Cycling And The Silvertown Tunnel: Have Your Say

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Cycling And The Silvertown Tunnel: Have Your Say
A bike bus onto which cyclists board their bikes. It is a blue bus at a shelter
Will there be a bike bus for the Silvertown Tunnel? Quite possibly. Image: TfL

Will you be able to cycle through the Silvertown Tunnel? No. But TfL are looking at other options for bikes.

How should cyclists get from one side of the Silvertown Tunnel to the other? That's the subject of a new consultation from Transport for London.

The tunnel, as you'll recall, dives under the Thames between North Greenwich and the western end of the Royal Docks — roughly following the route of the cable car.

Route map of the Silvertown Tunnel from North Greenwich to the Royal Docks
Image: TfL

The tunnel is well under construction and expected to open in 2025. But — and this is a source of fierce criticism — it's primarily a new route for cars, trucks, buses and other polluting transport. No bikes or pedestrians allowed. Campaigners have fought long and hard to stop the tunnel, arguing that it'll increase traffic (and therefore pollution), particularly in the Greenwich area. Mayor Sadiq Khan has pushed forward regardless.

While bikes will be banned from the tunnel, just as with the Blackwall Tunnels, the Mayor has committed to providing some new means of getting them across. The only local option currently is to take a bike onto the cable car (which is actually free for cyclists to use before 9.30am).

TfL's preferred option — and the most obvious — is to run a shuttle bus through the tunnel for the use of cyclists. The proposal is to start with six timetabled buses per hour, and tweak this according to demand. "Feedback from the consultation will inform the final frequency, stop locations and route for the service to operate".

Two types of vehicle are offered up for your comment: one where you take your bike onboard (see mock-up at top of page); or one where you stow it in a towed trailer (below). Got a preference, or see a downside to either? Then let TfL know. Got a comment about carrying unusual types of bike? Again, there's a space for that.

A bike bus with a trailer behind for stowing bikes.
It's important to note that this is a purely indicative image. The design/size of the bus and trailer have not been decided, and the consultation will help to inform this decision. Image: TfL.

A second option would be to run a new ferry service. This requires more infrastructure investment and is "currently unaffordable", but is also included as a discussion point in the consultation, as a potential future option.

(A third option is to ban motor vehicles entirely and convert the tunnel for use by trams, pedestrians and cyclists. But that option — proposed by the Green Party's Sian Berry — is not on TfL's agenda.)

The question of cross-river cycling is becoming increasingly urgent. Both North Greenwich and the Royal Docks are seeing rapid development, with many new residential blocks under construction or at planning stage. The local population grows apace. Meanwhile, crossing the Thames with a bike remains problematic. The nearest place you can pedal across is the Rotherhithe Tunnel, a couple of miles upriver, and that is a grim proposition. The Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels allow bikes, but only if the rider alights (plus, the lifts are often bust). Some services, such as the DLR, allow non-folding bikes.

The eight-week consultation is now open and will run until 10 September. A final decision will be made by the end of 2023.

Last Updated 18 July 2023

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