Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Crossings of the River Thames 7 - Twickenham Bridge

Just a short distance downstream from Richmond Bridge, we come to one of the river's newer crossings. And one of the fastest. You can legally zip your motor over this bridge at a funky 40mph, one of two bridges in London that actually allow this. The fast and the furious has arrived in South West London with a vengeance! But the cyclists should not worry as we are safe and sound with cycle lanes provided on the pavement, away from the tyranny of petrol head.

Take a look at the future, and smile with joy, for in the 1930's, this was the way forward in London. Long, gently curving arterial roads, joining up the towns and villages across the countries with gentle gradients and dual carriageways. Your Morris' and Austin's would whizz from work to home and everywhere else in between as the beginnings of semi-detached delights and suburban sprawl began.

The greenbelt brought that all to a halt and subsequent road building in London has been patchy at best. As mentioned earlier, London was heading down the same road that Los Angeles is at today. Ugly and car based. As much as I despise what the greenbelt symbolises, it has actually forced the developers and planers of the city to build up rather than out. However, we still live with the hopes and dreams of yesteryear and that means we occasionally get very fast roads such as the A316 (which eventually takes you all the way to Southampton).

Twickenham Bridge was opened on the same day as Hampton Court and Chiswick Bridge (more to come on that crossing) in 1933. This time, the Great Chertsey Road was the mission of the planners and the desire to have a quick and fairly straight route out of London from the west. Twickenham Bridge handily bypasses Richmond town centre and crosses the river over some nice parkland (Deer Park) on the southern side and some suburban housing (St Margarets) on the north bank.

Wow, someone actually wants to go to Chertsey?

Apart from the types of cars, this bridge has not changed much in over 70 years.

Twickenham Bridge is a driver's dream. Fast, with two lanes in either direction, cyclists off the road, no weight/width restrictions and most importantly, no traffic lights on either side. Also, for the eagle eyed, this is one of only two bridges in London where there is no scheduled public transport crossing the river. That's right, no bus actually uses this bridge in service and so actually getting to the bridge can be a little bit tricky for those without their own wheels.

And this is why I am quite glad that the likes of Twickenham Bridge was stopped by the Greenbelt. For those outside London, you have to realise that the car is quite sinmply a pain in the backside. You have got to pay for petrol, which is mostly burnt while sitting stationary in traffic. You have got to pay for parking, even outside your own front door. And usually, some annoying cyclist will overtake you and beat you back home, especially in the rush hour.

And I like a city where it is unnatural to drive. Sure, the AA and the RAC will bite my head off and proclaim that it is their right to drive where they please. But hey, for all of its crabby ways, it is a little bit more relaxing letting someone else do the driving for once. And also, there are times I enjoy pedalling faster than a Porsche. Also, there is something much more human about a city where people have to get walking. Richmond Town Centre may not be the prettiest place on Earth, but you won't get spooked out in the same way as walking over Twickenham Bridge, all alone with cars zipping to and fro. In 'space', no one can hear you...

Anyone who has visited any of the car sprawling US or Chinese cities knows how unpleasant their environments are. You either sacrifice the comfort of the car, or the environment of the city. As most of the drivers on the A316 probably do not live anywhere near London, you can see whose side I am on.

Richmond town centre is well served by crossings. There are four bridges over the river that are in or are a very short walking distance from it. We have already been to Richmond. A little further upstream from Twickenham Bridge lies Richmond Railway Bridge, which unfortunately cannot be crossed by foot unless you are a railway worker.

And just downstream of Twickenham Bridge lies Richmond Lock, the third crossing bearing the name 'Richmond', but that is next month's treat...

How to get there. Tricky. The 65 is the closest bus to the Southbank while the H37 is the closest bus to the Northbank. Both are still a fair walk from the bridge itself. It is probably easier to walk alongside the river from Richmond Town Centre. Nearest Tube/Rail - Richmond.

1 comment:

el director! said...

As my photos seemed to have disintegrated into 'the matrix', you can view Twickenham Bridge here.