Put the Green in Greenwich

Though I’m not a Greenwich resident, I have taken an occasional interest in politics in this Labour-dominated council (currently 42 Labour and 9 Conservative councillors) because of various developments in the area where several of my friends live or lived.  One of my main projects in the 1990s was on the Greenwich Meridian in London (you can read more about it and see some picture on the Urban Landscapes site) which were for some years on a leading Greenwich site, and the borough has one of the best independent news sites, the 853 blog, which tirelessly comments on local matters and in particular the local council sheenanigans. As the blog claims, it really does do all the kinds of things that good local newspapers used to do, but most are now part of huge enterprises which largely regurgitate press releases and don’t employ local reporters with local knowledge and time to investigate.

The protest outside Woolwich Town Hall (the HQ of the London Borough of Greenwich) in May by ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’ came after Edgaras Cepura was killed cycling around the junction of the A206 and the Blackwall Tunnel approach. Another cyclist, Adrianna Skrzypiec, had been killed at the same place nine years earlier, and there have been many other incidents when lorries and cars have hit cyclists in the area, notoriously unsafe for cycling.

It should by now have become a part of Cycle Superhighway 4, which was planned to go all the way from Woolwich through Greenwich to London Bridge, but pressure from Greenwich Council led to all of its route in the borough being axed, and when complete it will now end at the borough border. I’m reliably informed that the reason plans for Greenwich were dropped was a matter the then Woolwich council leader’s personal antipathy to Boris Johnson’s former cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan, and the council certainly gained a deserved reputation for dragging its feet over any provision for safe cycling.

We still haven’t got CS4, and last week the third cyclist was killed this year on the route where it should be. Under Boris Johnson, TfL (Transport for London) in 2014 published a list of 33 places for which “substantial cycle infrastructure improvements” were needed, including the A206/Blackwall roundabout, but nothing has been done there. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said that the plans still exist and they still have a date when they should take place, although the junction was left out of a more recent list from TfL.

Safer cycling isn’t just about saving the lives of cyclists. It also makes a great improvement to the health of the city’s population. The danger faced by cyclists on city roads is a major factor stopping many from using their bikes in the city, when for many journeys it would be the most convenient way to go. Making roads safer means more people use bikes, reducing the pollution – mainly from traffic – that causes almost 10,000 early deaths a year in London, as well as huge suffering from lung diseases. For those who take to their bikes, the exercise makes them healthier, both improving their lives and saving public funds. More people on bikes means fewer cars on the road, reducing congestion. Everyone wins.

I think changes in Greenwich Council have given it a more positive attitude towards cycling, and hope they will now be urging Sadiq Khan to get on with the job. But he has as yet shown little drive towards making the streets safer, and many other councils are still dragging their feet over the issue. Protests such as this by ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’ are vital to get things moving and add great support to the work of other organisations including the London Cycling Campaign.

Coming up shortly on October 13th 2018 is the ‘National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist-Pedal on UK Parliament‘ organised by Stop Killing Cyclists, with rides from various parts in and around London organised by London Cycling Campaign members, IBikeLondonThurrock Cycling Campaign and others to Lincoln’s Inn Fields from where the funeral procession will proceed to Parliament Square for a rally and die-in.


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