PROPOSAL DOCUMENT PREPARED BY GREENWICH CYCLISTS FOR GREENWICH COUNCIL MAY 2001.
In October 2000 Greenwich Cyclists wrote to Greenwich Council with a general proposal that the Council consider supporting Car Free Day in September 2001 by organising the closure of roads in central Greenwich Town Centre. We emphasised the success of road closures at The Cut in Southwark and Lambeth, Coldharbour Lane in Brixton and Seven Dials in Camden in September 2000. Greenwich Cyclists proposed that the road closures which occur on a Saturday should be combined with various street entertainment events in order to encourage people to come to Greenwich and enjoy traffic free streets. We believe that the potential for permanent reductions in motor traffic through the town centre would be realised by local people, traders and visitors, and that as well as being an enjoyable day, the event could also act as a test to identify the benefits of road closure as well as possible problems that would need to be resolved.
Greenwich Cyclists have been pleased by the generally favourable reaction to these ideas from Greenwich. In January an officer of Greenwich Council attended the Transport for London Car Free Day meeting organised for all interested boroughs and reported that Greenwich was very interested in taking part. However, we are concerned that since Car Free Day is now little more than four months away, planning for such an event by the Council and local groups needs to start as soon as possible.
We understand that various internal meetings have taken place at the Council to assess the possible plans.
The following note summarises Greenwich Cyclists proposals.
WHY GREENWICH TOWN CENTRE?: The town centre is a popular and vibrant local centre that for years has been blighted by heavy through motor-traffic. the Council and local people are well aware of the problems and issues, and ideas for traffic reduction have been debated for over 30 years. Car Free Day provides an excellent chance to temporarily reduce traffic and see what effect this has. It could also highlight the advantages of traffic reduction to local people.
European Car Free Day on 22 September 2001, also coincides with London Open House Weekend when many buildings in Greenwich will be open to the public. By closing streets to traffic people will be able to enjoy moving between these buildings, and Greenwich will be able to "sell" a major attraction to visitors: "come to Greenwich's Open House buildings and wander around them without traffic". This could be a major London- wide attraction.
The town centre is popular with both local people and tourists. Public transport links are good and have improved recently with the arrival of the DLR. A street event in Greenwich could draw significant numbers of people into the town centre providing local traders with great opportunities.
POSSIBLE CAR RESTRICTIONS:
Greenwich Cyclists proposes that one of two options for road closure is adopted on Saturday 22 September 2001.
OPTION 1: Closure of the whole one way system around central Greenwich and Romney Road.
Advantages: The whole town centre would be free of traffic allowing street markets and events to occur throughout the town centre. A major street parade could be organised along Romney Road. Access between the Royal Naval College site and the National Maritime Museum and Greenwich Park would be achieved. These include various "Open House" sites. Closure of Romney Road and Trafalgar Road would allow events to spread the benefits of visitors to traders in East Greenwich. Almost the whole World Heritage Site would be traffic free - a major event.
Disadvantages: No traffic would be able to pass through Greenwich town centre, including bus services. This option could cause considerable displacement of traffic onto Blackheath or north of the river unless clear warnings were given to drivers before hand.
OPTION 2: Closure of College Approach and King William Walk, with Romney Road and Greenwich Church Street remaining open.
Advantages: The Market and Cutty Sark Gardens and the Royal Naval College would be linked for pedestrians. Pedestrians and cyclists would find it relatively easy to move from Greenwich Park to Cutty Sark Gardens along King William Walk. Bus services could be maintained along Romney Road.
Disadvantages: Unless adequate warning is given there could be considerable car congestion through Romney Rd and central Greenwich, particularly if there are lots of extra pedestrians in central Greenwich. Romney Raod would divide the centre of Greenwich.
