Community speaks on use of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels

The following is a press release distributed today on behalf of the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels

More than 3,000 people pass through the Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels each day, with roughly 50% of tunnel users being cyclists, and the other half pedestrian only. As tunnel traffic grows, competition and conflict between cyclists, skateboarders, rollerskaters and pedestrians will likely increase. Reducing ill-will between the different user groups should be a priority in the newly refurbished tunnels.

With that in mind, the Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels recently conducted an informal survey of public opinion on the use of the tunnels, the aim being to inform and focus any recommendations to the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The survey closed on 25 April 2014, and the results are as follows…

On the question of the currently unenforced bylaw banning cycling, skateboarding and rollerskating in the tunnels, there were a total of 277 votes cast, with 155 (56%) in favour of relaxing the bylaw and allowing 24-hour considerate shared use. Ninety-eight (35%) were in favour of maintaining the current regulation, and 24 (9%) opted for overnight shared use between 22:00 and 08:00.

The second part of the survey was concerned with improving the management of the foot tunnels, and here we asked participants to select up to four options from a list of four proposals. Of the 359 votes cast, 123 (34%) were in favour of improving signage to guide the behaviour of tunnel users, 82 (23%) would like to see wardens or lift operators with the authority to sanction offenders, 78 (22%) called for random police action to enforce the bylaw, and 76 (21%) for CCTV to record inconsiderate use of the tunnels.

The total number of votes cast was depressingly small, given the frequent public outcry in local news media over inconsiderate use of the tunnels by cyclists especially. On the other side of what is an often fractious argument, a small minority of cycling activists has demanded an immediate end to the cycling ban, arguing that it is safe for cyclists to share the space with pedestrians.

Going by the results of the Fogwoft survey, the public would like to see the tunnel cycling ban rescinded. However, in our view the tunnels are not suitable for shared use, at least during the daytime when there are large numbers of pedestrians moving through them, including small children and disabled people. In the case of the Greenwich tunnel at least, Fogwoft’s policy is reinforced by the London Cycling Design Standards, which define such things as minimum widths for shared-use paths. The Greenwich foot tunnel is simply too narrow to shared use.

When it comes to off-peak cycling in the tunnels, Fogwoft is more sympathetic, and not least toward lone women and other vulnerable individuals who have understandable concerns as to their personal safety. We plan now to discuss with the council what use of the tunnels may be allowable in future, but in the end it comes down to encouraging responsible behaviour on the part of all tunnel users, and effectively enforcing whatever rules are in place. There is at present no policing of the foot tunnels, and the behaviour of some users appears to be worsening.

Fogwoft will now follow up the opinion poll results with its own recommendations to the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Our survey was designed to yield a quantifiable measure of public opinion, but as always we are open to constructive and more free-ranging input from the local community and other tunnel users. We encourage them to contact us via email or Twitter, and make their views known.