Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge consultation: Help bridge the gap

By Matt Winfield,
River Thames as seen from Rotherhithe

Image credit: TfL

Cyclists and walkers on bridge with Tower Bridge in the background

A third of London’s growth to 2030 is set to happen beyond Tower Bridge in the east

Transport for London wants to know what you think of the Bike Bridge – the proposed new river crossing between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf. Here’s why we think Londoners should support the bike bridge and how we will respond to the consultation.

If you draw a circle around London following the M25 and follow the Thames eastward, you’ll find 34 different bridges that cross the Thames connecting communities, homes and jobs across the river. But venture out beyond Tower Bridge and there’s only one bridge.

This isn’t just a physical gap, but a gap between the cheap, clean and easy journeys Londoners want and the journeys they have. A gap between the homes London is building and the jobs it’s creating. A gap between the lethal and illegal air we have and the clean air we want. A gap we think the Mayor should bridge.

From our feasibility study, we know a bridge would unlock thousands of journeys by foot and bike every day, adding up to millions of active commutes each year. Already there are 7.2 million daily journeys made by foot or by cycle in London. Over the past year alone, cycling levels have grown from 670,000 to 730,000 journeys everyday.

This bridge would be the gateway to quick, easy and healthy journeys for thousands more Londoners, helping to clean London’s air, improve our health and make journeys across the river faster, safer and easier for generations to come.

East London needs a walking and cycling bridge 

A Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge will connect the places where people work to the places they live. Already the bridges that connect homes to jobs are London's busiest with 8,400 people cycling across Blackfriars Bridge at peak times.  

Bridging the gap between homes and jobs in East London would be no different to the bridges in the centre of London, except it would be free of traffic, free of exhaust fumes and accessible to all. To make that journey today is a choice between a fume-filled traffic tunnel, a pricey ferry or a narrow and busy foot tunnel.

Bridging the gap will help manage the capital's growth 

A third of London’s growth to 2030 is set to happen beyond Tower Bridge in the east. This includes the number of jobs on the Isle of Dogs being doubled (it’s worth taking a moment to contemplate that - the equivalent of cloning all the buildings around Canary Wharf and filling them with the same number of people every day). On the other side of the river is a cluster of Southwark’s major growth areas. Closest is Canada Water, which is set to deliver over 6,000 new homes. All this serves to increase pressures on the already crowded Jubilee Line. At peak times four people squeeze into every square metre of train carriage.

Connecting these two places with a beautiful bridge will ensure East London can handle this growth.

Private funding for public benefit 

The growth in east London is also how the bridge can be funded. New transport connectivity can increase the value of land, and a land value uplift levy can help to pay for the bridge just as it does with Crossrail today. We want to see private investment to help build the bridge.

What’s more, quicker, easier and healthier commutes benefit London’s economy. By slashing journey times across the river, our study estimated the value of saved time to London’s economy at £10 million per year, and that’s without counting the major health benefits of the extra exercise from cycling or walking a few extra minutes every day can bring.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008, this project was kicked into the long grass. We now have the opportunity to connect east London with the clean and green transport we need for generations to come.

Our position: four key points 

We have outlined our key points below and invite anyone wishing to respond to the consultation to make use of our position.

What we think on the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Crossing consultation: 

1. We support a navigable bridge
2. We support the central or northern alignments
3. We believe a lower crossing is preferable for walking and cycling
4. We believe the bridge’s success depends on high-quality cycling routes

1. Navigable bridge 

We support a navigable bridge – the best option to unlock walking and cycling across the river, easiest to access, free to use 24 hours a day, free of exhaust fumes and in the open air.

2. Central or northern alignments 

We support a ‘central or northern alignment’ – we know a bridge can’t be on a bend in the river because of turning ships, which limits the options. There are three locations presented in the consultation. Westferry Circus is on higher ground than other landing options, which would mean shorter, easier access ramps on one side –potentially a quicker more convenient option.

3. Lower crossing preferable 

Landing on the Impound Lock was the only preferred option in our study as it was the only option which met the Port of London Authority’s needs for river traffic, has the necessary space, and is as close as possible to the optimum crossing points. Further south at West India Dock (Cuba Street) would require lifts, adding time to journeys, crowding at peak times and ultimately reduces the number of people that would use the crossing.

We believe a lower crossing that doesn’t open too often is achievable – the lower the bridge, the easier to access, cycle and walk across. We believe river navigation can become more efficient, reducing the amount of times the bridge would need to open to let ships pass. Support for a lower bridge will give TfL a clear mandate to negotiate on this with the Port of London Authority.

4. Sucess dependent on high-quality cycling routes 

The bridge’s success depends upon high-quality cycling routes linking it to Cycle Superhighway 4 in the south, Cycle Superhighway 3 in the north, and the wider network.

Consultation now closed: Read the Transport for London overview

Read our response to the consultation