GREENWICH CYCLISTS PROPOSAL: Option 1 is attractive in the long term as we see huge potential for the whole town centre and East Greenwich if it could be made motor-traffic free. The ability for people to walk freely between the river, the Market, Greenwich Park and the NMM and RNC sites could enhance the town centre for local people dramatically. There are many examples of town centres being improved by pedestrianisation both in London and elsewhere (eg. York, Lewisham, Durham, Bromley). However, Greenwich Cyclists believes that as this would be the first time Greenwich has supported Car Free Day, and given the significant number of cars currently passing through Greenwich on a Saturday, it would be prudent at this stage to adopt OPTION 2. The road closure would be for only one day. Disruption to traffic is likely to occur as some people may be unware of the plans, and will not develop alternative travel plans.
EVENTS ON THE DAY: Car Free Day is much more than simply organising traffic restriction orders for particular roads. If it is seen merely as an exercise in closing roads to traffic it will fail.
Greenwich Cyclists believe that the key to a successful Car Free Day is to develop a series of street events that will draw people into Greenwich and allow them to enjoy car free streets. The experience of Car Free Day in 2000 showed that a wide range of events could encourage people to use the streets as places to congregate and commune in a way that is impossible with motor-traffic. Examples from September 2000 included an outdoor barbers in Brixton, a French food market in The Cut, jazz bands and cafes, jugglers and bicycle assault courses, and street space for people to simply meet and talk. Local traders were generally very supportive of the events in September 2000 in London.
We believe there is a need for a headline event around which to build the day. This may be a street procession, or a static event for example at Cutty Sark Gardens. We believe it could reflect Greenwich's past and future - perhaps focusing on transport: from traditional shipping to space travel (the Observatory) and of course bicycles! Greenwich Events will no doubt have both experience and ideas. In addition the experience of the Greenwich & Docklands Festival can be built on.
Greenwich Cyclists have given some consideration as to what organisations might be invited to be involved in animating the day to make it fun. Greenwich Cyclists has not approached other organisations yet, but has identified the following who may be willing to support the event:
1. Greenwich Theatre (al fresco performances, strolling players) 2. Laban Dance Company (moving to new £20m Deptford Creek building in the next year or so) (performances, animation) 3. Greenwich Dance Agency (performances, street classes - including yoga and tai-chi) 4. Greenwich schools to be involved throughout - bike lessons for loads of kids. Events and prizes. 5. Greenwich and Docklands Festival (anything is possible) 6. Trinity College of Music (moving into the Naval College in 2001) (music) 7. National Maritime Museum (outreach.outdoor Antarctic theme to coincide with their South (Antarctic) exhibition? Boat/float in procession?) 8. Local artists and musicians (eg. Jools Holland?) 9. Blackheath Concert Halls 10. Greenwich Tour Guides 11. Greenwich Development Agency 12. A biked procession headed by Emergency Exit Arts three storey bike juggernaut and music could be a key theme for the day. (EEA are based in Greenwich and do much community theatre, fireworks etc). Also London Recumbents bikes based in Dulwich who have an 8-person "octopus" bike. Involve disabled and ethnic minority groups from the outset.
The following sports development groups might also get involved: 1. Greenwich Leisure (runs leisure centres) 3. Dr Bike by Greenwich Cyclists 4. Mini bike assault course for children.
As its contribution, Greenwich Cyclists would be willing to steward certain events on the day and organise and lead a series of bicycle tours on Sunday 23 September (the next day so as not to dilute the main day).
Greenwich shops, businesses and market stalls including cafes could spill out into the street for the day. Clearly there is a need to involve local traders in developing events that will benefit the town centre commercially.
CONCLUSION: Greenwich Cyclists believes that a well organised day on 22 September could benefit both the borough on the day and help to progress the debate about traffic through Greenwich. We would strongly support efforts to organise events to animate the day as soon as possible.
We have a video film made of the Car Free Day event in Brixton in 2000 which clearly illustates many of the advantages of Car Free Day. We would be happy to show this to Councillors and to discuss with the Council how we could go forward with this proposal.
Greenwich Cyclists May 2001