your cycle lanes! And the income from motorists pays for pothole repairs — it’s just the politicians won’t spend it on them. You don’t even need third party insurance.

    The Vanbrugh Road junction is hopeless for car drivers (as noted by Sacha), fix it for motorists and it should be better for cyclists.

    Lorries and cars that park on cycle lanes/yellow lines should be nicked, they delay me as well as you.

    Remember, what you’re getting, you’re getting for free and some of you do abuse it. I drove down Park Row yesterday, six cyclists came up the road. Could have sworn it was a one-way street!

  12. Don’t be an arse Chris on tax, roads are paid for by general taxation not Vehicle excise duty, and cyclist pay those general taxs

  13. I should add that the traffic island at the bottom of Victoria Way is a messy compromise – there was a demand for a pelican crossing, but TfL doesn’t install new traffic lights any more as part of “smoothing the flow”.

    I’m not sure whether crossing Woolwich Road in two goes does make it safer, although the crossing’s certainly more visible.

  14. Ever heard of fuel duty? Ever heard of VED? Ever heard of VAT on fuel duty? Do you call that ‘general taxation’? If you do, then I refer you to your arse comment.

    The total sum raised by the above in 2011/12 was some 38 billion pounds. The total spent on roads and road transport in the same period was around 13 billion.

    So the motorist not only pays his/her way, but actually helps keep the tax you pay down. To the tune of some 25 billion quid a year.

    I think that also covers Darryl’s first point. As to Darryl’s second, when you get in your car you’re being ripped off as well…..

  15. Chris, how would you respond to someone posting a factually inaccurate and ignorantly inflammatory comment? Well say that to yourself.

    Look more closely at this pernicious rubbish about paying for the use of the roads: do kids have no right to cross the road? What about people on the dole driving to a job interview?

    And the end product of your dystopian view. Does that mean trucks should be above the rules or deserve more privileges? Maybe you shouldn’t be on their roads? After all, their owners ‘pay’ more than you to be on the roads. For their pollution of course, but might is right, no, Chris?

  16. You are wrong. VED is levied on engine size and emissions. So bikes, along with electric vehicles, are functionally exempt. Electric cars have no right to the road?

    You wanna argue about levels of tax fine, but ain’t nothing special or hypothecated about what you pay to put your car on the road. Don’t like the cost, walk or cycle. Driving is a privilege not a right.

  17. Stuart, “Chris, how would you respond to someone posting a factually inaccurate and ignorantly inflammatory comment?” Well I responded, as you saw, by showing that revenue from the motorists is 38 billion quid a year compared with expenditure of 13 billion. The motorist more than pays his//her way with the excess going to the Exchequer. Since he called me an arse, I proved he was.

    So now Stuart, you don’t dispute the facts but calls them pernicious rubbish without actually disputing the facts and bring up two bizarre questions which I will answer. Do kids have the right to cross the road? Of course they do. I was in favour of the split Zebra Crossing by Victoria Way, far safer for pedestrians and makes motorists drive more carefully as well.

    And of course people on the dole can drive to their interview. Why on earth should they not?

    Oh, and Darry’ls interesting Guardian clip. Notice something odd about it? Well it admits that in its calculations it is not including the 25 billion extra quid the government grab from motorists to buy Trident and the like. The fact the motorist contributes far more to the Exchequer than he gets back is an inconvenience which can be brushed off by ignoring it.

    Electric cars? All for them. They won’t make it. Too expensive.

  18. Just checking back, and here’s something for @jamesgarner.

    I’ve seen the encroachment of red lines up there. How ridiculous they’ve painted them across potholes. Typical bureaucracy. Anyway, the red lines will mean the council is no longer responsible. The road is now a ‘red route’ and run by TfL, so try them on 0845 305 1234. The council link to the TfL pothole reporting line is duff (as are Lewisham’s and Richmond’s at a quick glance).

    I learned about red routes/TfL this when I saw a cyclist nearly run over by a car illegally turning right at the Prince of Wales Road onto the A2. I do care about cyclists!

    I also got the signage changed to stop coaches leaving the A102 at the Sun in the Sands during rush hour when there’s traffic jams and then turning right at the same junction to go down to the Standard and Westcombe dodge them.

  19. At the Blackwall Lane, Trafalgar Road, Woolwich Road and Vanbrugh Hill traffic light junction every form of road traffic just continues to block this junction.

    The traffic lights changes ten times before buses heading towards the Woolwich flyover could get pass this junction.

    Along the woolwich road HGVs park outside the cafes whilst having breakfast.

    Too add to this a new Sainsbury’s Local is planned for the new Greenwich Sq. development so deliveries will increase to four retailer’s Tesco Express, Co-Op, Iceland and Sainsbury’s Local.

    I have noticed an increase during the rush hour at the traffic lights junction under the Woolwich flyover just coming to a stand still again as all routes to Exit are just blocked.

    I wouldn’t attempt to cycle to work. If the river bus was a little cheaper and the return service started from Woolwich Arsenal at 16.00hrs I would consider a season ticket purchase.

    There was a very close near –miss with a moped and a skip lorry on Thursday afternoon at the junction of Trafalgar Road and Earlswood Street SE10

  20. I hope the Trafalgar/Woolwich Road/Vanbrugh Hill box junction needs to be changed. If you obey the rules and keep out of the box – a. You will never get anywhere, b. Angry drivers behind will probably resort to violence. I hope as part of the Greenwich Square project, they restructure this.

