Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College Streetspace cycle route closes

Old Royal Naval College
The route through the Old Royal Naval College opened last June

Friday update: The decision to close the route has now been reversed. For the situation earlier in the week, read on…

A showpiece Transport for London cycle route through the Old Royal Naval College has been suddenly closed to riders – less than a year after it opened in a fanfare of publicity.

The “Streetspace” route through the Old Royal Naval College was opened to bicycles last June as part of efforts to get more people onto their bikes while public transport capacity was limited.

The route through the college was included as part of the new Cycleway 4 route between Charlton and Greenwich, which opened in full last week and aims to provide a safer route for cyclists away from the heavy lorries that use the A206. TfL eventually hopes to complete a continuous route from Tower Bridge to Woolwich, via Greenwich town centre.

Old Royal Naval College
Security guards are now stopping cyclists from using the route

Now security guards are turning cyclists around at the college gates, directing them away from the wide, direct road through the grounds and to a poorly-signed, smaller route around the site which is shared with pedestrians and often blocked by cars at its eastern end. On Tuesday morning, the route was blocked by a car valeting service cleaning a client’s vehicle.

The closure also highlights the difficulties in enabling safer cycling through Greenwich town centre. Three years ago, a man was killed when a lorry hit his bike on Romney Road, which is next to the college and the only public road through the area.

Old Royal Naval College cycle route
On Tuesday, the official cycle route was blocked by a car valet company…

Old Royal Naval College
…while cyclists are relegated to a narrow gate shared with pedestrians

Officially, cycling was always banned through the main route in the Naval College grounds – despite it being a wide route with pavements – but security guards usually turned a blind eye to riders.

At the start of the pandemic in March, the entire campus was closed to the public – forcing cyclists onto Romney Road, along with pedestrians after the narrow riverside path was closed because of worries about the spread of coronavirus.

After public complaints, the Streetspace route through the centre of the grounds was opened in June – dubbed a “massive step forward” by Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe. It was also praised by Will Norman, mayor Sadiq Khan’s walking and cycling commissioner. However, the route was still closed at night, and was subject to closures for filming.

A spokesperson for the Old Royal Naval College said that the route was only ever intended to be temporary.

“During the lockdowns the route marked by TfL’s blue barriers along College Way at the Old Royal Naval College offered a secure temporary through-route to allow foot and bike traffic through our grounds whilst the wider grounds were closed,” she told 853 yesterday.

“We are continuing to work closely with TfL who have plans to install cameras to review the use of the site by cyclists. This monitoring will feed into ongoing discussions surrounding future cycle facilities through the grounds.

“As we move to fully reopening our buildings and grounds to visitors in May, we are encouraging cyclists to use the dedicated cycle route adjacent to the river which has reopened. The path runs from the Lewin Gate at Cutty Sark Gardens to the Trafalgar Gate at Park Row.”

Old Royal Naval College
Cyclists are now directed around the college grounds

Transport for London confirmed to 853 that it would be monitoring the use of the cycle route around the grounds. “This includes looking at whether the lane becomes blocked by vehicles at any time and if signage can be improved and this monitoring will feed into ongoing discussions surrounding future cycle facilities through the grounds,” it said.

Greenwich Council has been asked for comment.

5.40pm update: Greenwich Council supplied us with a comment which implied that the route has reopened. However, the Old Royal Naval College has not yet responded to a request to confirm this. We will update the story further when we confirmation comes.

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