Sunday, 27 June 2010

Disintegrated Transport Planning

It starts with the desire to pedestrianise part of the Greenwich Town Centre.

Fair enough, you might say: there's too much traffic jamming up the one-way system and generally  making the town centre unfriendly to pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike.  Below is the bit Greenwich council wants to pedestrianise.  It looks a pretty modest proposal:  0.16 miles (232 metres), of existing road given over to pedestrians.  On the online consultation document this area is marked as ''Pedestrian area, residents and business access only,'' so cycling is not permitted.
But there's too much motorised traffic - where can it all go?  I know, a gyratory system!  Instead of a one-way system in central Greenwich that takes 0.28 miles (448 metres) to go round, they come up with a 2-lane gyratory one-way system which is 1.1 miles (1,774 metres) to get round.
In fact, for the first consultation exercise back in December 2009 there were a number of different proposals, such as keeping parts of it 2 way for buses, or putting in a cycle contraflow along Greenwich High Road.  The aim of these hybrid plans was to undo some of the damage done to bus routes or to cycle routes.

I should perhaps say ''purported aim'' because the consultation document used out of date maps that actually removed all evidence of a well-used cycle and pedestrian route into Greenwich from Deptford in the east, namely, the Ha'penny Hatch.  (The new amended consultation plan, detail below, still doesn't show the route.  The Hatch bridges Deptford Creek between the two sets of railways where they split on the left.)
 Where there's a box marked 4 on the map, the original proposal was to have a 2-lane one-way entrance into Norman Road by the North Pole pub, and all evidence of a cycle route had been removed.  This proposal would have prevented cyclists getting from the Hatch to Greenwich High Road without first being sent north, i.e. completely the wrong direction.  In addition, the proposal would have meant trying to force 2 lanes of right-turning traffic between these 2 buildings.

My own feeling when I saw this was that the mouth of Norman Road was not wide enough to allow 2 lanes of traffic into it and that, as it would have to be one lane, there would therefore be room to put a cycle lane. (Note that the lights have had to be set back on Norman Road because it's already too narrow for LGVs to turn into it.)  I suggested this and was told a by a consultant that a cycle lane couldn't be done.  Luckily, other people must have also raised this problem in the consultation, and they've since looked at the map and decided that it could be done.  The green arrows on the amended consultation document indicate a cycle contra-flow, albeit on the wrong side of the road.

But much of that is a a very localised bit of history and unimportant in the grand gyratory scheme of things.  Let's get back to the overall view.  If we accept that life is unpleasant for pedestrians in central Greenwich, we're going to have to also accept that there are simply too many vehicles passing through Greenwich.  One way of fixing this is to push traffic out of the way, displacing the problem.  Another way is to encourage more people to use smaller, more fit-for-purpose means of transport.  Which is where, ding ding, the bicycle comes in!

More people on bikes means fewer motorised vehicles on the streets.  Sure, they have a slower top speed, but they're smaller, greener, and more flexible than motorised vehicles so that they can often be faster in busy urban environments.

Increasingly, there are more people getting on their bikes for the daily commute or for pleasure and exercise.  On a good day, the commute, pleasure and exercise come together all in one.  So let's look at these biking commuters - how do they get round Greenwich?  And how would the proposed road changes affect their daily journey?
For the biking commuter heading into town from East Greenwich, Charlton, Woolwich - present in blue, shortest proposed route in red.  Route from Trafalgar Road to Creek Road Bridge.
Blue route 633 metres, red route 821 metres.  Impact on cyclists: longer journey.  Incentive to choose cycling: zero.
For the cyclist heading to Docklands via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel from Blackheath, Eltham, etc.  Present route, blue.  Shortest proposed route in red. Park gates to tunnel.

Blue route 570 metres.  Red route 1,349 metres.  Impact on cyclists: journey length doubled.  Incentive to choose cycling: zero.
For the cyclist heading to Docklands from Lewisham.  South Street/Circus Street to Foot tunnel

Blue: current route (776 metres).  Shortest route under proposals in red (1,564 metres).  Impact on cyclists: an incredible doubling of distance.  Incentive to choose cycling: zero.
And for me, heading toward the Coop/Somerfields to do a bit of shopping from Deptford.  Ha'penny Hatch to Shop.
Blue route: 755 metres.  Shortest possible proposed route:1,122 metres.  Impact on cyclist: 67% longer journey. This additional distance will also affect all cyclists heading from the A2 at Deptford Bridge.  Incentive to choose cycling: zero.

