Greenwich Council’s strategy to increase cycling numbers appears to have hit a wall. Or perhaps a badly parked car.
A new report shows mode share not meeting expectations stating: “It is notable that the mode share data for the most recent period reflects a reduction – not an increase – in cycling mode share”.
A target to increase the percentage of trips taken by cycles to 5% by 2026 (which on the face of it would seem a very modest target) seems a tall order given current growth of 1.7%.
As London’s population grows quickly it’s important to get more people cycling to prevent gridlock spreading. Even 1 in 10 would see a big difference. It would reduce congestion causing late deliveries (bad for business), traffic fumes (bad for health) and traffic levels (with workers spending longer commuting, parents having less time with children and much else besides).
One thing very much obvious in the UK is hostility between drivers and cyclists. Travel to pretty much any other European country (or even big American cities now) and the vast difference in numbers cycling is stark as well as how each respect the other. And often in places where very few cycled 20 years ago. What are we doing so wrong?
A number of reasons are given by the council in this report for the fall. One is a TfL survey could by unreliable. Others are “closures or disruption to cycling infrastructure in the borough”. Another is “factors influencing the perception of cycle safety”.
Closure of the Thames Path in Greenwich Peninsula does seem to have impacted numbers, but even ignoring that targets would be missed.
Having walked the newly re-opened Thames Path recently (covered here) it’s barely wide enough for one bike and a pedestrian, or a single bike come to that. Are there any plans to use the many millions of Section 106 income from nearby developments to improve it?
One cyclist has been contacting his local Cllr and Greenwich council about the cycle path on the other side of the Peninsula for two years without reply (I will add the tweet containing emails if permitted).
TfL have not helped matters at all by cancelling the cycle superhighways plans between Woolwich and Greenwich.
The safety aspect is an area where analysis(and action) is badly needed. Would you feel safe cycling on many streets? Many people would be willing to give cycling a chance if it was safe. But it isn’t in many, many areas.
One thing that dissuades people is widespread illegal and dangerous parking across Greenwich borough. In recent years over £6 million has been spent on Eltham High Street. A small segregated cycle lane was installed on the western approach. Yet double parking is rife on the High Street itself.
EDIT: Seconds after putting this post up this was posted on Twitter:
This is the selfish idiocy Eltham has to put up with. In the words of some it’s time to ‘Take back control’ The fines may not be £350mm a week but would certainly help fund local services/works until these fools get the message. pic.twitter.com/ZbMSC4wCBk
— Matt Clare (@MattCElthamSth) November 17, 2018
Charlton isn’t much better despite new shops and homes and much resulting income for public realm improvements:
In Plumstead £1.2million was spent on a new bus land and cycle lane yet cars often park on paving blocking it. TfL bus drivers are now even threatening to not stop at bus stops given the problems and over 130 drivers have signed a petition.
East Greenwich is another prime example. Riddled with guardrails which are dangerous to cyclists as well as little parking enforcement (often highlighted on social media). Continues regardless.
Segregated lanes would do much to encourage people to give it a chance freeing up road space. It needn’t be multi-million pound schemes but simple interventions. Way too many areas lack this. Rochester Way has a decent scheme and much more would be welcome. In east Greenwich they only installed “wands” on quiet side streets.
Abbey Wood saw some on Eynsham Drive bridge with funds taken from last years TfL funds. Yet having lived in Abbey Wood and cycled long ago, I don’t know anyone that would ever cross the railway line via the bridge on a bike given the steepness and alternative options. If they’d consulted widely they may have found that out.
There has been some good work. The missing link of the Thames Path in Charlton is fantastic and will hopefully encourage far more people to cycle between Woolwich and Greenwich.
There’s some good staff within Greenwich Council fighting to improve matters but too often let down by other departments.
Another factor must be bike theft. It’s rife and with police numbers falling and serious crimes increasing, investigative time will be reduced further. Secure bike parking is needed in more locations and offered by a greater number of employers.
Serious modal change is not going to happen without better engagement with the public. Car use is so embedded now for some they’ll criticise cyclists regardless (and in some cases they may be right – all sides often have too much hostility), yet look abroad to see what can be done.
Real engagement is needed to do so, and Greenwich’s lack of talking to people impacts here as well (they recently voted down a Conservative motion to follow Labour Lewisham borough in having an online portal to suggest street improvements). Not that other areas aren’t also dire as well with cycle infrastructure, but locally the borough can still do better.