Cycleway 4 closure through Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College reversed

Old Royal Naval College
Cyclists were able to use the route freely last night – despite the signage directing them to a locked gate

Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College has reversed its closure of a high-profile new cycleway through its grounds after 853 reported that security guards were stopping riders from using the route.

The main route through the historic campus, College Way, is part of a new cycle route between Greenwich and Charlton which Transport for London hopes will form part of Cycleway 4, a continuous link between Tower Bridge and Woolwich.

Riders have been able to use the broad, direct path through the campus since last June when a “streetspace” route was opened by Transport for London to give both pedestrians and cyclists a safe, socially-distanced alternative to the narrow river path or the busy Romney Road. The move was dubbed “a massive step forward” by Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe.

While cycling on College Way had traditionally been banned before the pandemic, security guards turned a blind eye to riders choosing to use it instead of the official cycling route around the north side of the college buildings, which is shared with pedestrians and is often blocked at its eastern end. Cycling is also technically banned in Cutty Sark Gardens, at its western end.

Old Royal Naval College
Security guards stopped cyclists from using the Cycleway 4 route on Tuesday

853 contacted the charity that runs the site, the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College, about the closure on Tuesday afternoon, after security guards prevented cyclists from using College Way that morning. Transport for London and Greenwich Council were also contacted. The foundation responded the following day to say that College Way was intended as a temporary route and it was encouraging riders to use the official route instead.

However, after 853’s first story was published yesterday, Greenwich Council issued a statement saying that College Way was actually open. Yesterday evening, the foundation confirmed that cyclists were able to use the direct route after all.

“Cyclists may continue to use College Way, but the designated cycle path on our site is to the north of the site,” the foundation said yesterday.

Old Royal Naval College cycle route
The official cycle route through the campus is often blocked by cars

A Greenwich Council spokesperson said: “We understand that the Old Royal Naval College’s stewards are informing cyclists that the pre-existing Transport for London Cycleway 4 route has now reopened and is available to use.

“People are still being allowed to cycle along College Way. The Old Royal Naval College has informed us that it is working to ensure this is communicated clearly.”

Yesterday evening at 7.30pm cyclists were able to use College Way without being stopped by guards, although a “no cycling” sign was also placed at the gate, with an arrow pointing towards the official path. The gates at the official path were locked.

Despite the foundation wanting cyclists to use the shared path to the north of the site, signage in Greenwich town centre directs them to use College Way. One sign in Park Row even states that College Way is open between 7am and 7pm, although it is currently pointing the wrong way.

Greenwich Council has said that it wants to see the one-way system around Greenwich Market removed, which could potentially open up space for a cycle route that would run directly between Deptford and east Greenwich – but access to the Old Royal Naval College, particularly at night when the campus is closed, has always been a stumbling block.

For now, both TfL and the foundation have said cameras will be installed to monitor cyclists’ use of the college campus. A TfL spokesperson said earlier this week: “This includes looking at whether the [cycle] 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.”

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