In fact, no cycling route is improved and many are made more lengthy.  The plans will further inconvenience cyclists and it can only act as a deterrent for new cyclists to get out of their tin boxes and go smaller and greener.  Deterring cycling is the last thing we need to alleviate the problem.  Producing consultation maps that do not show current cycle facilities is also deeply misleading because it hides the true picture from the public.

And all for what? 232 metres of pedestrianisation.  The plans are an object lesson in how not to design an integrated transport system.  I will be making this point to TfL, cycling organisations such as CTC and, of course, to Greenwich Council to make very clear my opposition to this scheme.  If the solution to too much traffic is making journeys longer for alternative transport then clearly they haven't understood a single thing.


Deptford dame said...

I don't think it's all as bad as you predict, although admittedly some of the routes will be longer. For a start, I was told at the exhibition that cycling would be permitted through the pedestrianised area, particularly to link from the park down to the foot tunnel, and there will be a wide pedestrian and cycle crossing where King William Walk meets Romney Road. There will be a cycle path going the opposite way on King William Walk too, so that the route for cyclists from the foot tunnel to the park will be shorter (some cyclists already take their lives in their hands and cycle against the traffic up there anyway - I saw two doing just that as I emerged from Devonport House!)
I suspect cyclists going from Lewisham to Docklands would go via Gloucester Circus etc to the park gates and down King William Walk. And for Somerfield, the back way via Tarves Way/Straightsmouth might be quicker, or you could always go your usual route then walk the last hundred yards on the footpath - at least cyclists always have that option.
While I'm broadly in favour of the plan to make Greenwich town centre more pedestrian-friendly, I'm dubious about the effect that this plan is going to have on bus services. For example the 199 is likely to bypass Greenwich town centre altogether, and I'm sure many other services will suffer, although right now it's way too hot to try and work out all the permutations in my head!

Marmoset said...

This is a problem. The consultation document says ''pedestrianised area, residents and business access only.'' This excludes cyclists as it is worded. I'm not sure how to interpret a consultation which says one thing and a consultant who says something else. If cycling has been integrated into the plan, why forget to mention it?

But if that's really what they're planning to do, then east-to-west routes, though forced off the main carriageways and onto contra-flow cycle paths along Creek Road, would not be severely affected. The same goes for Lewisham to Docklands routes, still longer, around the houses, but not as bad as the diagram illustrates. But the diagram is based on what the consultation documents say.

I checked the route from Deptford to Somerfield and the Tarves Way/Straightsmouth route is longer than going round Circus Street and down Royal Hill.

Heaven knows what the implications for public transport are - I found that with so many variables, I had to stick to ways of getting around that I understand!

Deptford Dame said...

Well the cynic in me suggests it is an oversight; the conspiracy theorist in me suggests otherwise!
I have not heard any mention of a response to this consultation from Greenwich Cyclists, which surprises me as they are usually quite vociferous on anything that involves cycling in Greenwich. I will make sure to bring it to their attention, it sounds like they need to make sure that cycle access through the pedestrianised area is set down in writing.

Marmoset said...

Hi, DD, well as the consultation documents and displays were contradicting each other,I went back today to check which version of the story was correct.

The public consultation document, on the key to the pedestrianised area on page 2, reads ''Pedestrian area, resident and business access only.'' The ''only'' there is restrictive. Their proposed cycle routes display, however, shows they're open to cycles.

How are the public supposed to make comments when one document says one thing and another says its opposite? Anyhow, the consultant informed me that the diagram of the pedestrianised area was wrong, the key was also wrong, and when pressed whether that was down to the council or the consultants, he said it was down to the council. But I only have his word for that.

If the consultant's assertion is correct then east-to-west cycle or park-to-Docklands commuters will not be severely affected. The inconvenience for cycle access from Deptford Broadway or Ha'penny Hatch remains as it also does cyclists from Lewisham heading to the foot tunnel coming along Greenwich South Street.

Marmoset said...

oops, careless writing...

''....does cyclists...'' should read ''does for cyclists.''

Jeb said...

The implications for bus passengers are very frustrating. At least as a cyclist you can get off and walk through the pedestrianised bits.

Incidentally in the part of Germany I know well, cycling is considered as a slightly faster form of walking and cyclists walkers habitually share pedestrianised areas with walkers, dismounting or giving way to pedestrians as required.