Eltham High Street
Some cycling measures have already been put in place on Eltham High Street

Greenwich borough has been given a “raw deal” in funding for new cycle routes, a councillor said last night, saying many people felt that commuting by bike from his ward to central London was more dangerous than catching coronavirus.

Councillors on the highways committee heard on Thursday night that a cycle route from Eltham to Greenwich Park could be in place by April if it gets final approval from Transport for London. Consultants have been employed to draw up plans for the route, which will be submitted to TfL by the end of the month.

Greenwich bid for money to create the route, but was only given funding to develop proposals further. Instead, TfL has funded a route along Shooters Hill Road which links several of the borough’s schools, and has already started work on a protected cycleway along the A206 in east Greenwich.

The council asked for funding to create four cycle routes – but only the Shooters Hill Road link was fully funded, with development funding offered for the Eltham route and work in Greenwich town centre. The route along the A206 is being directly funded and built by TfL.

Eltham South councillor Matt Clare said Greenwich had lost out to boroughs that were better connected to central London, leaving residents like his constituents hesitant about going to work by bike.

“It’s disappointing that we only won funding for the study because Eltham is one of the worst connected places in London for cycling when you look at how far out some of the cycle superhighways go and the great public transport those places enjoy,” the Conservative said.

With Greenwich unable to fund the route on its own, Clare said it was important that the new bid for money – the last chance to get funding from TfL – succeeded. “It’s disappointing when you see the massive funding that boroughs like Hackney gave got, when they’ve got the Overground and they’re just two kilometres from the City and five from the West End, and we’re stuck 15km from the City and 20km from the West End. Our people have got to get to work and for many of them it’s the journey – if they’re cycling, that’s more dangerous than getting Covid. So it really is critical.”

Clare also criticised the fact that Greenwich’s application for funding referenced only the support of council leader Danny Thorpe, neglecting to mention support from the Conservative opposition, the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Greenwich Cyclists – something revealed by 853 last month.

Council transport officer John Lynn said it was just a “standard phrase” to indicate the support from the town hall administration, while assistant director for transport Graham Nash felt it might not have made much difference.

Eltham to Greenwich Park cycle route
The proposed Eltham to Greenwich Park cycle route

Nash said the Eltham route was the town hall’s top priority but “it was TfL who decided to give us the implementation money for the Shooters Hill cycleway”.

“I think they’re far more influenced by the technical appraisal of the route, the Shooters Hill route scored highest for cycling potential. While support is welcome, I don’t think it’s a deciding factor.”

In a discussion prompted by a petition for the Eltham route, Lynn said that talks with Lewisham Council and Transport for London to use part of their road networks for an Eltham to Greenwich Park route – TfL runs the South Circular, A2, A20 and southern part of Kidbrooke Park Road – had come to nothing. The route to Greenwich Park crosses a small part of Lewisham borough at Blackheath.

“We did engage with Lewisham because you could make an argument that to get into central London you could use some of Lewisham’s roads, but the steer we got from Lewisham is that they had other priorities; funding is very limited at the moment and they were not able to work with us, certainly within the timeframes we were working to,” he said.

“We had a similar answer from TfL about their road network, they had other priorities across London, we were very welcome to develop this route but we should use our own road network. I’m not suggesting that’s the end of those conversations but this is to reassure the committee that we’ve asked those questions. We will try to work with those different parties if we can.”

The Eltham to Greenwich Park route originally started on the borough border at Bexley Road, but had been trimmed back to start at Glenesk Road, east of Eltham High Street, Lynn said, after “TfL indicated they weren’t willing to fund a route that went that far”.

Committee member Peter Brooks said council leader Danny Thorpe’s office should talk to counterparts in Lewisham and Bexley about working together on the routes.

Call for traffic measures review

Meanwhile, Clare and Greenwich Conservative leader Nigel Fletcher have called for a review of temporary traffic measures taken since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

There have been some complaints of increased traffic in some streets east of Greenwich Park since streets west of the space were closed to motor vehicles last month, while cyclists have complained that barriers put up in Greenwich town centre have made the one-way system even less safe.

another morning, another volley of verbal abuse directed towards an unsuspecting resident from a #Greenwich rat-runner #StreetspaceLDN @mtpennycook @EGRA_London @CleanAirLondon @RichardT135 @Chris_C_Lloyd pic.twitter.com/GwjBxE8E1B

— Sally Howard ✍️ (@WanderingSal) September 3, 2020

In a joint statement, Clare and Fletcher said: “We are deeply concerned that in some cases a lack of consultation by Greenwich Council has resulted in some potentially very unpopular schemes being rushed through. Despite the current Covid-19 situation, it is wrong for the council to implement traffic schemes without seeking the views of local residents or considering the potential impact on businesses.”

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