This is Royal Hill, the main through-route, now locked out of the traffic management area by the barrier. Local people are jostling with cars as they shop at the only parade of fresh food shops in west Greenwich. The carriageway is narrowed to protect major building work on the junction with Burney Street, and there’s no social distancing protection.
Greenwich justified the traffic reduction scheme as part of a package of pandemic safety measures, but did nothing to protect pupils at James Wolfe Primary School, support pedestrians and cyclists or to enable social distancing.
The government says local councils must consult local residents about road schemes that risk abusing pandemic safety cash. But Greenwich imposed a scheme without consultation.
Patience with bad schemes is running out. On 16 October, Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, wrote to local authorities saying: “We are not prepared to tolerate hastily introduced schemes which will create sweeping changes to communities, without consultation, and ones where the benefits to cycling and walking do not outweigh the dis-benefits for other road users”.
During the pandemic, use of public transport declined in the face of homeworking, unemployment and the relative safety of car use. As part of the response, the government and the Mayor of London reacted with short-term measures to support walking and cycling and – according to the London Mayor – “to prevent a car led recovery”.
In May the government announced a £250 million “emergency active travel fund” to support pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements and safer junctions. The Mayor of London announced the London Streetspace Programme would be funded by the Department for Transport fund as well as Transport for London (TfL). The plan is “to accommodate a possible ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking when lockdown restrictions are eased”, promising safe, protected cycle routes and “school streets to create a safe environment around the school gate”. The Streetspace programme aims to block some streets to vehicles (“filtering”) to allow bike, walking and wheelchair journeys only.
So LTNs all over London morphed into Covid-19 safety measures. By August this year, when the scheme was imposed in west Greenwich, pandemic conditions were then judged to be likely to increase car travel by 40-60 per cent.
The Greenwich scheme does not support the Streetspace goals, but undermines walking and cycling by increasing vehicle movement and congestion in all the wrong places.
The London Mayor and Royal Borough of Greenwich have confused pandemic safety with the conflicting goal of reducing traffic in residential “neighbourhoods”. Instead of diffusing pandemic traffic to help the economy and spread out essential car journeys, the scheme funnels traffic into already crowded roads that were part of our “neighbourhood” in the first place.
Inside the area, a balance has been destroyed, putting unnecessary strain on Royal Hill where residents, shoppers and school pupils face heightened risks from traffic turning movements, additional through traffic, and large scale building work (see below) in addition to the failure to provide pavement width. The Gloucester Circus entrance on Royal Hill is now a danger zone of turning traffic, school arrivals and departures, delivery vans and service vehicles.
Greenwich knew that work would start on the demolition and rebuilding of the old Police Station on Royal Hill. The contractors have set up a single carriageway traffic control between Gloucester Circus and Burney Street, causing traffic queues and obstructing attempts by shoppers to stay socially distanced and away from moving traffic. Nothing has been done to mitigate this.
In so many ways, the scheme works to destabilise our community by creating difference and division.
- New support for walkers inside the protected area was unnecessary. Before the scheme, its streets were quiet for the great majority of the time. There are wide pavements, often bounded by open heath or within a short distance of, or directly fronting, Greenwich Park.
- Provision for cycling in Greenwich Park already exists and is safer than routes down Crooms Hill, Hyde Vale and Point Hill.
Outside, it has simply magnified existing problems.
- Pedestrian safety on and around the Blackheath Hill and Greenwich South Street junction has been neglected for years, and the scheme simply makes a bad situation worse, doing less than nothing to protect or support shopping or crossing the roads.
- There is no new support for cycling on the most dangerous section on Blackheath Hill. The result is more pavement cycling. Cycling endangerment is now common throughout the ‘Hills and Vales’ because the area has steep gradients.
- Lindsell Street, Plumbridge Street and Dabin Crescent have been left open to two-way through traffic without Covid-19 protection for walking, cycling or shopping. Pedestrians on Dabin Crescent are not protected from two-way traffic that frequently mounts both kerbs to pass on a three metres wide roadway.
- Displaced traffic on Maze Hill and Westcombe Park Road has turned into a traffic nightmare of which there was no forewarning or explanation. It puts The John Roan School pupils at risk, and is causing huge delays and pollution.
Sign the petitions, write to your local councillors, and let the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and the Government know how Covid cash is being misused in Greenwich. To give feedback on Streetspace, click the ‘feedback’ button at https://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/info/200259/transport_and_travel/2234/streetspace_programme
The Minister, Grant Shapps MP, writing in the national press in September told councils abusing the cash to ‘speak to local residents, get it fixed or no more cash’.
Write to the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by post at House of Commons, Westminster, London W1A 0AA.