Q1 Quietway 1 review and assessment

If you would like to do an assessment of Quietway 1, please retain your impartiality by doing the assessment before reading the post or watching the video. List of 18 London cycling posts and videos.

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Quietway 1 was the first route in TfL’s quietway programme to be completed, in 2016. It starts well, along a shared path running west from Greenwich DLR station. But Andrew Gilligan, who was London’s Cycling Commissioner when the quietways were planned, said that Quietway 1 would only be of ‘acceptable’ quality, and that the other quietways would be less good. This doesn’t sound hopeful – but let’s have a look at Q1 to see if it does what it was supposed to do. The video follows the route from east to west – and is accelerated during the dull sections. The TfL website explains the objectives for quietway planning as being:

  • to link key destinations
  • to follow routes through parks and along waterways or tree-lined streets.

It’s a compromise between commuting and recreational/environmental objectives.

Q1 Quietway 1 TfL objectives
An exceptionally well-planned and well-designed cycle way can satisfy both leisure and commuting objectives, as I believe a superhighway on the Isle of Dogs could do. But a compromise is more likely to result in it failing to satisfy either 

Two thirds of the Quietway 1 route could be described as ‘tree-lined’ but the scenic and environmental quality is much too low to attract recreational users and I doubt if the whole route it has ever been used for a family day out – as a waterside route would be.
So what about the other quietway objective? Does Q1 link ‘key destinations’? No. TfL say it links Waterloo and Greenwich. What it really links is Greenwich DLR station and the National Theatre. Some people may do this by bike but surely most couples, dressed for a night out, would as the adverts used to say ‘let the train take the strain’.
The only ‘key destination’ between Greenwich and Waterloo is Millwall’s Football ground. The club’s website doesn’t mention cycling as a way of getting to the football ground.
One could regard the greenspaces along Q1 as ‘key destinations’ but there aren’t many of them,  their quality is pretty low and they are not likely to attract cyclists.
I look forward to seeing TfL’s usage data for Q1. Meanwhile, my impressions are:

  •  that few people use it as a commuter route from Greenwich to Waterloo or from Waterloo to Greenwich
  • that some people use it for travel between Deptford and Greenwich
  • that more people use it for travel between Bermondsey and the City – they join the North-South Superhighway at Blackfriars Road

Few changes have been made to the route between Blackfriars Road and Waterloo. It’s little more than a paint job and the route is not much of a desire line anyway. To get better value from Q1 as a travel facility, it needs better links with key destinations and other cycle routes. A quietway could and should provide safe routes to schools, libraries, shopping centres and stations.

To become more of a recreational facility, Q1 should be made into an urban greenway. It needs a landscape assessment and a landscape design for aesthetic improvements, habitat-creation and social facilities along the route to attract family visits. At present, only about 26% of Q1 is segregated from cars and potentially safe enough for Primary school children.

Q1 should be extended to Greenwich Town Centre and Greenwich Park. They are major destinations for local, national and international tourists. Even visitors from outer space would surely want to see the Prime Meridian of Planet Earth in Greenwich Park.

Quietway 1 is definitely an improvement on its predecessor, which was a completely useless London Cycle Network route, but it can only be regarded as a work in progress. Unlike the Central London Superhighways, it’s a bargain basement project. Only about 14% of the route is purpose-built segregated cycle track.

Here is my assessment of Q1

  1. Is it the shortest cycle route Greenwich to Central London? No. You will have a shorter trip and fewer junctions without traffic lights if you use the A200 to get to Bank or the A2 to Parliament Square.
  2. Is the scenic and environmental quality good? No. The quality of the urban landscape his better than on the main roads but it is not good enough for recreational use.
  3. Is it safe for children and adults to use? No. Parts of Q1 are safe enough for children but this is not true of the whole route from Greenwich into London.
  4. Is the surfacing material consistent, well-maintained and good for cycling? Yes.
  5. Is the route sufficiently well marked to be used without a map? Yes.

So  is the Quietway Programme a waste of money? No. But Quietways should be thought of as tributaries, rather than as main routes for flows of bicycle traffic. They should link residential areas to schools, shops, stations and other local facilities.

Q1 Quietway 1 review
Quietway 1 is an unfortunate compromise between a leisure route and a commuter route. It fails to satisfy either of these objectives but is of some use to people making short local journeys

Tom Turner