We will open up streets to walkers and cyclists, Greenwich Council leader insists

Woolwich Road cycle lane
The measures are meant to open up space for pedestrians and to protect cyclists from antisocial behaviour by drivers

Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has insisted the town hall has a plan to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get about in safety during the coronavirus pandemic – hours after the government said it expected local authorities to make “significant changes” to road layout to enable people to stay two metres apart.

Last week both Greenwich and Lewisham councils told 853 that they would be opening up their streets to those on two feet and two wheels ahead of a partial reopening of the economy, but with limited access to public transport. Since then, Lewisham has begun a public consultation and made immediate changes in Deptford (with mixed levels of success).

Transport for London has also made high-profile changes such as expanding pavements in Brixton – the main road through the area is part of its network – and announcing plans to bring forward parts of Cycleway 4 between Tower Bridge and Deptford Creek Bridge, and creating a new segregated cycle route on Lewisham High Street and Rushey Green.

Charlton Road
This family were attempting to cycle along Charlton Road yesterday afternoon but were deterred by the level and speed of traffic. They ended up cycling on the pavement

However, there has been no sign of action in Greenwich, beyond posts on Twitter and Facebook. Pedestrians in particular have lost out during the pandemic, with sections of the Thames Path shut off and the Greenwich Foot Tunnel closed at weekends, while car drivers have faced no curbs on their movements.

Rising traffic levels as the lockdown starts to fall apart after seven weeks have also led to concerns that opportunities to act are being missed. 853 understands there is also concern among councillors that action – particularly relatively cheap and simple measures – is not being taken.

This afternoon new guidance was issued by the government telling councils “to reallocate roadspace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians”.

Covid-19 road signs
New signage has also been unveiled by the government

“In towns and cities, some streets could become bike and bus-only while others remain available for motorists. More side streets could be closed to through traffic, to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce rat-running while maintaining access for vehicles,” the guidance says.

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said: “The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Such changes will help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel.”

Three hours later, Thorpe tweeted that Denise Scott-McDonald, who will become the council’s deputy leader on Wednesday, had represented the borough at a meeting of London Councils on Tuesday, the day before TfL announced its plans.

Victoria Way
This route to Fossdene School in Charlton sees pedestrians penned into narrow pavements while drivers speed past them

He added: “Since then, we’ve been working to develop a programme across the borough that covers social distancing, strategic cycling routes, modal filters and expanding the school streets programme ASAP. We know that town centres are a particular issue.

“I hasten to add that funding is a big issue for all of us and this costs money. I’m pleased to hear the announcements from Grant Shapps tonight and we await more details about how [much] of that money we can access in Greenwich. Money is a problem for us.

“We hope to publish details about our plan ASAP and get schemes in as soon as possible.”

"Stay home" signage on Well Hall Road
The government’s advice is widely expected to change from this week

While Lewisham has published a consultation on what it should do, Greenwich has only asked residents through a tweet and Facebook post.

Boris Johnson’s will confirm the next stages of the government’s measures to tackle coronavirus in a ministerial broadcast at 7pm this evening.

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