London’s 12 most terrifying junctions for cycling

The capital’s cycling provision keeps cycling campaigners in business; a list of junctions that weren’t designed for cycling would include 99% of the junctions in London. But what are the worst of the worst? The real places that cyclists dread to go?  Here are twelve infamous candidates.

Images courtesy of Google Street View.

Southampton Row/Theobalds Road, Holborn

holborn

This junction is utterly vast, and it has absolutely no serious cycling provision. Three people have died here since 2008. After years of doing nothing, Camden council are looking at letting cyclists use the bus lane – police have in the past fined people for doing so.

Aldgate East, Whitechapel/Commercial Street

aldgate

One of the most deadly junctions in London to feature the infamous unbordered blue paint. Two people on bikes died here in 2013. A horrible, hostile place to cycle, with a big, blue invitation to cyclists to put their lives at risk.

Parliament Square

parliament

Five lanes of endless taxis and coaches coming from each and every direction. Parliament Square is particularly ridiculous because at some points in the morning rush-hour bikes outnumber cars, and still get a derisory amount of space. Fingers crossed: if Boris gets his East-West route along the Embankment, one side of it could become a massive, segregated cycle track. For now, if you’d like to plan an alternative route, we thoroughly recommend BikeHub.

Shoreditch Highstreet/Commercial Street

shore

Particularly disappointing as it’s right next to one of the busiest stations on the relatively bike-friendly London Overground. Trendy Shoreditch is supposed to have an infatuation with bikes, but big, messy junctions like this probably aren’t the reason. You’d have to really love your fixed-gear to throw yourself through this on it.

Camden Town station

camden-town

Camden is supposed to be one of the better boroughs for cycling, which is what makes the mess outside Camden Town station so galling. The youthful area is probably one of the biggest missed opportunities for latent cycling demand in the capital; a circuitous one way system, not enough space for pedestrians (who end up on the road), and high volumes of fast moving, multi-lane traffic means using a bike here can be incredibly unpleasant.

Euston Road/Grey’s Inn Road/Pentonville road

euston

Euston Road is essentially a motorway, unleashed on central London. That’s bad enough, until you add in a vast one way system with no contraflows, and huge junctions. Giant amounts of available space and no provision suggest the authorities simply don’t care.  It’s little wonder most people on bikes try to avoid King’s Cross.

See also: What I’ve learnt from hitting the tarmac – Michelle shares her lessons from two collisions caused by drivers.

Blackfriars bridge

blackfriars

The north end of Blackfriars bridge has seen fewer serious injuries and fatalities since a successfully cyclists’ campaign to make simple changes to its layout. Despite this, using the bridge as a cyclist is still subjectively terrifying, with huge amounts of space devoted to multi-lane motor traffic, despite the numerical superiority of bikes at the morning rush-hour.

Elephant and Castle roundabout

elephant

A wind-swept, multi-lane roundabout, with five arms, some one-way, some not, and each with as many as four lanes of traffic in each direction. The bus hub of inner-South London, and irritatingly on the way to everywhere you want to go unless you plan your route around it. Challenging enough in a car, never mind on a bike.

Old Street roundabout

old

The Elephant and Castle of East London: not somewhere you want to end up in the middle of on a bike. Ride around it and you get the feeling you’re really not supposed to be there. Stick to the side streets in this area if you want an easier life.

Bank station

bank

Somehow both confusing and limiting at the same time. A mega junction of ten lanes, some one-way, some not; right turns in particular are an absolute nightmare here, crossing several lanes of traffic moving in different directions. Literally no cycling provision to speak of.

Lambeth Bridge roundabout

lambeth-bridge

Two lanes and fairly clear roads means that motorists plough through Lambeth Bridge roundabout at high speed. The high number of collisions here has led to the London Cycling Campaign calling for this junction to become the first in London to try out the new segregated ‘Dutch style’ roundabouts being tested at the Transport Research Laboratory.

Bow roundabout

bow

Two tragic deaths in late 2011 cast Bow roundabout into the public eye, and TfL made a number of changes to its deadly design. Late last year these proved to be insufficient, and another cyclist was killed here. The number of lorries using the route, its geometry, and the inadequacy of the protection for cyclists are a deadly combination.

If you are ever in an accident and you’d like to talk to someone about any damage to your bike or any injuries, London Cyclist is partnered up with CAMS to offer advice. Click here to find out more. Most cyclists chalk it down to bad luck, but we are strong believers in not having to pay for repairs to your bike, if it isn’t your fault.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

44 Responses to London’s 12 most terrifying junctions for cycling

  1. Andrew 10/01/2014 at 8:33 am #

    When I was commuting from south west London to the city, the one I didn’t enjoy (in addition to E & C) was the junction at oval, going north. If you’re continuing up to E&C you have to shoot off the the lights at oval in order to be in the hilariously-placed central cycle lane that feels like its in the middle of a motorway, all the time trying to avoid traffic coming from your right, that wants to go left towards Kennington. It almost felt like a video game, being so comically dangerous… Pretty sure I’ve seen serous cyclist accidents reported in that area.

