Introduction and summary
Greenwich Cyclists believe that the Green Chain is a tremendous asset for the whole of South East London. It provides a network of green, open spaces on the doorstep of nearly three-quarters of a million residents.
We therefore welcome the consultation on its future. It is vitally important that the Green Chain continues to develop and serve the needs of our community. We fully support the priorities for the future (outlined in section 4) particularly the priority given to protecting the open spaces and increasing usage.
But we believe that the consultation draft makes a major omission, by failing to mention cycling, an activity that has the potential to broaden the appeal of the network and to integrate it into the health, environmental and transport policies of the constituent boroughs.
Greenwich Cyclists cannot understand why the 28 page document does not once mention cycling. All concerned need to be very clear from the outset whether cycling on the Green Chain is prohibited, tolerated or encouraged. The draft cannot be allowed to ignore the issue, even if there are potential difficulties in places.
Greenwich Cyclists cannot accept this current ambivalence in the draft. The management plan should be encouraging cycling. The draft describes the Green Chain as a network of more than 40 miles of signposted footpaths. This is only partly correct. Some of the paths are clearly marked as cycle paths and/or as joint use. But there is no consistency cyclists are attracted onto certain sections only to encounter barriers or prohibition signs later. Such inconsistency unnecessarily increases the risk of conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. Without specific cycling references the document could be used in future to work towards banning cycling. And that of course would be quite unacceptable.
Each of the boroughs supporting the Green Chain has transport policies that give a high priority to promoting cycling. Most refer to the need to discourage car use, particularly at peak times, such as during the school run. But there are very few facilities for children and young people to practice their cycling skills in safety. Very few parents would risk taking their children on the roads of South East London without first giving them an opportunity to learn about their bikes in a safe environment.
The Green Chain presents a major opportunity to provide an off road cycle network suitable for family use. A cycle network through the Green Chain possibly parallel to the existing footpaths - could provide such a facility. This would not only be consistent with the boroughs transport objectives, but properly managed, it would reduce the potential for conflict between pedestrians and cyclists.
Furthermore, it would be entirely consistent with the overall objectives of the Green Cain Management plan. It would undoubtedly encourage use of the parks. It has the potential to broaden the financial base for the Green Chain, since cycling currently attracts funding from a range of authorities and sources. It would, therefore, safeguard the future of these invaluable open spaces.
There is clear public support for improved facilities for cyclists. 87% of those interviewed in a recent MORI poll said they would like to see the Government and local authorities create safe cycling facilities. In South East London, with its poor record on air quality and high levels of respiratory disease among children, the case would seem to be more pressing than for many other areas of the capital.
The management plan throughout needs to mention cycling as a sustainable, inclusive and healthy form of transport that is encouraged on most if not all, parts of the Green Chain network. Failure to do so, would be a missed opportunity for South East London.
The following comments were endorsed by Greenwich Cyclists at our monthly meeting of 8 January 2003. They have also been seen by the London Cycling Campaign (with 9,000 paid up members, the largest urban cycling group in the world), Lambeth Cyclists, Lewisham Cyclists and Southwark Cyclists. All those groups support the following comments.
"How to respond" page:
paragraph 1: as will be detailed later, we wonder how and what "current policy thinking" came into the draft. It is of course the policy of Government, the Greater London Authority, Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham to increase cycling levels. The Governments National Cycling Strategy aims to increase quadruple 1996 levels by 2012. And yet the Green Chain draft does not mention cycling once. Why not?
paragraph 1: the draft Plan was based on "public consultation". Greenwich Cyclists represents hundreds of local cyclists and yet we were not consulted as a group. And none of us saw any consultation papers. Nor did the London Cycling Campaign, the Cycling Touring Club, Lewisham Cyclists or, it seems, any other cycling group. What was issued and to whom?
paragraph 3: we note the statement that responses will not be acknowledged, but we feel our comments warrant a fully argued response, and we expect one.
Closing date for responses is 5pm on Monday 6 January 2003: Greenwich Cyclists monthly meeting was due on 1 January 2003 and could not sensibly be held on that day. We understand that later comments will be considered.
The "what people think box": cycling is all those 7 items mentioned. Its healthy, environmentally friendly, convenient, educational, accessible, recreational and a great way to get around. Did the survey not research bike use of the Green Chain?
The network map: of course vividly illustrates an alternative route-system to the roads.
1.6: The 1977 Green Chain Policy Document details objectives and policies:
recreational facilities: surely includes cycling
public awareness: access by bike must be a factor
public access: by bike happens, needs to be acknowledged, managed, and encouraged
identity promotion: the Green Chain provides excellent alternative bike routes for learners and families, for local trips to schools and shops etc, and for leisure and touring rides of varying lengths
The mission statement: "enjoyment for all" needs to be defined and must include cyclists and exclude, for example, motorised vehicles.
the regional transport fora do not ignore cycling. Why does this draft Plan avoid it?
