Viewpoint: Charlton Road is an accident waiting to happen after council ‘improvements’

This bollard off Victoria Way is repeatedly knocked over by careless drivers

COMMENT: At the start of 2020, without any announcement, Greenwich Council made some changes to turnings off Charlton Road. Local resident CHRIS MERRIMAN argues that the “improvements” have failed to stop antisocial behaviour from drivers – and are putting lives in danger.

In the weeks leading up to the first national lockdown in the UK, new paving appeared at junctions along Charlton Road.

This continuous or “Copenhagen” paving is supposed to provide enhanced safety for pedestrians by giving them clearly defined priority over motor vehicles. This, combined with redeveloped zebra crossings and raised paving at pavement edges, were completed when most people in Charlton were stuck indoors.

Victoria Way
The “Copenhagen” paving is supposed to make streets safer

Unfortunately, Greenwich Council has made a hash of the process, turning the stretch between the Royal Standard and Little Heath into a near deathtrap.

Part of the problem is that the council failed to explain to anyone what had been done and why, and it seems that drivers aren’t clear either. I asked the council whether there would be any explanation to drivers as to how the new road layouts worked and was told that there was no need – it’s all in the Highway Code.

Victoria Way
A Nisa driver forces a cyclist into danger at the top of Victoria Way

Well, allow me to retort. Firstly, “It’s all in the Highway Code” is essentially saying “We take no responsibility for road users”. A significant number of London’s drivers didn’t take their driving test in this country and are, perfectly legally and legitimately, blissfully unaware of the Highway Code.

Secondly, when the paving was installed, there was seemingly no effort made to update the road markings – despite the fact that the Give Way line has been pushed back by about ten metres. As a result, in places, the markings actually contradict the law, leading to people parking right up against the new junctions.

Mascalls Lane
Some drivers think it is fine to park up against the junctions

To be fair to drivers, the revised layout is ridiculously unsafe as it requires them to stop so far back from the turning that they can’t actually see if it’s safe. As a result, the vast majority of cars still go straight over the Give Way lane, not only ignoring the pedestrian priority, but in many cases the pedestrians themselves – I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve nearly been knocked down by drivers assuming they have right of way.

The worst example of this was last month, where I watched a Greenwich Council bin lorry attempt to shunt a group of schoolchildren out of the way on one junction.

Victoria Way
Openreach parking right up against the junction of Victoria Way

My repeated warnings that a child on the school run is going to get mowed down have gone unheeded so far. I fear that just as happened in Little Heath some years ago, it will take a death to make anyone act.

When the paving was initially installed, drivers began to use it as a way to cut the corner altogether. Even after the council added some bollards, these corners are increasingly dangerous. Indeed, some bollards have already had an argument with a vehicle.

In other areas, such as the entrance to Cherry Orchard Estate, couriers have decided to use them as car parking spaces. One Sunday, I watched a BMW sit, half on the pavement, half in a cycle lane, parked straight across the road junction.

Cherry Orchard junction
Other drivers think it’s fine to park on the junctions – here, blocking the entrance to Cherry Orchard Estate

Greenwich Council has stated that all the work has been checked for safety compliance, but it’s quite clear that this was neither done in the context of surrounding street markings, nor taking into account that there has been no effort whatsoever on the part of the council to explain what has been done, why, and how to navigate it.

As well as the continuous paving, several zebra crossings were changed. Outside Charlton House, this crossing has been shunted right up against the corner, meaning drivers turning left from Hornfair Road are greeted by a blind bend with a zebra crossing on it. The crossing is deemed important enough to justify a wonderful, caring lollipop lady – but she is only in attendance for around 90 minutes per day in total.

But perhaps the biggest concern comes from the shops and crossing at the top of Victoria Way. A quick search confirms that the “D” shaped turn-in is considered part of Charlton Road and is serviceable by the council. We are lucky not to have had some sort of major accident.

Drivers park on the shopping parade when there’s clearly no room

Drivers park when there’s clearly no room – blocking surrounding pavements and sometimes blocking in other drivers.. There are no road markings in this area, let alone continuous pavements. Ideally, this layout needs reworking but that would be impossible, owing to the four mature trees between the turn-in and the main pavement.

Until the pandemic, drivers were acting reasonably and considerately. These days, half the parking spaces are taken up with vehicles belonging to shop staff, while customers crowbar themselves into the remaining space like it’s a divine right.

Charlton Road shops
Horizontal parking has blocked the exit for the driver on the left

The biggest menace in this area, however, are lorry drivers restocking the shops. There isn’t an easy solution to this. Nisa delivers through its partner DHL in large juggernauts and there is simply nowhere to park them.

Almost daily, lorries can be found parked either on double yellow lines, completely obscuring the view for those turning out of Victoria Way, parking on the zig zags of the zebra crossings – an automatic three points to the driver if they’re caught.

Which brings us to the other major failing of the new road layouts in Charlton – the council simply doesn’t have anyone enforcing them.

Charlton Road parking
Blocking cycle lane? ✓ Parked on zig-zags? ✓
Parked on the pavement? ✓ Any enforcement? ✘

Two hours before sitting down to write this piece, I watched a white van parked, half on the pavement, half in the cycle lane, completely in the zig-zag area. The engine was off. The drivers were sitting in the cab eating fried chicken. As I watched in disbelief, a UPS van did exactly the same, directly opposite, in order to make a delivery.

These were people content in the knowledge that no one ever checks – and to my mind, that means that Greenwich Council is failing at its duty, and is negligent of public safety. Things have to change before the next piece I write for The Charlton Champion is about someone’s death.

Unrepentant drivers reading might argue: “Well, what am I supposed to do?”

Victoria Way junction with Charlton Road
This delivery driver has forced one motorist into danger on the continuous pavement on Victoria Way

Not my problem, mate – the council may have been thoroughly negligent here but that doesn’t allow anyone to break the law.

For my part, I will continue to document offenders until Greenwich Council and Transport for London sort themselves out – but isn’t it a shame that a pedestrian feels the need to arm themselves with a ‘dashcam’ to walk down the street because a road safety initiative has made things spectacularly less safe.

Victoria Way junction
Can you see the junction with Victoria Way? DHL blocking the road

Greenwich Council and Nisa were both shown the photos in this article. Greenwich said several weeks ago that action would be taken. As far as I can tell nothing has been done. Nisa and DHL have failed to respond, repeatedly.

This is an opinion piece and not the view of this website. Got a response? Add it below…


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