FromTheMurkyDepths

Housing and Development in London

Plumstead, Woolwich

£1.2 million road upgrade from Plumstead to Woolwich is complete – does it work?

The scheme to upgrade transport links between Plumstead and Woolwich appears to be complete. The scheme cost £1.2 million, was funded by TfL and had two main aspirations – to increase the length of westbound bus lane back to what it was before a disastrous multi-million pound road “improvement” a decade before and a segregated west-bound cycle lane along the road. No road space for other traffic has been lost. On both fronts it has succeeded, though some other issues havn’t been alleviated.

Here’s the cycle lane as it weaves behind bus stops reducing conflict between buses and cyclists. This is a major step forward and much needed to encourage more people to give cycling a chance:

road-upgrade-5

One major problem on this road has long been been atrocious parking outside shops near Plumstead station. For a long time now cars were usually parked on the cycle lane and blocking buses. Cars are now prevented from blocking the cycle lane but poor parking continues:

road-scheme-parking

Buses at major stop navigating poor parking

Buses at major stop navigating poor parking

Crap parking was still much in evidence in the busy evening rush hour when I passed. Some cars were double parked as well as some parked facing the kerb instead of alongside, with both types obstructing buses pulling into the adjacent bus stop.

Another problem is that right at the death Greenwich Highways installed very cheap street furniture along this £1.2 million scheme. Extensive guardrail lines the route and its the cheapest possible. There’s little attention to detail in this scheme or attempt to create an attractive street to lift up this area:

road-upgrade-2

Also, couldn’t this last stretch utilise cheap ‘wands’ or bollards along the white line to provide semi-segregation, as seen here:

aldgate-wands

Back to Plumstead and Woolwich and the upgraded street presents a pretty ugly face to the town it passes through.

road-upgrade-6

There was much higher quality railings in storage from Eltham which was removed as part of the current High Street work:

eltham-railings

Eltham High Street

Why not use those? It would save thousands and look better. The Highways Department again show they don’t appear to be concerned with aesthetics in certain areas.

And getting these little things right is a minuscule cost on a £1.2 million scheme. I do often focus on these very small elements, seemingly almost insignificant on their own, but they’re often a good insight into attention to detail and whether any care has gone in. It can reveal much about the approach and working guidelines departments use.

Though this is a TfL funded scheme, these poor final touches contravene TfL’s own street design guide. It has all the hallmarks of Greenwich Council Departments and their lack of attention, as well as double standards depending on where in the borough it is. As said, it may seem like a small thing, but when multiplied many times over with many other things it results in a cumulative impact, and one that certainly isn’t positive. It sustains the run-down, second-best, ugly appearance and feel of too many places.

This is not design for where people live and spend time – it’s design for major trunk roads. That too often takes absolute priority with this council and so it looks like a road built in the 1970s. Good design practices today would combine both improvements seen alongside creating a visually attractive, beautiful and appealing street that enhances the area and nearby housing estates and residential areas.

It’s a real shame as the entire scheme is admirable in terms of improving the lot of public transport users and cyclists. But as long as Greenwich Council’s Highways Department think only of road traffic, not people, and certainly not about lifting up and improving areas, these little mistakes will be repeated again and again and its normally the poorer places that suffer the most. Not the places most Councillors and senior Council staff live.

Will it work to increase cycling? I think it will,though I’ve not seen a soul using it so far. It’s crucial that the area by Plumstead station and the High Street is upgraded, and fortunately there are plans for that. Plumstead High Street will always be horrible to cycle through given how narrow it is, and the steep hills north from Plumstead station will dissuade some. But it’s still a vastly and offers improvements to many.

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6 Comments

  1. Richard

    Do you know who carried out the design and detailing of the work? TFL / Greenwich Council / a private firm? While it is a huge improvement on what was there previously, the cycle lane doesn’t seem as thorough in its design as it could be, certainly compared to those central London.

    In particular, the junction where the cycle lane ends is not clever – a dedicated left turn lane for cars who will be driving across the path of any cyclist going straight ahead. Seems badly planned and could definitely do with a dedicated green phase for cyclists, or at the very least a set of lights which gives cyclists a 10 second head start.

    It also puzzles me as to why they didn’t make the cycle lane two way – cycling back in the other direction still involves buses pulling in / across cyclists. Surely there was enough space to make the new cycle lane two way?

    Still, it’s a definite improvement, just feels like a bit of a missed opportunity unfortunately.

  2. I used to cycle this quite a bit when I worked for London Residential Research and cycled through the idea site visiting (both here, and going on to Thamesmead and Erith beyond). It was always one of the more dicey bits to cycle on (although the road between Charlton and Woolwich was perhaps worse due to roundabouts). Looks like a real improvement, and the bits that aren’t perfect at least could be easily fixed rather than requiring a large investment. The cycle wands could the easily added, and at least it’s just buses in the lane next to the cycle lane.

  3. Plumstead Resident

    Definite improvement on what was there before, but as you say, the area around Plumstead station needs an overhaul. That whole parade of shops should be bulldozed and replaced.

  4. Commuter to Woolwich

    Those bloody cars outside shops by the station! Always causing issues and downright dangerous to cyclists, pedestrians and buses. Why no action from the council?

    I’m not into hyperbole, so believe me when I say I don’t see many other areas that are SO busy where so little enforcement occurs.

    The cycle lane wont work when this shambles can happen day after day where it begins. And when someone is injured or a big crash occurs due to moronic parking no one can say it was a surprise. Greenwich council, get some more traffic wardens and stop turning a blind eye to this.

  5. Ali

    Basically it’s an accident waiting to happen with terrible parking near the station / bridge, cars are sticking out, parked on yellow lines and in bus lanes. Where are the wardens? If it was central London there would be a ticket on all of them
    I don’t think it’s worth 1.2 million would have been better spent on the high street and introducing better shops.

  6. Jackie t

    Z”The cycle lane wont work when this shambles can happen day after day where it begins.”
    The cycle lane starts before the parking so there is no conflict.

    As far as the wands go I have seen this before and if you cannot separate the cyclists it is
    safer to allow the cyclists to get across and mix rather than penning them in and forcing them to pop out at the exact point where the traffic is turning left. You want the cyclists to take a primary position to go ahead.

    I had a look at this the other week after reading about it and they have new paved footways outside the shops, new trees on the footways and have improved the crossing facilities. I think its pretty bloody good to be honest!

    Be good to do the other side now

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