Integrated transport policy thinking inevitably includes cycling. Why does this draft Plan ignore it?
did the access audit include cycling? If not, why not?
2.2: Core Services:
1. responding to planning matters: bike use is surely relevant. But is it being responded to?
2. sign posting: it is far too easy for non-map users to get lost on the Green Chain. Signing is not continuous and, whilst much is excellent, more is patchy. Some sections are very clearly marked as bike permitted. Most is left vague. Why?
3. Promotion: Greenwich Cyclists organise well over a hundred bike rides a year locally that are open free of charge to all comers. 10 of those rides used, and so helped promote, the Green Chain. The Peaks of Greenwich ride, for example, in National Bike Week, led local 25 people into bits of Greenwich and Bexley they had never seen before. So why isnt the Green Chain promoted to cyclists more widely?
2.3: Core Services
1: Projects: why is cycling not included?
2: health professionals are very aware of the role of cycling in health improvements and Greenwich Cyclists work with Greenwich and Bexley Primary Care Trust to promote bike use. Why isnt the Green Chain doing the same?
4. walking is being integrated into other forms of transport. Why not cycling?
2.5 Service issues:
The Project is being developed in areas of health, accessibility, strategic planning, biodiversity and transport. At national and borough level, cycling is being incorporated into all these areas. Why not on the Green Chain?
2.6: this paragraph is not at all clear. What does it mean?
2.11: "The same boroughs contribute £0.9m to the Lee Valley Park". Surely not, that park is north of the Thames and is funded by Government and its own boroughs. But the Lee Valley Park does have excellent cycling facilities and encourages cycling generally. Is this draft stating that the Green Chain is anywhere near as well looked after etc as the Lee Valley Park?
3.1: "The Green Chain has identified contemporary issues": cycling must surely be one. It fits (second sentence) with the range of partner Boroughs initiatives and agendas. Why then is it not mentioned?
3.2: the need of cyclists must be considered in any future investment. But how will cyclists be consulted?
3.7: "raise public interest in open spaces": how many of the million visitors were cyclists? (Its worth noting that the unfunded www.greenwichcyclists.org.uk had almost as many visitors as the Green Chain website).
3.8: "target groups". To include cyclists of course?
3.9. Has Transport for Londons Cycling Centre for Excellence been consulted?
3.10: Protection of the open spaces: Greenwich Cyclists very strongly supports this key aim.
3.13: As mentioned above, signage is patchy and many parts of the Chain are poorly signed.
3.15: any successful Transport for London bids must help improve facilities for cyclists. Will that happen?
Text box: Strategic Links. Both walking and cycling link into all these15 strategic areas and plans.
3.19/3.20: Community involvement: will that include cycling groups? Greenwich Cyclists would very much like to be involved in the forthcoming Friends organisation. May we be?
3.21: health initiatives: The draft must not imply that walking and/or jogging is the only way to combat cardio-vascular problems, diabetes or other disorders. Cycling is obviously beneficial too. Greenwich Cyclists can help here. We are already working with the local Primary Care Trust on prescribed cycling and training.
3.24 and on: schools and colleges: the Green Chain need to link into Safe Routes to Schools etc work.
3.29: Sustainable Transport systems: why is cycling not mentioned here? It seems to be positively avoided. This paragraph says all the right things about alternative mode of transport and use of the Green Chain as a route to shops etc. But where is cycling? Walking is fine for short distances, bikes better for longer ones and load carrying.
3.29/3.33: these five paragraphs refer only to the Mayor for LondonsTransport Strategy for walkers from the London Walking Forum. They oddly ignore other parts of that Transport Strategy that says "The Strategy strongly supports the encouragement of cycling in London. The level of cycling in London is currently very low compared with many other European cities. The Strategy proposes a number of measures to encourage cycling:
*completing the London Cycle Network to a consistent high standard (the existing LCN)
*developing high quality cycle routes (LCN+)"
It does not make sense for the Green Chain to sit aloof from these other networks. Why does the draft not clarify this?
3.32: cycling tourism is a regenerator too. Why is it not considered?
3.34: physical and psychological barriers to use of the Green Chain:
physical: the draft needs to be more explicit here. The coming into force later this year of the last parts of the Disability Discrimination Act means that, for example, the barriers on the Green Chain designed to keep motorbikes out will become illegal, since they keep out wheelchairs too. When do barriers start coming down? When do railway bridges, for example, get ramped?
psychological: some find parts of the Green Chain lonely and intimidating. Increased use of the Chain by, for example, cyclists, will help dispel such notions and help police the areas.
4.1: Priorities. Greenwich Cyclists endorse the 6 priorities for the next five years but need to see cycling fully integrated into future plans. How will that come about?
13 January 2003