Street design fails – the spring collection

Poor street design is a continual issue on this site. It’s something Greenwich Council tend to excel in, with very dated design and bizarre choices often made with street layouts at great expense.

They just love a bollard. Stick ’em up anywhere. Everywhere. It doesn’t actually need to serve a purpose. Just spend a few hundred quid a piece. As an example, at what stage did anyone ever think this was a good idea?

The funny thing is, this indiscriminate positioning was done to protect against pavement parking. Yet some drivers park on double yellows, dropped kerb crossings and “keep clear” markings all day and never get a ticket. It’s often the way in Greenwich; do not regularly enforce issues (if at all) but use some clumsy tool that doesn’t fix a problem yet brings negative side effects.

In this case it’s a visual mess and does nothing to improve the reputation or appearance of a blighted area. This is the first impression when leaving the rail station. Put a load of obstacles near a station entrance with very high footfall. Great work.

They will soon go as Crossrail work brings a revamp but when it passes back to Greenwich’s control will the clutter on the street crop back over time?

Here’s another bollard bonanza:

Why use money to improve the scruffy space behind when you can use it for more street clutter instead?

And here’s another ensemble which failed at its only job:

Paving becomes a car park

Over in Greenwich town centre and that other bugbear – excessive guardrails – do their best to make some crossings as difficult as possible for pedestrians.

A pedestrian crossing from the left side of the street over to the right at this spot is forced into the next street before being allowed to cross, and the place to do so is a designated car parking spot – as can be seen above with the white outlines on the road.

Pedestrians better hope there’s no parked cars. As shown above, this isn’t often the case. Presumably these railings are for safety yet they force pedestrians to cross and emerge between parked cars. And if you have kids in a buggy, or in a wheelchair? Good luck getting between parked cars.

The above pic was from a couple of years ago. I was there last week and it hasn’t changed. I’m not sure if they’ve stripped the paint or these are replacements. Let’s hope they didn’t spend thousands installing replacements.

Pedestrians, especially the disabled, elderly and parents are completely reliant on cars not utilising marked bays here. There wasn’t many cars on the occasion above as it was a Sunday. Far from the case at other times.

In reality what happens in such a scenario is that people walk in the road to avoid detours. And on a wider level if pedestrians are forced into detours at many junctions and crossings it cumulatively makes walking less appealing. For the elderly or disabled on crutches, for example, staying home might be preferable or even forced upon them due to shoddy and inconsiderate design.

No authority is perfect at this kind of thing – many council Highway Department’s make silly mistakes but many carry out audits and remove mistakes from the past. TfL did a lot of this the past decade. Regulation and rules change and so some things that were previously needed can be taken out. The issue in Greenwich borough is this doesn’t usually happen and they continue abiding by anti-pedestrian rules from the distant past and adding to the problem.

The end result? Streets are cluttered, ugly and off-putting whilst walking is discouraged. Vulnerable street users are dicing with poor design. Routine design guidance for Greenwich Highway’s staff really needs dragging into the 21st Century. Think of Plumstead station and High Street. It is not a well functioning department that has overseen that mess.

Only big multi-million pound schemes with strong external guidance shows modern thought. It then passes to Greenwich and they generally mess them up. See Woolwich’s multi-million pound squares becoming a car park within weeks. They then went on another bollard frenzy with no thought for existing bollards. One or two selective extra installations would have stopped it along with parking enforcement.

Outdoor market became a car park days after expensive paving laid

Routine day-to-day work in the hands of Greenwich Council show no sign of improving.

TfL’s millions of pounds this financial year given to Greenwich Council could also improve many streets. Instead we are more likely to see extra street interventions which exacerbate the problems.

The Greenwich Councillor in charge of “Transport, Economy and Smart Cities” is Sizwe James, who represents Labour in Thamesmead Moorings. I presume the Highways Department comes under his remit. Happy to be corrected on that if wrong. He’s not been in the job long so can’t be blamed for the failures of the past, but if he is responsible then a friendly word with management in the department would help. The department needs a shake-up.

