Buses and taxis will once again be able to use Rye Lane from next Monday, as part of an eighteen-month trial, writes Frankie Lister-Fell…
Rye Lane was temporarily pedestrianised in July 2020 to encourage social distancing and minimise traffic accidents during the pandemic.
However, as the News reported this summer, Southwark Council admitted that some businesses have lost customers who would normally travel by bus.
Looking to compromise, the council and TfL will reintroduce buses and taxis under an experimental traffic order on Monday, October 4, which allows authorities to impose changes without consulting the public first.
Cyclists and timed deliveries – from 7am to 10am every day – can still use Rye Lane. There will be two rounds of public consultation in both six and eighteen months’ time.
However, when trucks began resurfacing the carriageway on Wednesday week, September 15, some residents were shocked that they hadn’t been consulted.
Will Sandy, who lives near Rye Lane, believes a better compromise could have been reached.
“With a little more local engagement and conversation with Southwark Council it could have become a landmark street, future-proofing it against the climate emergency,” he said.
“Recent flooding will only get worse if we don’t introduce soft landscaping and planting.”
Lois, from Peckham’s Warwick Gardens, would “love Rye Lane to stay as a more pedestrianised area”.
“It definitely feels like more of a community now, rather than a thoroughfare,” she said.
However, resident Brian Williams has found the current walk from the nearest bus stop to Peckham Rye station challenging. Brian is blind and uses a guide dog.
“I can’t wait for the road to be open to public transport again. Guide dogs are trained very specifically to walk on the pavement when there is one available.
“So having the road closed is no benefit to me at all,” he said.
When Nunhead mum Sarah Maloney was heavily pregnant this year, she stopped visiting Rye Lane’s shops because she struggled to walk.
She said she avoids using the station at night as she feels unsafe walking to get a bus.
Cat Owen, who lives in Sydenham, has also “never felt safe” going down Rye Lane alone at night.
She thinks the reintroduction of public transport is essential: “I always get catcalled. The walk to the next bus stop is about six minutes and that makes a difference when you’re being harassed.”
As for businesses, whether the temporary pedestrianisation impacted their trade varies by industry.
Grace Aka, who works at clothing store Baby in Rye Lane Market, said her shop has seen far fewer customers.
“You can see how dry this place is. You can see how quiet I am,” she said.
Beck from Peckham Organics explained: “This particular shop right now is not affected by no buses, but we’ll see.
“I think the council made the right decision.
“But we need to make sure everyone’s voice is heard during the consultation.
“We need to keep talking to each other to work out what we want as a community.”
Southwark Council was contacted for comment but did not respond before publication.