Isle of Dogs fury as cyclists get 'green light' to flout byelaw to ride in Greenwich foot tunnel
PUBLISHED: 17:52 25 August 2017 | UPDATED: 18:18 25 August 2017
Greenwich foot tunnel campaign
Protesters are furious at plans to allow “dangerous” cycling through the historic foot tunnel under the Thames linking east London to Royal Greenwich that could blow up into to a major dispute on both side of the river.
Many cyclists already flout byelaws banning riding through the 115-year-old Greenwich Foot Tunnel between Cubitt Town and Greenwich which has raised fury from pedestrians and Isle of Dogs families.
The cyclists have become emboldened by Greenwich Council, which maintains the tunnel, agreeing to let them ride through at certain times—but it still needs agreement from Tower Hamlets which jointly owns the thoroughfare.
The fury erupted following incidents of reckless cycling in the wake of this week’s Old Bailey trial when Charlie Alliston, 20, was found guilty of “wanton or furious driving” in Old Street on a bike without a front brake when he fatally injured mother-of-two Kim Briggs, 44, in February last year. He is being sentenced next month.
Another reckless incident was the cyclist who mowed down seven-year-old Grace Chessis in Bethnal Green’s Meath Gardens playpark last summer which left her with a broken leg and six weeks in hospital.
Campaigners fear a similar incident could happen in the narrow Greenwich foot tunnel, despite warning notices banning cycling.
“Allowing cycling at certain times would send out a wrong signal to cyclists,” Tower Hamlets campaigning councillor Andrew Wood told the East London Advertiser. “People tell us they won’t use the tunnel because of dangerous cycling, especially mums with prams.”
A public meeting on the Isle of Dogs agreed to send a deputation to Greenwich Council, complaining that no public consultation or Health and Safety analysis had yet been done. Half the people at the meeting were cyclists themselves.
Cllr Woods, representing Canary Wharf ward, ran a survey on August 1 which found 191 cyclists unlawfully riding through the tunnel in just 50 minutes, while 152 walked and eight ran with their bikes. There were 274 pedestrians in that time, including 31 children, as well as five mums with prams and one wheelchair disabled.
“Cyclists are their own worst enemy,” Cllr Wood added. “A small number of red-light dodgers abuse the system in the streets and we fear they’ll continue cycling in the tunnel.”
A survey by the Advertiser on August 21 found a similar ratio of cyclists flouting the byelaw. We found 12 speeding past pedestrians in just 10 minutes, while nine obeyed the byelaw and walked. There were several confrontations with pedestrians, including tourist Brenda Franks who asked two cyclists to dismount.
Cllr Peter Golds told last month’s Tower Hamlets Council meeting of his failed attempts to dissuade Greenwich council’s cabinet from letting cyclists ride through.
The tunnel built in 1902 was never designed for cycling, he pointed out. Department of Transport guidance on ‘shared use’ says cycling should only be allowed “after all on-road solutions have been rejected as unsuitable”.
Cllr Golds told last month’s Tower Hamlets Council meeting of his failed bid to dissuade Greenwich council’s cabinet from giving the green light. He was shocked to find a Greenwich Council report showing “no consultation has been undertaken or considered necessary”.
Greenwich wants to update the byelaws “into the 21st century” for both Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels owned jointly by Tower Hamlets, Newham and Greenwich local authorities, but managed by Greenwich. The last time they were updated was 1938, according to Greenwich, although it seems skateboarding which began in the 1980s has been added to the ‘prohibited’ list.