Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe yesterday responded to calls asking what measures will be taken for pedestrians and cyclists with a series of tweets.
Sadly there were no details of any projects nor dates for when any measures will be announced.
There’s some explanations in the tweets – though if one was being cynical perhaps they could be seen as excuses. They include having to work with other agencies such as TfL and having to manage existing streets, plus strained finances. These are issues every authority is currently having to wrestle – though many have managed to overcome them with measures already in place.
I’ve had a number of tweets and emails asking what we are doing in @Royal_Greenwich to help increase the space available for 🚶♀️ and 🚲 so I’ll try and explain below – We started the week by getting feedback from you about the key areas you wanted us to look at across #greenwich pic.twitter.com/YH53i9iAni
— Dan Thorpe (@DanLThorpe) May 9, 2020
Financial pressures are very real, yet that is something that applies to every council and TfL. TfL belatedly announced measures last week – behind many other cities across the world. However they then quickly set to work including widening paving at bus stops in Brixton. Very few of the measures extend in Greenwich borough.
Boroughs such as Hackney got to work on projects last week:
— Hackney Cyclist (@Hackneycyclist) May 5, 2020
Measures in Greenwich borough would be extremely cheap and take less than a day to implement. Cones and wands are not expensive. This is Dublin:
You wait ages for a segregated cycle lane and then they all come at once! pic.twitter.com/i6v9V5B1lU
— Ciarán Ferrie (@ccferrie) May 8, 2020
We could, and perhaps should, see similar in Charlton and Woolwich with no loss of space for general traffic:
There was mention in the tweets of a meeting last Tuesday between London councils and TfL. On the same day Tower Hamlets announced this:
From today, a section of Old Ford Road near Victoria Park will be temporarily closed to motor vehicles to aid social distancing.
Pedestrians and cyclists can cross Skew Bridge as normal, motorists can use alternative routes via Grove Rd, Roman Rd and St Stephen’s Rd. pic.twitter.com/lk2GS2MAXg
— Tower Hamlets Council (@TowerHamletsNow) May 5, 2020
One tweet from Greenwich’s leader stated:
“I hasten to add that funding is a big issue for all of us and this costs money. I’m pleased to hear the announcements from Grant Shapps tonight and we await more details about how of that money we can access in Greenwich. Money is a problem for us”.
If the authority waits for money from Shapps and the DfT it’ll miss the boat. As stated many times now, numerous other councils are acting before money arrives.
What’s frustrating is this simply compounds years of waste and lack of focus in Greenwich. The authority managed to spend £123,000 on wooden bollards in three years, usually to the detriment of pedestrians. There was always money for clutter.
Meanwhile money for street improvements near the notorious Angerstein roundabout wasn’t spent.
An interim project due last year didn’t happen either (click to enlarge):
Back to last week, and Labour run Hounslow Council – to give another example – also announced shortly after the pan-London meeting that “parking to be suspended on Turnham Green Terrace, rat run to be blocked on Wellesley Rd, dangerous bridge on Duke’s Meadows to be filtered in first tranche of traffic measures to improve safety for pedestrians and people on bikes.”
Looking back before the current situation, and Hounslow allocated £3.3 million over three years from developer income to improve public spaces and streets:
In Greenwich it is £208,000 over three years, with zero this year and next.
Greenwich are pretty much plum last across all of London’s authorities for allocating money from new developments despite seeing some of the highest number in recent years.
Lack of action seen in recent weeks continues years of similar trends. It suggests cultural and departmental inertia are more pressing factors.
Past behaviour with parking enforcement could also be coming back to haunt Greenwich right now.
Not only did income fall below budgeted numbers by over £12 million over the past decade (hampering prior street investment) but a culture built up in many area with some drivers of being able to park how you please.
That emboldened some drivers to do what they like, with the issue exacerbated as numbers of wardens reduce due to sickness.
Can Greenwich shake off years of dated behaviour and lack of focus? What we’ve seen for some time is deflecting blame despite action seen across London. With this fresh in the mind, a further lack of action since March is no surprise but the tactic of deflection is getting harder to pull off now as many boroughs take action in the spotlight.
Not that every borough is getting is right. Some are also yet to announce anything of substance (though these are usually outer London boroughs) and even those that have implemented schemes get it wrong (see Lewisham borough and Deptford High street yesterday). A lot of the errors are basic and can be easily fixed.
Whether this new wave of action will see Greenwich changing culture remains to be seen, as will whether blame and deflection is simply shifted from TfL to Shapps and the DfT.