Is Rotherhithe the best place for the Brunel Bike Bridge?

East London needs new river crossings and a bike bridge would be very welcome. But the location needs to be chosen with regard to the pattern of cycle movements and the local landscape.

The Brunel Bike Bridge was planned as a link that would take LCN 425 traffic to Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park, so that it would serve commuters as well as leisure users. As argued in the video, it is not well placed for this role. Though some routes can have both roles, leisure and commuting are separate objectives. Commuter cyclists require safety and directness. Leisure routes should go through good urban landscape. This is appreciated even by people who use a road bike as an outdoor equivalent of an exercise bike.
Sustrans explain the ‘leisure’ history of the Brunel Bike Bridge (BBB): ‘We originally identified this location as in need of a crossing when London was chosen to host the Olympics [in 2008].’ This it is not a good basis for providing London with a green transport network that cyclists and pedestrians will use and enjoy. The Rotherhithe location probably seemed a good idea because it is the site a  ferry between the DoubleTree Hilton and Westferry Circus, costing £4.20 each way in 2016.

The London Cycle Network shows what to avoid. Much of it was planned on underused roads. They were said to be safer and pleasanter. But their main characteristic was indirectness, which explains their quietness: they do not go from busy origins to busy destinations. LCN Route 425 from Burgess Park to Rotherhithe is an example. It was conceived as a leisure route and some of it is pleasant. But as the Strava map, above, shows, it is not well used by cyclists.

When it came to designing the Brunel Bike Bridge the location was moved 200m downstream. There was sense in this. But the new location has the disadvantage of turning two riverside green spaces into ‘land below bridges’. A friend used to call this ‘dead dog space’ because it was the kind of place dogs go to die. Durand’s Wharf Park and the historic entrance to Millwall Dock are valuable riverside open spaces which should have more life, not less life. The use of Hyde Park for widening Park Lane set a bad precedent for London transport planning. Allowing cycling in parks is good. Using parkland for building roads and bridge infrastructure is bad.

So the Brunel Bike Bridge should be moved a further 1500 m downstream, to Pepys Park. The west access ramp would flow into an existing footpath with an east-west alignment. The east access ramp would join the proposed north-south riverside cycle superhighway on the Isle of Dogs. Located here, the Bike Bridge would provide a short and direct connection to the CS4 Cycle Superhighway, which Mayor Sadiq Khan has approved. He has also approved the Brunel Bike Bridge and the two projects obviously need to work together and make their contribution to East Central London having as good cycle infrastructure as West Central London.

The proposed Brunel Bike Bridge should move from Rotherhithe to Deptford. Among other benefits this would relive congestion in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel

Tom Turner

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