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Knee Hill/Wilton Road Junction

£67,500 wasted on plan that didn’t achieve its principal aim

Pedestrian crossing
All that expense for nothing. Still no cycle track!
Bus on bend
A bus negotiates the sharp bend and tries to avoid mounting the pavement.

I noticed that some road works at the junction of Abbey Road and Knee Hill had been left half completed for a month or more so I dropped off an enquiry via the council’s website as I had always been intrigued by the green cycle track that goes along the middle of the road there. “Why are you wasting yet more money restricting the road width underneath the flyover at the boundary with Greenwich?”

13 days later on 16th March 2008 I received a brief reply from Andrew Bashford, Team Leader (Traffic Projects). “The purpose of the scheme is to improve safety for cyclists and to reduce vehicle speeds in this location. The route along the length of Abbey Road and on towards Greenwich is part of the London Cycle Network Plus network of key cycle routes in London. The completed scheme will enable cyclists to use a designated portion of the widened footway, and so not risk being hit by passing motorists, and then allow them to get across the road and continue along this cycle route. As well as providing for cyclists, the changes will also provide safer and clearer facilities for pedestrians. The road surface will be improved throughout the junction and, although the road will be narrowed slightly, it will not affect use by vehicles other than to encourage slower speeds at this busy point.

This was not hugely unreasonable unless you think that spending money on a very small number of cyclists is unwise for a Conservative council claiming to be looking for savings. London Cycle Network Plus is a group of cyclists who have banded together to form a pressure group. Their mission statement is “to influence decision making”.

I replied immediately, “Thank you for your explanation. The cycling arrangements at that junction have been laughable for several years and I have often held them up as an example of Bexley’s prize buffoonery (the track in the middle of the road) in the road traffic planning department. I shall have to look for another one. I can appreciate the need to slow traffic but surely the problem lies with the long straight section alongside Lesnes Abbey that seems to encourage many to speed? If your speed detectors along that stretch record peak speeds I’m sure you will have seen several over 70mph. Worse are those that travel at similar speeds on the wrong side of the keep left bollards.”

Later the same day Mr. Bashford said, “Thank you for your reply. I should add that, as the length of Abbey Road forms the cycle route, we also have plans to make changes to this road. Whilst these are unlikely to deter those that go the wrong side of the keep left bollards, it should cause some reduction in general speed, but again is mainly aimed at making the route safer for cyclists. This work is planned for later in the year. I appreciate that this will cause further disruption to the area, but should be worthwhile in the end.”

The formal submission to the Cabinet Member for Transport, Peter Craske, dated 13 October 2006 was “The proposals in this area allow for widening of the footway to accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians. The proposals also include for (sic) improvements to the pedestrian crossing facilities an (sic) all arms of the junction area.”

The on-pavement cycle track which was Mr. Bashford’s justification for spending money on the Knee Hill junction has, 18 months later at the time of writing, never been installed, nor is it shown on current plans. Neither has the crossing been improved, except that the road it crosses is narrower. The original proposal is no longer available on the council’s website but none of the anticipated ‘improvements’ saw the light of day, so the whole scheme was a glorious waste of £67,500’s worth tax payers’ money. Again!

The above nonsense proved to be merely a precursor to the enormous sums wasted (and for similar reasons) on the disgracefully mismanaged vandalism of Abbey Road, Belvedere that has been on-going throughout 2009.

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