    • Chris 10/01/2014 at 10:34 am #

      I go through that junction too on my route to work. I’ve found the safest is just to get in the right hand lane and stay in it, rather than trusting other traffic to work around you if you’re in the middle lane.

      I’m surprised to see E&C on here though, as whilst it absolutely would be a pig to cycle round, I would’ve thought the majority of cyclists just cut round it on CS7?

      • Jozudave 10/01/2014 at 11:11 am #

        That’s exactly what I do. I work next to Borough Market coming from Clapham so the “quickest” route is to go straight through the E&C gyratory, but I’ve timed it out of curiousity and it seems to save me about a maximum of 2-3 mins by going that way instead of the CS7 alternative route past South Bank Uni and Ministry of Sound. I think that’s a few mins I can spare in my day if it means I can avoid the nightmare of the E&C roundabout!

        • Charlie 13/01/2014 at 2:05 pm #

          2-3 mins sounds about right – it feels a lot slower taking the CS7 behind the scenes cut-through. I used to take it, but found it too frustrating, now I just take my chances on the roundabout. The roundabout is absolutely horrible, but it’s used by absolutely loads of cyclists anyway.

    • Jozudave 10/01/2014 at 11:16 am #

      Also wanted to comment on the terrible Oval junction. I have seen the aftermath of a serious accident there and sometimes I’m amazing there’s not a bad collision every day. The way the blue paint forces you across traffic that wants to turn left into you is just insane and I just can’t believe no one’s doing anything about it. They’ve had police at that junction trying to ticket people for being a few inches out of the cycle pit box at the lights for weeks now, maybe their time would be better spent reviewing the junctions themselves and sending some photos to the council!!

      Personally I now leave the lights ‘taking the lane’ on the right down the middle of one of the car lanes. It’s not a massive stretch of road and if I’m too slow for the driver behind tough for them. But to be fair I’ve not had anyone honk at me or anything so far. Maybe even the drivers can see that stretch of road is really dangerous!

  2. Marcus 10/01/2014 at 10:12 am #

    Oh good. I cover two of those on the way to work: Parliament Square and Blackfriars. For me, bike positioning is key on those junctions. Put yourself in the middle of the lane and make very clear indications where you are heading. I even sit in a traffic queue to avoid drivers trying to race ahead when the lights go green. If you wait in traffic, drivers tend to treat you like the rest of traffic. Blasting past them to the front (as you would normally) tends to make drivers want to get past. Push past an Englishman in a queue and he/she will be incensed!

    • Jeremy Fawcett 10/01/2014 at 2:55 pm #

      Makes a lot of sense

      • bob 10/01/2014 at 8:18 pm #

        On my route

        Good ‘ol Elephant & castle – BUT – avoided by ducking down CS7

        Bank Station – Avoided by ducking down the back of the Bank of England.

        The central cycle lane on CS7 near Oval is scary. seen several near misses where cyclist in nearside has been almost side swiped by drivers cutting towards Brixton. Scary junction

        My scariest junction is the bit of tarmac outside Clapham common station on CS7 Eastbound. the Blue paint stops abruptly, three lanes converge into 2 with one filtering right and i have often winced at cyclists ducking down the inside lane with trucks/buses squeezing in. This is one junction where i cycle defensively in the MIDDLE of the lane regardless of who it pi**es off.

        Waterloo IMAX roundabout also can be hairy.

  3. john 10/01/2014 at 10:15 am #

    ……… 3 of them on my route home!

  4. Nige 10/01/2014 at 10:22 am #

    I’m quite surprised not to see Vauxhall junction on here, so terrifying I did it only once and then copied everyone else and whipped across the road at the lights before the station and cycled through the pedestrian tunnel to the bus station on the north side leading onto Vauxhall Bridge. Victoria is a bit of a mess at the moment too but that’s due to the Underground redevelopment.

    • Jon Stone 10/01/2014 at 10:27 am #

      Vauxhall is a good (bad!) one to mention that I overlooked. Terrifying is definitely the right word for it. It’s a mess too.

      Another one near Victoria that I find personally irritating is the right turn from Birdcage Walk past Buckingham Palace. You have to cut across two lanes of traffic, then cut across and merge with another three, fast moving lanes, that are released at exactly the same time as you and are racing to get in front. Insanity.

