The Greenway, as you're probably aware, is a footpath/cycleway on top of a sewer threading from Hackney Wick to Beckton. It's an extremely useful link. I've walked it hundreds of times (in daylight) without serious incident. But the mugging of cyclists at knifepoint is a disturbing turn of events.
The Greenway Action Group, whose poster this is, appears to be a single blogger. One of the posts on their website is a 'crime log' listing violent incidents on the Greenway, or reports thereof, dating from November 2017 to as recently as 16th January 2020. Only one of the 18 incidents catalogued involved a knife, and this was wielded at the blogger who's managing the list. Other weapons used include baseball bats, a telescopic baton and a crutch... or more usually no weapon at all. Threatening behaviour by a large group is commonly mentioned. The usual motive appears to be robbery. Several incidents took place after dark, others in broad daylight.
I tried to use the police's online crime map to gauge the seriousness of the problem, but that proved impossible. Crimes are pinned to the map by postcode and sewers don't have postcodes, so apparently no crimes have taken place there. Even if you do dig down and click on individual incidents nearby there isn't enough information to draw any conclusions. Stratford police's Twitter feed confirms a bladed mugger was arrested on the Greenway on 22nd November 2019, but that's all I can get from there.
A couple of years back the Greenway was upgraded with lighting and CCTV so that it could be used, especially by cyclists, 24 hours a day. Before that most cyclists definitely wouldn't have risked it. Now several do. But a local PCSO raised eyebrows in November by advising "Please be careful when you are using the Greenway during the hours of darkness. We advise you to try and use alternative routes where possible." Another police sergeant has subsequently disagreed. Meanwhile TfL have said they're not aware of any increases in crime along the Q22 route since it opened. Who to believe?
Then there's the bike shop in Plaistow who say they know of 22 people who have had their bikes taken from them on the Greenway, often by groups using broken glass to puncture tyres. This would seem to be the most convincing data yet. But what I still don't know is how great a risk this actually is, whether staying off the Greenway after dark significantly reduces any danger, and how much of this applies to me as a pedestrian. Staying alert at all times is plainly always the best option. But is it wise to change behaviour because of fear of crime, rather than based on genuine understanding of facts?
If you know what you're talking about because you use the Greenway yourself, please start your comment with three stars (***)