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Greenwich foot tunnel 'too narrow to share with cycling' Isle of Dogs families tell City Hall commissioner

PUBLISHED: 17:14 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:05 29 March 2019

Two cyclists clearly seen riding through the foot tunnel under the Thames while a third correctly walks with his bike. Picture: Mike Brooke

Two cyclists clearly seen riding through the foot tunnel under the Thames while a third correctly walks with his bike. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Pedestrians are getting their skates on to prevent any moves to let cyclists ride through the foot tunnel under the Thames linking the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich.

Campaigners including two Tower Hamlets councillors Peter Golds and Andrew Wood (right) in demo at cyclists breaching foot tunnel bylaws. Picture: Foot Tunnel campaign groupCampaigners including two Tower Hamlets councillors Peter Golds and Andrew Wood (right) in demo at cyclists breaching foot tunnel bylaws. Picture: Foot Tunnel campaign group

It follows publication of Transport Department guidelines on ‘shared space’ between walkers and cyclists for local authorities to introduce.

The foot tunnel between Island Gardens in Cubitt Town and the Cutty Sark next to Greenwich Royal Palace has been a battleground for a decade between walkers and those cyclists who speed through in breach of historic bylaws dating to 1902 when the tunnel opened.

Tensions were raised in 2017 by Greenwich Council agreeing to let cyclists ride through at certain times—but it still needed agreement from Tower Hamlets which rejects the move.

Tourist Brenda Franks who asked two speeding cyclists to dismount in the foot tunnel. Picture: Mike BrookeTourist Brenda Franks who asked two speeding cyclists to dismount in the foot tunnel. Picture: Mike Brooke

Greenwich has since begun public consultations on the idea, but in the face of objections from families on the Isle of Dogs and Tower Hamlets councillors.

Campaigners have now written to City Hall pointing out the new government guidelines on shared space won’t work in the foot tunnel which is narrower at floor level than the minimum three metres required.

“Pedestrians don’t feel safe any more because there’s constant conflict,” campaigner Ralph Hardwick told the East London Advertiser. “It’s not just speeding cyclists, we now get electric scooters and motorwheels.”

One cyclist walks through... but two others ride. Picture: Mike BrookeOne cyclist walks through... but two others ride. Picture: Mike Brooke

Ralph, a former MoD research scientist, has written to City Hall’s walking and cycling commissioner pointing out the ‘tube-shape’ foot tunnel is less than two-and-a-half metres at floor level. That means the government guidelines would rule out ‘joint use’ with cyclists and would be against bylaws.

Yet City Hall gave £200,000 Greenwich to run what Isle of Dogs campaigners say is a “flawed monitoring” to test tunnel use as part of the proposed ‘shared space’ idea.

“I have stopped using the tunnel because of the by-law abuse by cyclists,” Ralph’s letter tells the commissioner.

Tower Hamlets Council’s opposition leader Andrew Woods, who represents part of the Isle of Dogs at the town hall, ran a survey in August 2017 which found 191 cyclists unlawfully riding through the foot tunnel in just 50 minutes, while 152 walked and eight ran with their bikes. There were 274 pedestrians walking through in that time, including 31 children, five mums with prams and one wheelchair disabled.

“Cyclists are their own worst enemy,” Cllr Wood said this week. “A small number of red-light dodgers abuse the system in the streets and we fear they’ll continue cycling in the tunnel.”

He has led a campaign with fellow Cllr Peter Golds, also representing part of the Isle of Dogs, to stop speeding cyclists.

“Allowing cycling would be illegal under disability legislation,” Cllr Wood added. “The Transport Department’s ‘shared space’ guidance shows the tunnel is not suitable.”

He is asking Greenwich Council to respond if it’s thinking of allowing cycling as part of any changes to the by-laws in the tunnel which is jointly owned with Tower Hamlets Council, but managed by Greenwich.

The last time the by-laws were updated was 1938, according to Greenwich, which “needed to be brought into the 21st century”. Skateboarding which began in the 1980s seems to have been added to the ‘prohibited’ list in the meantime.

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