      • owen 10/01/2014 at 4:29 pm #

        agree about birdcage walk – it’s insane…so many fast multiple lanes of traffic and it comes so fast down birdcage walk – but aslo pretty difficult to avoid…

  5. Bob 10/01/2014 at 10:41 am #

    Nice roundup. Two of these are on my current regular commute. I’d like to put in a special mention for the Archway gyratory system – particularly if you’re going North up Holloway Road and wanting to head on up the A1 Archway Road – that’s a bus-heavy, boy-racerish, confused-motorists, lane-swapping treat. (There is a campaign on to re-design the junction, thankfully.)

    • Ellie 10/01/2014 at 4:01 pm #

      Agree with the Archway one. Another issue here is turning left from Junction road to go around the round-about with the intention of turning right (to get back onto Holloway road) – there is no red light for on coming traffic so literally you are cycling right into on coming cars and buses. Have to be a master of timing with this one.

      (Alternative to this is turning left down Junction Road and then right at St John’s Way that pops you out by Upper Holloway but crossing Holloway Road can indeed be tricky…)

  6. Jason 10/01/2014 at 10:54 am #

    I’ve a lot of experience with parliament square plus a few of the others. Really you can only feel comfortable if you take the lane and cycle at a decent speed – i.e. you can only feel safe as a vehicular cyclist (which I suppose I am). I totally understand how non vehicular cyclists are freaked out at these…they are not fit for a modern london.

    After changing jobs last year I no longer use parliament square but have gained the aldgate junction (plus old st roundabout). Aldgate is an utter clusterf*ck even for me. It’s just beyond a joke. The blue paint is utterly ignored and the few times i initially used it i found myself having to avoid being side swiped as cars/lorries/busies/taxies enter it without looking. If you wanna turn into commericial road (heading east) then you have to act as a car very early in order to get over to the right hand lane…forget that rule where you can only enter an asl from the left – that’ll kill you here. And commerical st in the eveningrush hour…not nice at all.

  7. Susan Thomas 10/01/2014 at 12:36 pm #

    It’s not a bag of laughs trying to join The Brixton Rd. from Kennington Park Rd., as you are battling with traffic turning into Camberwell New Rd.

    • Alehouse Rock 10/01/2014 at 11:21 pm #

      [[[[[ Quite right, SUSAN T., and unless you want to become a "statistic", I'd advise you to do what I do at that junction----get off that racetrack, and cycle serenely through KENNINGTON PARK (on your left), and then walk the bike across to the start of BRIXTON ROAD and then ride on......I used to cycle through, and it's suicidal.
      A.R.

  8. Rachel B 10/01/2014 at 12:41 pm #

    I have to deal with 4 of those on the way to and from work…. East London to Marylebone..

  9. Tom 10/01/2014 at 1:34 pm #

    I claim 4 as well both into work and home again, although to be fair I very rarely actually go round bow, preferring to take my chances on the flyover instead.

  10. Greek Geeza 10/01/2014 at 1:58 pm #

    I use two on the way to work (Euston Road/Grey’s Inn Road/Pentonville road & Southampton Row/Theobalds Road, Holborn) And one on the way to work (Camden Town). None of these scare me as much as the seven lane roundabout of death in shepards bush that I tried once. I think the only reason there have not bee so many fatalities here, is that most cyclysts faced with it immediatly abandon pedal power.

    My next most terrifying is the intersection of Wesbourne Street and Bayswater road near Hyde Park. The lights are timed that if your joining Bayswater road to head west you end up in with two lanes of traffic to your left, and another two to your right, all traveling at speed and trying to change lanes on top of you.

  11. Jeremy Fawcett 10/01/2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Entrance to Hyde Park Corner underpass from Piccadilly. If you’re going straight on there are two lanes of fast moving traffic with some looking to turn left and sweep you with them. I position myself toward the outside of the inside lane to make it very clear that I’m going straight on. This angers some motorist and I also have to hope that someone doesn’t plough into me from behind. More timid positioning seems to be even more dangerous!

    • Alehouse Rock 10/01/2014 at 11:38 pm #

      [[[[[ JEREMY F.----stick your right arm out at that point. That's what I do, and although I'm NOT turning right, my signal says quite clearly: "I'M NOT SWINGING LEFT"
      And If the driver behind me thinks I AM actually going to veer out to the right, then that driver is less likely to cut me up. And if that driver gets ratty, then that impatient driver can get knotted. Ba-boom!! And that's what I do every time I think a motorist is about to turn across me. Out goes the right arm, and so far, so good.

  12. Duncan Palmer 10/01/2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Re: southampton row/theobalds road

    the bus lane issue is not really relevant as it avoids you going through the holborn junction and that is why people don’t like it having been closed to cyclists.

    Negotiating this junction from the north, south and west is the dangerous thing here.

  13. Anas Zulkownain 10/01/2014 at 3:29 pm #

    The worst one for me is hyde park corner roundabout as I join it from picadilly to go towards knightsbridge, cars moving left and right makes me confused all the time

  14. Andrew 10/01/2014 at 3:39 pm #

    I used to do 180 degrees of Hammersmith 1-way system. That was pretty scary.

