The scheme to upgrade transport links between Plumstead and Woolwich appears to be complete. The scheme cost £1.2 million, was funded by TfL and had two main aspirations – to increase the length of westbound bus lane back to what it was before a disastrous multi-million pound road “improvement” a decade before and a segregated west-bound cycle lane along the road. No road space for other traffic has been lost. On both fronts it has succeeded, though some other issues havn’t been alleviated.

Here’s the cycle lane as it weaves behind bus stops reducing conflict between buses and cyclists. This is a major step forward and much needed to encourage more people to give cycling a chance:

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One major problem on this road has long been been atrocious parking outside shops near Plumstead station. For a long time now cars were usually parked on the cycle lane and blocking buses. Cars are now prevented from blocking the cycle lane but poor parking continues:

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Buses at major stop navigating poor parking
Buses at major stop navigating poor parking

Crap parking was still much in evidence in the busy evening rush hour when I passed. Some cars were double parked as well as some parked facing the kerb instead of alongside, with both types obstructing buses pulling into the adjacent bus stop.

Another problem is that right at the death Greenwich Highways installed very cheap street furniture along this £1.2 million scheme. Extensive guardrail lines the route and its the cheapest possible. There’s little attention to detail in this scheme or attempt to create an attractive street to lift up this area:

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Also, couldn’t this last stretch utilise cheap ‘wands’ or bollards along the white line to provide semi-segregation, as seen here:

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Back to Plumstead and Woolwich and the upgraded street presents a pretty ugly face to the town it passes through.

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There was much higher quality railings in storage from Eltham which was removed as part of the current High Street work:

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Eltham High Street

Why not use those? It would save thousands and look better. The Highways Department again show they don’t appear to be concerned with aesthetics in certain areas.

And getting these little things right is a minuscule cost on a £1.2 million scheme. I do often focus on these very small elements, seemingly almost insignificant on their own, but they’re often a good insight into attention to detail and whether any care has gone in. It can reveal much about the approach and working guidelines departments use.

Though this is a TfL funded scheme, these poor final touches contravene TfL’s own street design guide. It has all the hallmarks of Greenwich Council Departments and their lack of attention, as well as double standards depending on where in the borough it is. As said, it may seem like a small thing, but when multiplied many times over with many other things it results in a cumulative impact, and one that certainly isn’t positive. It sustains the run-down, second-best, ugly appearance and feel of too many places.

This is not design for where people live and spend time – it’s design for major trunk roads. That too often takes absolute priority with this council and so it looks like a road built in the 1970s. Good design practices today would combine both improvements seen alongside creating a visually attractive, beautiful and appealing street that enhances the area and nearby housing estates and residential areas.

It’s a real shame as the entire scheme is admirable in terms of improving the lot of public transport users and cyclists. But as long as Greenwich Council’s Highways Department think only of road traffic, not people, and certainly not about lifting up and improving areas, these little mistakes will be repeated again and again and its normally the poorer places that suffer the most. Not the places most Councillors and senior Council staff live.

Will it work to increase cycling? I think it will,though I’ve not seen a soul using it so far. It’s crucial that the area by Plumstead station and the High Street is upgraded, and fortunately there are plans for that. Plumstead High Street will always be horrible to cycle through given how narrow it is, and the steep hills north from Plumstead station will dissuade some. But it’s still a vastly and offers improvements to many.

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