A Greenway Users Group

The Greenway needs a users group, let’s start one.

Why

The greenway is great, and it’s under threat.

It’s Fantastic…

The Greenway is a walking and cycling path that cuts diagonally right across the London Borough of Newham, here’s a map. It lets you cut right across Newham while barely even seeing a car:

More than that, because TfL are finally building a decent cycle network, people living near the Greeenway should soon be able to just hop on a bike and get to any of the places on this map without fearing for their lives!

…when it’s open

The Greenway gets closed, a lot, for ages, with no reasonable alternative. Two sections are closed right now. One part has now been gone for over a year, and another part since at least 2009. It also closes every night. Having a usable route to get where you want isn’t a lot of good if you can’t go back the other way when you’ve finished.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the Greenway is a permissive path, meaning that it’s private property and that walkers, runners and riders are only allowed to use it at the whim of its owners, Thames water. In the words of Newham Council, responding to a query I made of John Biggs AM:

"Without any change to the Greenway’s current legal status and ownership, I am afraid that Thames Water are able to close it at any time ‘for operational reasons’ and neither Newham Council or the GLA can do anything about it. In fact, Thames Water are not required to suggest or sign any necessary diversions as a result of any closure they implement along the route, and it is only in the interest of public relations that they choose to do so ... It should be noted that Thames Water could also close, for example, Stratford High Street for essential utility works at any time and there is nothing the Council could do other than require adequate advance signage and diversion routes to be put in place ... as a statutory utility, no-one can prevent them from implementing a closure if it is required."

There’s a lot in here. I’d like to make a few points about this:

  1. Why not change the legal status or ownership? When roads or railways need to get built, landowners get forced to sell, and homes and businesses get demolished. Why should pedestrians and cyclists have to beg to use a thing that already exists?
  2. Diversions, signage and a reasonable route need to be put in place if there’s a closure, and I don’t care who does it. However, the ultimate responsibility is with our local political institutions, not a privatised utility. Everyone should expect private companies to selfishly serve their owners, that’s what they’re for. It’s government’s job to shape the world to channel that self interest into something useful.
  3. Thames Water may well be able to close Stratford High Street for a year, but would the council simply moan pathetically that there was nothing it could do? I don’t think so.

These are the issues that a user group would need to tackle if the Greenway is to become a serious, reliable route. Greenway users need to get together to speak with a common voice to pressure Newham and Thames Water to keep the it open and respect its users.

How?

I’m going to plan this one step at a time, so I’ve only got two first steps on my list to get this off the ground:

  • Flyer people on and around the Greenway to build a contact list. I’ve created a calendar to co-ordinate any collective activity, although it’s empty at the moment!
  • Interview people for stories about how important the Greenway is to them, and then publish them on this site.
  • I’ve created a facebook group

I’ve made the most basic possible flyer. Think it’s rubbish? Feel free to make it better! Want to hand some out yourself – please do. Have any better ideas for how to organise? Skill to add? Want to be kept updated? Want to flyer, but not alone? Get in touch. If you want to get involved, leave me a comment in the thread below or email me at greenway@easternism.co.uk, or contact me on twitter.

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