A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

A greenway, a waterway and a motorway (almost)

Posted by Alan on March 20, 2011

Olympics and boats

Olympic boats

Having successfully managed to stagger across the finish line at Bogle, the next challenge booked in the diary is the c2c. At at the moment most of my cycling is relatively short utility trips (i.e. shopping and commuting) this is something else to ‘man up’ for.  With a planned completion date of June, it’s time to start training properly!  Yesterday provided a glorious day here in London so I took the opportunity to check out East London’s ‘greenway’, cycling down through the Walthamstow marshes to it’s start at Hackney Wick.  At the moment the Lea/Lee* valley paths are being upgraded for the Olympics so there are a few diversions but once onto the Greenway you start to see what London is capable of infrastructure-wise.

The Greenway

The Greenway - segregated running

The Greenway cuts all the way across the borough of Newham, I believe it’s the main sewer from Hackney to Beckton sewage works. (It certainly smells that way when you pass by a manhole cover!) It’s flat, wide and straight – potentially a very fast piece of cycling infrastructure.  Again due to the Olympics and Crossrail, there are some diversions in place.  There were particularly poor involving much pushing the bike and queuing to allow road traffic in and out of the Olympic park.  It would be nice if there’d been a few signs to as it’s really easy to miss where you should cross Stratford High St.

Anti-cycling gate

Anti-cycling gate

Further down the track there are many road crossings – each with a set of anti-cycling gates at each side.  In most cases they seem to have been vandalised to allow free passage (probably for a few motorcyclist too…) but the odd one remains intact. It does seem a bit odd to create some infrastructure for fast easy cycling and then add barriers to prevent take up.  I know the main target is to prevent people running motorcyclists or quad bikes etc, this really doesn’t seem like the best solution.

The main objective of the trip was to cross the river using the Woolwich free ferry.  A strange anachronism of London down in the bottom right hand corner, the ferry connects the North and South Circular roads.

Bike and Boat

Bike and Boat - from the southside of the water

Apparently there is some legislation meaning there has to be a free crossing here – so the small ferry carries lorries, cars, bikes and pedestrians the short hop between North Woolwich and Woolwich. I wasn’t the only cyclist either! Crossing the river is quick and relatively easy – I was very lucky with where I was put on the boat, opening up a familiar view but from the ‘wrong side’ of the Thames barrier.

A familar sight

A familar sight - but from the 'wrong side'

Once on the south side however, it was pretty obvious the unwritten law (‘south London must be less good than north London’) rang true with respect to cycling facilities.  The ‘Thames Coastal Path’ weaves between the riverside and busy roads with lots of ‘give up an push’ signs.  In the end I gave up trying to follow the path round the Blackwall Reach peninsula due to the lack of sign posts! The roads of between Woolwich and Greenwich did have some advisory cycle lanes but on a Saturday afternoon were as snarled up as a rush hour.  At least, I’m not sure how much worse the traffic could get at rush hour.

Snarling traffic

Snarling traffic

By Greenwich I was pretty knackered – a quick pit stop and a chance to ‘refuel’ before heading under the river again using the foot tunnel.  Currently under renovation, the lifts are closed.  This meant carefully pushing the bike down a spiral staircase and the back up the other side.  Apparently this is part of ‘National Cycle Route 1’ but I didn’t see any signs and you can’t cycle in the tunnel (probably for the best – it’s very busy with people walking). Even back on the north side of the river there didn’t seem to be any NCN1 signs – so I just hit the road and headed towards Poplar. There’s loads of interesting things on the back streets here so it was really cool to explore a bit, even if all of the roads did some how seem to lead to the A12, effectively a motorway. Eventually back to the Lea/Lee path and to the ‘stow.

With 29.3 miles (46km) on the clock it was a new personal best. Still a long way to go though – need to nudge that above 40 miles and cycle every day for a while to ‘toughen up’. Where to venture next I wonder…?

*Lea/Lee – it is spelt differently in places. No idea why.

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One Response to “A greenway, a waterway and a motorway (almost)”

  1. […] In March the proper crazy walking was done. If nothing else it proves I am stubborn enough to make something happens when I need to as well as raising £410 for Lymphoedema Support Network. With that out of the way, the next challenge to prepare for was to Coast to Coast cycle ride (I had signed up for at a beer festival, obviously) with a training run taking in the Woolwich Free Ferry. […]

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