There is a Highways Committee led by Aidan Smith, Labour Councillor for Greenwich West. It seems to have a narrow remit. Last year it nodded through spending of TfL’s £3.5 million annual funding to Greenwich Council with few details of forthcoming schemes being available. A year later what has been achieved in terms of public realm improvements? The same appears to be happening again this year.

Greenwich should be following TfL’s streetscape guidance. Yet most TfL guidance is contradicted by Greenwich Council practices who still abide by working practices from decades ago.

If you have any good examples of poor street design email them to

There’s a good Twitter account called @bollocksinfra covering this kind of crap design.

UPDATE: Here’s a good example of pointless waste.


A bollard stuck on a pavement that narrows paving that often has bins out yet it doesn’t do a thing about parking. Any driver could drive a few feet forward. Double yellows would work if the aim was stopping parking. Wheelchair users, the blind and parents with buggies particularly have to contend with something that’s pointless.

This has cost a fair bit of money to do – hundreds if not thousands – when there’s pressing need elsewhere. These type of bollards are one of the most expensive on the market even though they weather badly within months and often look a mess. They tend to dry and crack or simply get knocked out of shape as they lack much rigidity.

On your average Greenwich street you’ll see many of these placed at random. Compare and contrast to most other authorities when in your average Bexley or Lewisham street -and they don’t go crazy with them. What is the reason Greenwich Highway’s Department put so many in?

I’ve asked Greenwich Councillors in senior positions what the HIghway’s Department are playing at. Let’s see if they respond. I expect some waffle from the Department about safety and the like when we know this does nothing and much of it contradicts TfL’s own guidance. Will Councillors swallow what the Department trot out?


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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

10 thoughts on “Street design fails – the spring collection

  • It is a quiet street, so I usually either walk down the road, or more usually on the pavement until just before that crazy corner, then squeeze between the nearest cars and out onto the road at that point. And then a bit further on towards the Greenwich town centre end, they’ve put long barrierss actually across the pedestrianised area – I can only presume there’s been a problem with motorbikes or something, but it means if someone’s coming the other way, you have to wait till they’ve zig-zagged through. It’s utterly absurd. I can only presume the councillors have shares in the street furniture company.

  • totally agree, makes it a lot less safe in practice; most people including me just walk over the middle of the road.

  • Yes! This is all over my street at random yet the rest is a mess. Park, paving etc are dire yet endless money for this. Corruption? There’s no logic or rational reason for them. Dodgy as hell.

  • Its weird. I lived in Tottenham. They didn’t blow thousands on this in town or local streets Greenwich do waste huge amounts on crap yet ignore communal facilities. Corrupt or just incompetent? Whatever, where are our Labour politicians locally pushing for better? Are they also dodgy as they do nothing but allow this waste. 5% tax rise too this month…

  • They’d rather waste taxpayers money to give themselves a job than actually do work to improve public spaces for residents. Easy life. So many streets are pathetic when they call themselves Royal.

    So its up the elected politicians to press it. With the Labour clowns in charge? No chance. Not bothered by what’s best for areas, especially spots in the north. They want power only it seems. Why else do they ignore areas and not ask why the council waste so much?

  • I have been to Woolwich on a Sunday and noticed parking enforcement officers patrolling the area. Cars parked on the market square will be issued a ticket.

    • It took a long time for them to start doing so though – not great after spending £6m+ on a new square including high cost paving. That issue is seen regulalry in other places after expensive work. Abbey Wood and Eltham being the latest. They lack staff to enforce which costs them and is odd as they would recoup the costs

  • My area’s a mess yet never a shortage of cash for this kind of rubbish. Its raised eyebrows.

  • Pingback: Lawsuits incoming? Greenwich’s failure to maintain public spaces gets worse – fromthemurkydepths

  • Pingback: Crap parking now endemic in places and the disabled, elderly and parents pay. – fromthemurkydepths

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