A petition by residents concerned about Greenwich Council installing street furniture near Maze Hill station which could block wheelchairs and buggies has been brushed off by the authority. Note, the main picture isn’t the barrier in question but another nearby.
Despite continual claims about seeking to enhance walking and cycling, the council has installed numerous barriers and obstacles which can hinder mobility – particularly for the most vulnerable. The response to why they installed obstacles claims a complaint about a moped led to the move:
“The barriers at Lemmon Road were installed for health and safety reasons after a complaint/concern that mopeds had been seen driving on the footpaths. Because of the risk of injury to pedestrians swift actions were taken to mitigate against any motorised vehicles being driven down the pathways. Unfortunately, this meant that the normal resident engagement was not possible.”
I’ve often found this line somewhat baffling. On the off-chance mopeds may travel on the pavement they seek to make life more awkward for everybody on foot. By that rationale why not block off all pavements, walkways and any other area that potentially may see a moped, bike or car travel? Make life harder for everybody due to the actions of a very small minority?
I’ve also been sent a Freedom of Information request which asked for the decision making process on similar measures elsewhere in Greenwich, with a resident asking about records of installation and the decision making processes.
The council failed to provide the detailed design from the Traffic Engineer for this area of paving despite being asked. No impact on disabled people was taken formally with only a “visual inspection” apparently made at the site below:
It’s somewhat strange they can rush to do this and easily find money, yet requests for other street improvement work can take years. No money for lighting in places? No money to make local centres and shopping parades more attractive and welcoming?
Yet one apparent complaint and the money is suddenly there and swift action possible, yet numerous residents asking for removal not only of new clutter but older obstacles and no action is taken. It’s fine to obstruct pedestrians apparently. Ah, but it doesn’t they claim. Tell that to the people who email me about obstacles making their daily walk to the shops more difficult, the people I’ve spoken to who say the same or the 18 residents on one street alone asking why a barrier was installed and want it gone ignored in this latest petition. Apparently staff in Woolwich Centre know better. It’s stark how some areas – such as estates – see no investment for years in basic maintenance of streets or buildings, except for endless street clutter popping up. In 2019 Greenwich Council revealed they were to spend £75,000 to train staff on modern street design despite TfL already providing an extensive street design guide. It doesn’t look like it achieved much. For every sign towards some sort of modernity, a new scheme brings back the obstacles and clutter.
The concern is that Greenwich Council Highways Department seem happy to keep hindering pedestrians including the most vulnerable, brush over recent reports to encourage people to travel sustainably, ignore a petition raised by residents, claim pedestrians are not hindered despite many stating otherwise, demonstrate dated thinking on road and street design again and again, ignore TfL street design guidance and recent evidence on street safety – yet some councillors (not all) and Cabinet Members seem unable or unwilling to act. This impacts vulnerable pedestrians. It wastes money. Do they want to encourage active living?
Even last year’s measures for social distancing demonstrated basic design flaws, with crossing points for pedestrians blocked and access for cyclists from roads to cycle lanes blocked.
The potential cost of plastic barriers according to Greenwich Council runs to £119,130 in Greenwich town centre alone. That included £13,875.55 for “Design and PM work”:
I’m informed disability groups are now looking into the installation of numerous obstacles across the borough and the impact – particularly on disabled pedestrians. It does seem likely that after years of both the Highways and Housing Departments ignoring concerns from the most vulnerable – and councillors achieving little to modernise working practices in those departments – that action could be taken from bodies outside the borough to highlight and force change in working practices.
If you have similar obstacles or your life made harder to get around on foot, email me examples at firstname.lastname@example.org