    As for the loading/unloading of lorries – yep pushes buses and cyclists into on coming traffic.
    If you look at the parking restrictions outside of Iceland and Co-Op, its either no loading before 10am, or no stopping ‘bus route’. But this is never enforced.

    These supermarkets need to use smaller lorries (ideally electric) for deliveries – so they can use the rear access these shops have.

    If this winds you up too – please contact the council and ask them to enforce the restrictions – I am planning to.

  21. A problem with getting delivery vehicles to the back entrances of Trafalgar Road shops is that residents of the side streets complain vigorously about lorries unloading and, while small electric vehicles would be good,- there is also a lot of clatter with the deliveries.
    and as for white vans and their traffic-warden-dodging skills…………………….

  22. Moving vehicles do seem to keep out of the lanes from the bike shop to the Naval college, except of course the HGV’s delivering to Iceland, Co-Op and Tesco. The junction at Vanbrugh is a nightmare with traffic queing back to the flyover. No chance of widening things now that the ‘Heart of East Greenwich’ site is now so close to the road.

  23. I do sympathize with with residents of side streets being affected with noise of the deliveries. After living on a such side road. But the noise got bad only when the small van got replaced with a HGV. Moving out all the empty containers from other shops made the noise!!
    I am sure the supermarkets could make deliveries quieter, maybe impose a decibel limit – like the green bins (EU Outdoor Directive “200/14/EG”). Plus if the delivery hours are acceptable, and given the shops have been around longer than *most* residents, residents couldn’t have major grounds to complain.

  24. The Vanbrugh Hill junction is so bad a) because the Maze Hill lights are poorly timed, staying red for Trafalgar Road traffic for too long, causing it to tail back to the junction b) the Trafalgar Road traffic goes from two lanes to one with traffic in the right hand lane trying to squeeze in c) because two lanes of traffic are joining from the Tunnel/Peninsular — and again trying to squeeze into one lane and d) the lights are green for too long for virtually non-existent Vanbrugh Hill traffic, although this probably will not be the case once the ‘Heart’ (sic) opens.

    A nightmare for motorists and cyclists. I avoid the place for the bulk of the day.

    Shove video cameras opposite Iceland, Co-Op and Tesco and blitz those bloody HGVs!

  25. Some good and interesting comments.
    I’m not a cyclist but a driver who respects everyone on the road especially cyclists (im sure I make mistakes on the road though) who put themselves at great risks ripping the roads.

    There are numerous problems around Greenwich:
    The roads are in terrible condition, but I guess that’s the same across the country. It’s so bad in places that it’s dangerous to all those using the roads (more so for cyclists)

    The boom in recent developments around Greenwich has put a strain the interactive and roads ie more road users, infrequent parking etc.

    There’s poor planning in the designs and infrastructure on the roads which adds to the problem ie loading, deliveries and general parking near local shops and busy roads.

    The cycle lanes in parts are an absolute joke. They can run for a small stretch, go up on the pavement for a few meters and back on the road etc No cyclists I’d imagine would bother using the allocated pavement space.

    The road layout and one way routes like in the Greenwich town centre are so poorly managed and constantly have a bottle neck by the Nelson road/Greenwich church street lights because cars block the junction going around the one way system towards the navel college. It’s difficult to blame the drivers though, as you they have little choice but to block the junction.

    Also there are far too many traffic lights/crossings down Trafalgar road and the timings are awful, probably the bigger cause of traffic in that part of Greenwich. The lights at maze hill, the bp garage and vanbrugh hill at the main culprits! Who’s responsible of them?

  26. Like Methers, I’m fairly neutral on the use of paint as a cycling facility. Yes. it raises visibility, but it also sucks the unwary into places which aren’t that pleasant. You could remove all the parked cars and deliveries from Trafalgar Road and it still wouldn’t be somewhere I’d cycle regularly. It’s interesting that so may people are happy to, given that alternatives exist.
    Take Matt Drewry. He’s on his way to the City, and having carried on through Deptford, presumably does Jamaica Road and over Tower Bridge. Fair enough, he’s obviously a big strong lad and likes barrelling along the bus lanes. But even without the parked vans, that’s a noisy, smelly environment, with vehicles turning across you and a bus stop every three hundred metres. I’d sooner head off down the Old Woolwich Road, through the ORNC and the foot tunnel to Westferry Road, to join up with CS3 along Cable St. The distance is much the same and I’d add another 10 minutes to my journey. Is that a better way? No, it’s just a different way.
    Compared to the poor souls who live in western London, we’re lucky in having alternatives to the main routes. Just because Tfl think the best way to encourage cycling is with a bit of paint doesn’t mean you have to agree.

  27. I’m sorry – this is a somewhat belated comment on this – and I will put a note about this on my own web site, However staff have asked me to let them have specific details of exactly when cycle lanes in Trafalgar Road are blocked, with a view to making adjustiments. Thanks

  28. Mary, I am usually cycling along Trafalgar Road about 7.30/7.45 in the morning and there are often lorries outside Co-op and Tesco then. On my way home around 7.30/8pm there are often cars parked outside Rare (restaurant) and cabs from the taxi office opposite, in fact along quite a lot of that section of the road meaning I have to pull into the traffic to go around them. I can’t say about other times of day as I don’t cycle mid-day.

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