South Row, Thursday 24 June
The closure of South Row made life safer for walkers and cyclists, but infuriated many drivers

The saga of making a notorious Blackheath rat-run safer for walkers and cyclists could be about to come to an end, with Greenwich Council preparing to stop through traffic from using Kidbrooke Gardens and South Row to reach Blackheath Village.

Last summer Greenwich complained that it had not been consulted after neighbouring Lewisham Council placed planters on South Row to stop cars and vans from using the route as part of an emergency programme introduced at the end of the first lockdown.

Westbrook Road, Kidbrooke Gardens and South Row all form part of a popular cut-through for traffic trying to get to Blackheath Village while avoiding the A2. The route – which straddles the boundary between Greenwich and Lewisham – is also a popular and signed cycle route.

Lewisham had to remove its planters after Morden College, which runs almshouses on the Greenwich side of the boundary, complained that service vehicles could not reach its premises because of a weight restriction on Kidbrooke Gardens.

Seven months later, Greenwich has now come forward with plans for a modal filter on its site of the boundary, by placing cameras on Kidbrooke Gardens. These would allow emergency services to access the route and could also mean free access at off-peak times. Data supplied by the council showed nearly 600 vehicles an hour used Kidbrooke Gardens at peak times during a survey week in July 2019.

A 3-tonne weight restriction on Kidbrooke Gardens put paid to Lewisham’s South Row restriction – now Greenwich plans to place cameras in the road

The plan is part of a wider proposal to create a safer cycling route from Eltham town centre to Greenwich Park. The council is billing the scheme as connecting with routes to central London; however, riders would still have to navigate the Greenwich one-way system to get to the Thames Path, or Greenwich High Road to reach Quietway 1 to Waterloo.

Segregated cycle lanes will be installed on Eltham Hill while a camera will also be installed where Birdbrook Road meets Eltham Palace Gardens. Another camera will stop traffic from using Shawbrook Road under the A2 – stopping rat-running between Rochester Way and Eltham Green.

Earlier plans to put traffic lights at the Kidbrooke Park Road and Westbrook Road junction – reported by 853 last year – have been dropped. The route briefly enters Lewisham to cross Blackheath before reaching an improved junction at the gates to Greenwich Park.

Full details are in a Greenwich Council consultation which will be open until 21 March.

The plans are dependent on funding from Transport for London, which has so far only paid for the development of the proposal. Progress has been slow – last September, councillors were told the route could be in place by April. Now if the scheme goes ahead, Greenwich plans to start work on the route in the summer.

Another new plan revealed this week involves blocking Old Dover Road in Blackheath to through traffic as part of a cycle route from Shooters Hill Road to Greenwich Park.

The proposals are part of a number of measures being taken to make walking and cycling easier, the biggest and most contentious of which involves closing streets between Greenwich Park and the Blackwall Tunnel approach to through traffic, a proposal which is currently being consulted on. Last week two councillors pressed for residents in that area to be able to drive through the cameras, while still blocking access to people from outside the neighbourhood.

Most of Greenwich’s new proposals use cameras rather than the planters used in Lewisham’s schemes which were implemented – and partly rolled back – last year.

Councillors on Greenwich’s highways committee last week recommended making a “low-traffic neighbourhood” in west Greenwich permanent after hearing evidence from local residents that it had improved their local area. A trial of the scheme ended yesterday, however, the restrictions are expected to remain in place for another six months while a final decision is made about their future.

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