Taxi driver breaking the law
This cab driver ignored the new rules

Lewisham Council has suspended a scheme to encourage more walking and cycling on a notorious Blackheath rat-run after drivers simply ignored signs telling them the road was closed.

Planters were placed on South Row, outside the Princess of Wales pub, on Wednesday as part of an emergency scheme to make it easier for people to get around without cars or public transport during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, after drivers simply rerouted down Paragon Place and Weymss Road – narrow back streets behind the pub – to reach Blackheath Village, Lewisham amended its scheme to allow drivers to leave South Row at Prince of Wales Road, but not enter it, with a bollard to be installed further west instead. The use of planters is designed to allow for quick changes to the scheme.

Road closed sign moved away from road
A “road closed” sign had been moved out of the way

The scheme crosses the borough boundary, with South Row being part of a route that starts in Westbrook Road and Kidbrooke Gardens in Greenwich borough. With a lack of signage on the Greenwich side, heavy traffic was still seen running westbound along South Row yesterday, with one driver seen arguing with a pedestrian.

On the Lewisham side, drivers – including a licensed taxi driver – were seem yesterday evening ignoring the “road closed signs” and entering South Row from Princess of Wales Road.

Now Lewisham says it will reopen South Row – effectively suspending the scheme – until it can install bollards next week.

Another driver breaking the law
Drivers have been illegally turning into South Row

An email sent to people who have commented on the proposals says: “Due to cars illegally turning into South Row from the B212 and the consequent road safety risk this poses to the public we have asked our contractors to take immediate action to allow for east-bound and west-bound movements into and out of South Row. This will be carried out as a matter of urgency to protect the health and safety of the public.

“To ensure motor vehicles do not use South Row as a cut through a bollard will be installed next week in between the two planters that are at the junction of South Row with The Paragon. It is also expected that the change of allowing east-bound and west-bound movements at the junction of South Row and the B212 will address the issue of traffic being displaced to Paragon Place and Wemyss Road to access South Row.”

The South Row scheme is one of a number of schemes to cut traffic on Lewisham borough’s residential roads and make walking and cycling easier. There remains no news on similar schemes for Greenwich borough, despite a decision by cabinet member Sizwe James having been scheduled for Tuesday.

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