Plans to break ban on cyclists using Greenwich foot tunnel sparks cross-river row

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A cross-thames battle is brewing over moves to allow cyclists to ride through the historic Greenwich foot tunnel, amid claims it puts pedestrians at risk.

The 115-year-old tunnel connects the Isle of Dogs with Greenwich and it is used by commuters and tourists visiting attractions such as the Cutty Sark.

However, cyclists and skateboarders are currently banned from riding through the narrow passageway.

It is owned jointly by Newham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich councils, with the latter having management responsibility. 

Now Greenwich wants to vary the by-laws that prohibit cycling — but it is facing a backlash from north of the river. 

Opponents of the move claim cyclists are speeding and pose a danger to families and tourists.

Tower Hamlets Tory councillor Peter Golds told how this week he approached an UberEats delivery worker who was riding through the tunnel until challenged, when he dismounted.

Mr Golds said: “Greenwich announced they want to change the by-laws — it means people can do what they like. There’s a big safety issue in the tunnel because it’s terribly narrow and you get cyclists whizzing through. Surely they can get off and walk rather than wobble through lots of people? Greenwich cannot change the by-laws without approval from Newham and Tower Hamlets. This will cause the mother of all complaints.” 

He said he was backed by responsible cyclists on both sides of the river. At a public meeting this month about 40 people voiced dismay at the plan.

Andrew Woods, another member of the Tory opposition group on Tower Hamlets council, said a survey he conducted this month found 190 cyclists riding through. 

A further 152 walked with their bikes over the 50-minute period, while eight ran as they wheeled their cycles.

A decision on the by-law change is expected before the end of the year. 

Greenwich foot tunnel was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and opened in 1902. Another foot tunnel crosses the Thames from Woolwich to North Woolwich in Newham borough. 

Together they are used by 1.5 million people a year. 

Greenwich council said: “The fines are so small they do not act as a deterrent and make by-law enforcement impractical except in the most serious of circumstances.

“The changes will bring the by-laws into the 21st century and support effective management of the tunnels.”

Tower Hamlets council, which is Labour-controlled, said: “As we are jointly responsible we will need to consider the proposals and follow our governance process as to whether we agree or not.” 

Newham did not comment.

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