Cycling growth in Greenwich borough falls way behind target

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”.

Courtesy Google. Cyclists forced into bus lane despite space on paving for lane

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).

Wands to protect the cycle lane?

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.

Hostile street design with railings and clutter

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.

Half of Eltham High Street with double parking in middle of day

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:

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.



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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.

6 thoughts on “Cycling growth in Greenwich borough falls way behind target

  • All the speeches and meetings by councillors about going green, healthy living and more mean so little when action on the ground to get people active is rendered moot.

    They surely all know about the parking issues preventing cycling. What have they achieved? If they cared they’d be persistent and make sure change happened. They are supposed to be in charge of civil servants at the council! They seem to roll over when a non-answer is given from council officers.

    Cllr Denise Scott Macdonald is now in charge of streets I believe. She did a Q&A last week but never replied to any responses back to her. Its tokenistic. The previous person in charge oversaw years of the shambles with parking and was promoted!

    Of course battling parking problems with more vigor won’t solve all ills but it’d be a start. I’m not letting my children on bikes in this borough. They can spend thousands on classes in schools but it means nothing.

  • The number ofresidents in greenwich has grown and continues to.
    Santander bikes are not yet available and this is bad because it would be of a great use in particular for commuters to get to north greenwich station or O2 or anywhere else.
    It would make a difference. Lots of docks stations /bikes across the borough (also uphill). It would help in decongest the buses currently overcrowded.

    I am sure that between West greenwhich Charlton woolwich residents there would be hundreds if not thousands that would make use of those bikes every day to get to station to get to work.

    Try to have a look what happens in west London.

    It is the politicians and council job to work with TFL to make this happen.

    The eastern side of the borough has seen lots of gentrification, more& more professionals moving to live in the area…the Council is not taking this as opportunity to improve many things such a transport, the urban living in general, All things that would retain people and attract more.

    • I’d welcome the use of docked bikes but as a casual cyclist at best I’d be terrified of attempting the run from Westcombe Park down to North Greenwich without some safer and more clearly marked crossings.

      It doesn’t help that there is no love for cyclists in London, and much of that is the sense of entitlement on both sides. The car drivers who consistently block bus lanes and pavements in the borough are one extreme; compare them to the cyclists in Islington and its the mirror opposite. As they have a substantial amount especially in rush hour they tend to be far bolder and cut and weave as they please. Poor cyclists also contribute to gridlock: the rush to get across junctions means many sensible drivers are unable to make simple turns off the main road to a side street as its in near constant use by cyclists.

  • The missing link means I no longer have to cycle on the Woolwich Rd, under the roundabout of death or East Greenwich which is appalling. On one level that’s great, but really would love those to be safely cyclable too. Many think you are designing cycle lanes for Lycra clad middle aged men, where they work they can allow small kids to cycle to school or cargo bikes to nursery which is vital for the full culture change and reducing car usage. A long long way to go Greenwich.

  • We were told they were bringing the dockless bike schemes here in the summer. No word.

    The minor improvements along Trafalgar seem to be progressing extremely slowly. The only difference I’ve noticed is that they have removed the bike racks outside the Co-op and Tesco and not replaced them! It’s been like that at the Co-op for many months now.

  • Pingback: Greenwich to spend £75,000 training staff on modern street design – which TfL already provide | From The Murky Depths

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