TFL gives a masterclass in how not to repair a motorway bridge

CIMG2373Transport for London has just put up ugly temporary fences on both sides of the Old Dover Road and Charlton Road bridges over the A102 – without consulting or notifying local residents or councillors, and with no regard to the impact on local views.

And now TFL can’t even say how long the fences will be up, what work is to be carried out behind them, and how high the bridges’ railings will be once work is complete.

According to one nearby resident, the new fences “look ugly, look scary, ruin the view and make you feel that you are in prison”. Another resident describes them simply as “hideous”. “Monstrosities,” says another.

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Charlton Road shows how cycling can be made easier and safer

CIMG2376Good to see that work by Greenwich’s Labour council to widen the cycle lanes on Charlton Road (and move parking bays so lanes are no longer blocked by parked cars) is almost complete, making cycling between Blackheath Standard and Charlton a lot easier and safer.

Greenwich has not got as many cyclists, or cycle lanes, as London boroughs like Hackney and Lambeth but this is changing. A new Cycling Strategy, agreed by the council’s cabinet earlier this month, includes an ambitious Action Plan for a new network of cycle lanes and Greenways including a new east-west route along Kidbrooke Gardens and Westbrook Road, making Kidbrooke Park Road safer for cyclists, and a new north-south cycle route parallel with Westcombe Hill (exact route yet to be decided).

The percentage of all journeys done by bike has tripled from 1% in 2005 to an estimated 2.9% now. The strategy sets a target to increase this to above 5% by 2025, and to double the percentage of adults cycling weekly from 7% in 2010 to 16% in 2020. Thanks to new cycle lanes and a lot of training in schools cycling has already got a lot safer: the number of cyclist injuries in Greenwich halved between 1999 and 2011. And according to maps included in the strategy’s ‘Evidence Base’, residents of Blackheath Westcombe ward are already cycling more, and are more likely to take up cycling, than most other wards. Read more of this post

Credit where it’s due: TFL now want to make Shooter’s Hill Road safer

Shooters Hill Road 4 - pedestrian crossingAt long last Transport for London is putting forward proposals to make Shooter’s Hill Road (the busy A2) safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Consultation has just started on proposals to improve the junction of Shooter’s Hill Road, Stratheden Road and Prince of Wales Road on the northern edge of the heath.

TFL are proposing to install new cycle lanes, remove the ‘sheep pen’ in the middle of Shooter’s Hill Road and make the crossing there straighter. A stranger part of the proposals is to put a new island in the middle of Prince of Wales Road, narrowing the left filter lane so only cycles will be allowed to turn into the A2: cars would no longer be able to make this turn. This is opposed by residents living on the slip road on the south side of Shooter’s Hill Road, who would have to drive via the Standard or Blackheath Village to join the A2 towards London. As this would increase traffic flow but do little to improve safety, I hope TFL will reconsider. Shooters Hil Road-stratheden road proposal map 2014

Overall the scheme  is not revolutionary and won’t do much to make it safer to cross the junctions from east to west (there still won’t be a proper pedestrian crossing from one side of Stratheden Road to the other). But it’s a start.

There have been safety concerns about this junction for more than a decade, and it’s high time TFL made it safer: there are four schools (Invicta, Blackheath High, Pointers, and Blackheath Nursery & Prep) nearby and if we want children to walk to them we have got to make junctions like this safer. As these old Westcombe Society minutes record, back in the summer of 2002 a school pupil was very seriously injured in a collision here and had to be taken to hospital by air ambulance.

A speed indicator device (a sign that flashes “30” at drivers that exceed that speed, pictured here with yours truly) was put in on Shooter’s Hill Road eastbound in 2008, but despite repeated requests from the council TFL have refused to put one up on the westbound side of the road, which has more of a speeding problem. Further east at the pedestrian crossing by Vicarage Avenue, it took several years of lobbying before TFL finally agreed in 2010 to allow people two more seconds to cross the road in safety: their first priority always seems to be keeping the traffic moving, not pedestrian safety.

Alex Grant by speed indicator device on Shooters Hill Road 2008 - 2Details of TFL’s latest proposals can be found here: please note any comments have to be sent to them by Friday March 21st.

TFL is also promising details next month of new measures to make the Woolwich Road roundabout (under the A102 flyover) safer for cyclists and pedestrians. I hope TFL continue this burst of activity by doing something to screen those living near the A102 from noise and pollution, too, and fixing the broken Charlton Road bridge over the A102, using some of the income they will get from the advertising screens that they have just got planning permission for at the Sun-in-Sands roundabout. I’m not holding my breath.

