Joanna Lumley says that she is the person responsible for the decision to exclude cyclists from the proposed Garden Bridge across the Thames. She argues that their presence would prevent it from being ‘a peaceful place to walk’. The bridge, which will receive £60m of public money, will also be closed between midnight and 6am with groups of more than eight people having to apply for permission to visit.
The £175m Garden Bridge, which received planning permission from Lambeth council last week, would span the Thames between Temple and the South Bank – a site where there are already four bridges within just over a mile of each other.
Speaking at Lambeth's planning applications committee meeting, Lumley described a bucolic escape in the middle of the capital: “This will be a place where you can maybe slow down; hear birds singing; hear leaves rustling; get a little bit of calm; take the heat out of the situation.”
However, this oasis of calm will not be open to cyclists and Lumley says that she is the one responsible for that decision.
“Being a Lambeth resident and using the Tube, I walk a lot. I don’t walk in cycle lanes and that’s the reason why I – and I’m the only one you can blame for not having cycles on this bridge – I said that I believe that cyclists speeding over the bridge would stop it being a peaceful place to walk and a safe place maybe to take a wheelchair.”
Lambeth council’s recent planning report to its planning committee expands on this, explaining why cyclists would be able to push bikes over, but not ride.
“If cyclists were allowed to ride, to provide a safe pedestrian environment it would be necessary to incorporate segregated cycle lanes or wider shared paths. This would result in a much reduced planted area and erode the benefits of the bridge as a green space.”
While the plan is for the 6,000 square metre bridge to feature 270 trees, campaigners point out that more than 30 trees would be cut down and green space on the South Bank lost to house the bridge landing at Bernie Spain Gardens.
On top of this, it seems large groups of people will also be unwelcome – or at best tolerated. The report reads: “All groups of eight or more visitors would be required to contact the Garden Bridge Trust to request a formal visit to the bridge.”
It is claimed that the policy would ‘assist visitor management’ and ‘discourage protest groups’.
The Garden Bridge Trust said that it had no intention to introduce ticketing for the bridge. However, in a statement it did suggest that the bridge could sometimes be closed for private functions.
"The Trust is exploring the possibility of holding a limited number of private events on the bridge each year. Every effort would be made to ensure the bridge remains open to the general public during these events, but there may be occasions where the bridge is closed."
The bridge will also be closed between the hours of midnight and 6am. The Independent reports how Green Party member of the London Assembly, Darren Johnson, feels this is unacceptable for a development which is set to receive £60m of public funding – half each from TfL and central government.
“I was really shocked to discover that this bridge is receiving £60m from the joint transport budgets of the Mayor and the national government, but the public have no guaranteed right of way.
"Central London is a 24-hour city, but under the current proposals there is effectively no bridge for at least a quarter of the day. Given the scale of public funding for this bridge I would have expected the Mayor to have pinned down guarantees that Londoners will be able to use this bridge to cross the river 24/7 in ten or twenty years’ time.”