Residents of the Isle of Dogs in London have expressed anger that a local council plans to allow cyclists to ride through the north-south Greenwich foot tunnel.
Despite being a part of National Cycle Route 1, linking Inverness and Dover, cyclists are currently only allowed to walk their bikes through.
Greenwich Council, which is responsible for maintaining the tunnel, says that cyclists should be allowed to ride through at certain times, but Tower Hamlets Council, to whose territory the tunnel links, must agree to this, as it jointly owns the route.
Already, many cyclists choose to ignore the rules and ride through, despite many signs along the route, and locals say this easing of the law will only embolden them.
Some 1.5 million people use the tunnel every year, and at its peak accommodates 250 cyclists an hour.
Without using the tunnel, cyclists face an eight to ten-mile diversion to reach Canary Wharf from south London, although they could also use the Docklands Light Railway, where folded bikes are allowed at all times and non-folded bikes are permitted other than between 0730-0930 and 1600-1900 from Monday-Friday.
“Allowing cycling at certain times would send out a wrong signal to cyclists,” Tower Hamlets campaigning councillor Andrew Wood told the East London Advertiser.
“People tell us they won’t use the tunnel because of dangerous cycling, especially mums with prams.”
A public meeting on the Isle of Dogs agreed to send a deputation to Greenwich Council, complaining that no public consultation or Health and Safety analysis had yet been done.
Cllr Woods, representing Canary Wharf ward, ran a survey on August 1 which found 191 cyclists unlawfully riding through the tunnel in just 50 minutes, while 152 walked and eight ran with their bikes. There were 274 pedestrians in that time, including 31 children, as well as five mums with prams and one wheelchair disabled.
“Cyclists are their own worst enemy,” Cllr Woods added. “A small number of red-light dodgers abuse the system in the streets and we fear they’ll continue cycling in the tunnel.”
Cllr Peter Golds told last month’s Tower Hamlets Council meeting that the tunnel built in 1902 was never designed for cycling.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.