TFL’s Sun-in-the-Sands adverts given the go-ahead

Sun in Sands from north - showing ad position

This is the view that drivers will have from the A102 later this year. Despite objections from local Labour councillors, the Blackheath and Westcombe societies  and the Greenwich Conservation Group, a planning inspector has just allowed Boris Johnson’s Transport for London to put up huge electronic advertising panels, 3m high and 12m wide, on the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout. A mock-up of the north-facing one is shown here, with the south-facing one below.

The plans were turned down by Greenwich Council in 2013 but TFL wouldn’t take no for an answer and appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which held a hearing on January 7th to consider the appeal. (For previous posts on the story see here and here).

The Planning Inspector’s judgement, published on January 29th, can be read here. The inspector has added some conditions limiting the brightness of the illuminated adverts, ordered that images should change no more frequently than every ten seconds, they the images should not move, and that it should not take more than  a second to change from one image to another. But generally this is a bad day for drivers on the A102, who may well be distracted by flashing adverts, and the roundabout’s neighbours who will now have to live alongside them.Sun in Sands from south - showing ad position

The inspector’s report is a dry read, but tucked away in the text are two intriguing details.

Firstly, the inspector seems to have been swayed by the fact that Transport for London had, funnily enough, not objected to their own planning application:

In reaching this conclusion, I have given considerable weight to the lack of objection to the proposal from the highway authority and to the compliance of the advertisement displays with the guidance adopted by the highway authority in relation to proposals of this nature. Whilst I note that, in this case, the highway authority is also the appellant, the evidence before me indicates that the highway safety assessment of the proposed advertisements is undertaken separately to any commercial assessment of site suitability and is subject to a safety audit. In the light of this lack of objection, whilst I have had careful regard to the concerns of the local planning authority, including those relating to drivers potentially breaking the speed limit, I have not found the evidence presented by the Council in this respect to be compelling and, as such, I am not satisfied that it would be appropriate to find against the proposal for this reason.

Translated into plain English, this means that the planning inspector thinks that TFL are the best-qualified people to judge whether flashing adverts are safe on a road run by, and bringing revenue to, TFL itself. Hmm. Read more of this post

TFL take seven weeks and counting to fix a broken bridge

Charlton road - broken bridgeLate on Saturday October 26th a car veered off Charlton Road, struck the railings on the bridge over the A102 and knocked part of them onto the motorway below (causing a major traffic jam I remember well – I was stuck in it on my way home from a family outing to celebrate my 40th birthday).

Nearly two months after the accident Transport for London (which is responsible for the A102 and the bridges over it) have still not fixed the bridge.

Thankfully, no-one was injured and the railings were made safe by the council that night. The gap is now cordoned off with concrete blocks, metal fencing and red plastic guard-railing to prevent anything falling through. But these temporary repairs are unsightly and clearly not a long-term solution. Read more of this post

TFL puts advertising income ahead of protecting A102 neighbours from noise and pollution

Sun in Sands from south - showing ad positionI’ve posted before about TFL’s crazy plan to put two huge illuminated adverts on the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout – see here. The advertising panels, 3 metres high and 12 metres wide, would go on the bridges facing north and south with different images flashing up six times a minute. They would distract drivers on the A2/A102 motorway, and be a nuisance for neighbours, as these mocked-up images show.

Greenwich Council thankfully refused TFL’s planning application in May 2013, because of the impact the signs would have on the adjacent Blackheath conservation area, as well as road safety concerns.

Sun in Sands from north - showing ad positionBut TFL are not taking no for an answer and are determined to get advertising revenue from the site.  In August TFL lodged an appeal against the refusal, arguing that “the proposals will improve the tired condition of the underpass and will signify investment into the area.” That’s right – TFL thinks this part of Blackheath is so economically deprived that it must have advertising hoardings to show it’s open for business. Read more of this post

Is IKEA a good idea for Greenwich?

sainsbury-greenwichHow quickly do the architectural innovations of the late Twentieth century become redundant in the Twenty-First! The iconic Sainsbury’s store on Peartree Way, with its partly glazed roof, curved lines and timber cladding, is due to be made redundant once a much larger Sainsbury’s opens down the road off Bugsby’s Way in 2014.

IKEA have now put forward plans to take over the site – and knock down the Sainsbury’s building, which was nominated for the Stirling Prize and won the prestigious RIBA Sustainability Award in 2000. Until now it had been hoped that a new retailer would adapt the building, not demolish it.

Tony Duckworth, one of the Environmental designers of the Sainsbury’s store, predicted last year that the most likely outcome was its demolition (see a blog post from 2012 here). I’m sorry that it seems he has been proved right. Read more of this post