At last: Pavements widened to help social distancing in Greenwich town centre

College Approach with yellow barrier
A pause in the traffic on College Approach

Two weeks after the council said it would act to help people on two feet and two wheels get around the borough, roads have been narrowed and pavements widened in Greenwich town centre to help people get around on foot while staying two metres apart.

Bright yellow barriers have been put in place on Nelson Road, Greenwich Church Street, College Approach and King William Walk to give pedestrians more space.

King William Walk
Guardrails have been ripped out…

Nelson Road
…while most of the one-way system has seen pavements extended on both sides

This intervention should be the first of many – Greenwich Council says it is waiting for TfL to approve funding to make “big changes to our streets to make them safe for cycling and walking” across the borough. Councils such as Lambeth and Hackney have already started on schemes without waiting for TfL, and even the government has made it clear that councils are expected to make major changes.

However, the changes in Greenwich will be welcomed as a start. Notably, they include aspects that many will feel are years overdue, such as a 20mph speed limit through the town centre and the removal of metal railings that pen pedestrians in at junctions. The northern tip of Greenwich Church Street has also been fenced off from traffic, making it harder for drivers to block the entrance to Cutty Sark Gardens.

Greenwich Church Street
Drivers will no longer be able to head straight into Cutty Sark Gardens…

20mph on Greenwich Church Street
… while a 20mph speed limit has been put in place

With the council wanting to use TfL funding to bring forward the pedestrianisation of Greenwich town centre, it is clear to see that the measures taken so far can only be temporary while the pavements are relatively quiet – the roads were markedly busy at 8pm on Friday evening – and streets still closed.

Greenwich Church Street
A lack of enforcement meant this parked car blocked the extended pavement….

Greenwich Church Street
…while inconsiderate parking remains an issue on Greenwich Church Street

Pavements on both sides of each road, except King William Walk, which is used as a bus terminal, have been widened with the barriers. Enforcement, a long-running problem for the town hall, will be an issue. When 853 visited on Friday, one driver had parked inside the barriers on Greenwich Church Street – a hotspot for inconsiderate parking – while others had parked up inside the narrowed road. Food delivery riders were also using the extended pavements as parking spaces for their motorbikes.

Deliveroo and Uber Eats riders
Deliveroo and Uber Eats could be the biggest obstacle for making the town centre safer

Greenwich Market deserted
An eerie Greenwich Market at 8pm on Friday

With Greenwich Market completely deserted on a fine spring evening, and only a handful of people on the pavements, it was not a big issue. But as the lockdown eases, and the town centre’s businesses start to open up again, there may be clashes without proper enforcement.

Nelson Road
The 386 bus driver paused to make up time – inadvertently blocking the road

E-scooters
Scooters were proving a popular way to travel

There could also be issues with buses – on Nelson Road there is enough space left for two buses to pull in and use the bus stop, but a driver who spends too long there can hold traffic up. Similarly, the west side of King William Walk had been used to park crew buses in recent weeks – finding space for them and terminating buses could be an issue as services start to build up again.

The changes come ahead of another warm and sunny weekend, with parts of the Thames Path and the Greenwich Foot Tunnel remaining closed to pedestrians.

Cyclist on King William Walk
Cyclists will be waiting for progress on Cycleway 4

Earlier this week, the council said it would look at:

  • widening footpaths in town centres and around Greenwich Park
  • filtering more residential streets to reduce through traffic but maintain access for cyclists, pedestrians and emergency vehicles
  • creating more School Streets (schemes which close roads to vehicles when schools open and close)
  • bringing forward plans for the Greenwich to Woolwich cycle route

In Woolwich, the council says its plans “are mainly focussed on tackling pinch points on Calderwood Street, Thomas Street, Wellington Street, Woolwich New Road, Vincent Road and Willmount Street”. In Eltham, “our priority is to suspend footway parking to make the most of the wide footways and create space to queue at shops and walk along the street. We’ll close off the footway parking with barriers, except for disabled bays and necessary loading bays. Protection for cyclists will also be added to the cycle lanes on the high street.”

Transport for London has also published details of its measures across the capital, which include bringing forward Cycleway 4 from Tower Bridge to Deptford Creek Bridge – and then effectively extending it to Woolwich, as well as a segregated cycle route between Lewisham and Catford. They also include making a large area of central London available only to buses, bikes and pedestrians.


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