Zoe Spiliopoulou is a Lead Urban Designer at Sustrans, London. She is the co-leader of the London Design Team and manages our urban realm schemes across London. She was part of the team managing and designing the Millwall path scheme. In this post she explains how her own experiences as a cyclist shaped her design process.
In 2012 Sustrans was replacing the disused railway bridge at South Bermondsey station to provide better pedestrian and cyclist access to the station from across the Rotherhithe New Road area.
Once the bridge was in place we recognised the potential for a further link from the station to Surrey Canal Road and onward towards the Thames. A derelict rail line was being used to dump rubbish, and was located in a challenging environment between Millwall Stadium and the Waste Transfer Centre, whose architecture dominates the views. After a walk through this strip of land, however, we began to form the vision for a 750-meter linear park and that would offer a pleasant, quieter way for people to walk and cycle through the area.
Now complete, the path forms part of a 1.7km link of off-road cycling infrastructure in the centre of London, connecting two quiet neighbourhoods in Southwark and Lewisham either side of it. There have been two strategic aims for the scheme:
- Encourage cycling for all.
- Cater for the increasing number of cyclists and the massive regeneration housing project taking place next to the site.
I designed this new Quietway with my own experiences in mind and the feeling I get when I choose to ride my blue Bobbin bike every day, through the back streets of Hackney to our offices in Farringdon. I wanted a route that is fast and direct, yet quiet and relaxed enough to take without any special gear or preparation. I wanted a route that was clear and well signed, accessible to all, and provided Londoners with more than just a transport link.
“ My involvement in Quietways started early in 2013. Riding through and designing for the back streets of London has been a great experience so far and nowhere more so than in the creation of the Millwall path. ”
In South Bermondsey Station a new entrance incorporating a resting area transformed the existing confined space into a place. Opening up the area outside the station allows for better visibility for people on bikes or on foot. The resting area placed between the two trees allows for either individual seating or collective gathering while the pattern on the pavement enables the identification of these different uses. The landscape along the path respects the existing vegetation and enhances it where necessary with new trees, meadow and grass. At the other end the path smoothly connects to the East London Line path.
A new connection with the neighbourhood is created on Bolina Road. The entrance is currently surrounded by the football club and industrial estate so the design allows for an open space that can accommodate the flows of people. This entrance has allowed children and parents from the local school to use the path to walk or cycle home.
I have been on the path several times now, and have witnessed the transformation of the site, from design to construction. Riding the Quietway with people who see it for the first time is a good indicator of how the design elements affect people’s perception of the space and their experience of travelling through it.
On a sunny day I rode with a Breeze Women’s Ride from Waterloo to Greenwich and back. We followed the recently opened Cycle Superhighway from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge where we crossed the river and followed the National Cycle Network to Greenwich. It was a lovely ride along the river and through the green spaces of Southwark and Lewisham to Greenwich.
On the way back we followed Q1. The back streets and Millwall path helped us keep the relaxed feeling we’d had during the first half of the ride, and it was brilliant to see how easy it was to ride this quiet route. The ladies called it “a real eye-opener”, and said and they would “definitely bring some friends who are otherwise not confident in cycling in the streets of London” along this route. It is great to see our vision made into a reality with Millwall and Q1.