A petition against a scheme to make it easier to walk and cycle in west Greenwich has reached over 1,000 signatures after residents in east Greenwich complained they were suffering increased traffic jams and rat-running.
Greenwich Council’s “Hills and Vales” scheme closed off Crooms Hill and streets around Royal Hill to all except pedestrians and cyclists last month, while Greenwich Park has been closed to through traffic since the start of the pandemic. Traffic in general has also increased in recent months following the spring lockdown, while roadworks have affected traffic across south-east London.
People who live around Maze Hill and Vanbrugh Hill, to the east of the park, have complained that they are having to endure gridlocked streets. By noon on Tuesday nearly 1,400 people had signed a petition calling for an urgent review of the scheme and the “reopening of some of the west Greenwich roads”.
A video posted to social media earlier this month showed one driver shouting abuse on normally-quiet Walnut Tree Road.
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
Low traffic neighbourhoods have been introduced in boroughs across London to make it easier for people to walk and cycle in the wake of the pandemic, which has cut capacity on public transport, and to cut rat-running through residential streets. Advocates say that in time, displaced traffic in neighbouring areas will ease as drivers get frustrated with queues and find new routes or ways to travel.
Last month Greenwich Council said that the planters used on the Hills and Vales scheme had been vandalised.
In neighbouring Lewisham, a scheme in Lee Green and Hither Green has cut traffic on the east side of Hither Green station – but residents on the west side have complained of persistent queues on streets such as Hither Green Lane. The borough’s elected mayor, Damien Egan, has promised changes to the scheme.
Egan’s opposite number in Greenwich, council leader Danny Thorpe, said on Sunday that his inbox was “full of completely opposing views” about the scheme.
“Clearly we need to look at everything in the round and do so with all of the data and evidence about the impacts or any unintended consequences of changes. Some people have been disrupted but I’m sure that safer travel for all of us will be worth it,” he said on social media, asking for residents to keep in contact with local councillors.
At tomorrow night’s council meeting, Conservative councillors will call for a review of all the traffic schemes undertaken in the borough in the wake of the pandemic. While planned and consulted on before Covid-19, the Hills and Vales scheme has been funded with emergency money from central government.
In June, Greenwich Council bid for £100,000 from the Department for Transport for funding for schemes “in several areas across the Borough including West Greenwich and Lee Green, plus Westcombe Park, Eltham, Charlton, and Plumstead, subject to feasibility and final costings”.
A separate £150,000 bid to TfL was unsuccessful, and Greenwich opted to concentrate on west Greenwich – leaving out Westcombe Park, where point closures would have protected streets such as Maze Hill. However, three filters will go in place in east Greenwich side roads on Thursday – at Pelton Road and Christchurch Way; Vanbrugh Hill and Walnut Tree Road; and Vanburgh Hill and Rodmere Street, providing relief for some residents.
(Updated at 12.30am on Wednesday to include new filter locations.)