  15. Henry Dalton 10/01/2014 at 4:00 pm #

    As noted by others above, Vauxhall should be top of this list

  16. Gary 10/01/2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Vauxhall !!!

  17. Roy 10/01/2014 at 5:26 pm #

    It’s interesting to see Lambeth Bridge on the list – I’ve been round it quite a few times and never would have had it down as a problem junction. Now you mention it though, it does make sense.

    +1 for everyone who said Vauxhall. Coming from the West towards central London it’s not too bad, but it’s pretty scary coming back towards Battersea or Brixton. Vauxhall is actually one of three junctions I try and avoid altogether these days. The others are Elephant and Castle and the one-way system in Hammersmith.

    On the northern part of that one-way system in Hammersmith there are 3 exits in fairly quick succession. It also seems that you quite often get standing traffic in one lane there, but free moving traffic in others. All that means that cars dive between lanes without warning, which is a bit of a recipe for disaster. Hammersmith probably has the worse ratio of near-misses-to-times-cycled for me.

    • Jon Stone 10/01/2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Yeah, Lambeth Bridge roundabout feels quite pleasant, but it has a surprising number of collisions. Maybe it does’t quite fit with a “terrifying” list though.

      I definitely should have added Vauxhall, which I forgot. Shepard’s Bush should probably have made the list as well, I wasn’t aware of that one before.

    • Nick 10/01/2014 at 6:15 pm #

      Agreed re Vauxhall and Lambeth. I tend to use Lambeth Bridge on my commute home in preference to Vauxhall, and don’t really find LB roundabout that much of a problem.

      Theoretically, Vauxhall gyratory could claim to have decent cycling provision, given all the off-road lanes and the possibility of cutting straight through from South Lambeth Rd towards the bus station. But somehow it doesn’t quite work.

      • George 11/01/2014 at 6:05 pm #

        I take Lambeth Bridge roundabout on my commute and found this the most surprising inclusion. Generally very reasonable, though occasionally you will get someone coming west from Parliament Square who doesn’t want to stop for you as you turn right across the bridge. But it’s not always easy filtering into the right hand lane along Millbank.

  18. Mark 10/01/2014 at 6:36 pm #

    i think ive cycled them all except bow roundabout. i use e&c roundabout every day and once youve used it a few times and take a strong central lane position its not so bad. i was scared the first time i went round it, im not just taking th first exit im taking the 3rd, but its not normally difficult to go to the centre of the roundabout then exit where i need to as most cars cant pull out on me because im amongst so many other vehicles. also, most vehicles take the second exit, so im free to exit safely where i need to :-)
    i do think that with all these junctions and roundabouts a very “aggressive” riding style is needed. dont get bullied out of your lane, keep up your speed so motorists dont get impatient and try to do dangerous overtakes, and keep checking over left and right shoulder…

  19. bob 10/01/2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Vauxhall is scary for pedestrians as well as cyclists. I used to work just off the Vauxhall gyratory and saw numerous car accidents from my office window. the Bondway leg is the most dangerous as drivers and bikers throttle it off the lights when heading down to nine elms.

  20. James 10/01/2014 at 8:34 pm #

    I used to cycle from Clapham Common to Kings Cross via Clapham Road and Kennington Rd using various Cycle Superhighways. In the end, put off by buses, traffic lights and the cycle racing that I inevitably got involved with, I changed my route to a backstreet one that followed the backstreets of Vauxhall. The ride takes 3 or 4 minutes longer but I almost never have any scrapes and the ride is less polluted. Route available on request.

    • Marc 02/04/2014 at 11:25 pm #

      Hi James,
      Just started to ride the CS7 but I don’t really like it: up to 20 stops in traffic lights! What’s the alternative route you take?
      Thanks!

  21. Adrian 11/01/2014 at 10:54 am #

    I use Shoreditch and Aldgate East most work days, Old Street and Bank when I want an alternative. All in all not too bad but Mansell Street into Aldgate going north can be a little hairy – lots of lorries in the gyratory. I actually think the Tower Bridge / E Smithfield / Byward Street junction is worse, particularly going West to East or South to East.

    Vauxhall is awful, agreed.

    Seven Sisters Road crossing Holloway Road in either direction is still bad, going West there’s 4 lanes cutting down to two to go up Camden Road, good fun if you’re trying to turn right anywhere off Camden Road before the junction with York Way. Going East isn’t much better, down the hill in the bus lane then hope the lights are working for you if you want to turn right into Holloway Road.

    Highbury Corner used to be up there with Elephant & Castle for cyclist and pedestrain accidents, but seems much better now (on the rare occasions I use it, still have vestigial trauma from 20 years ago) – anybody use it regularly now ?

    Whoever cycles up the A1 from Archway roundabout is very brave.

    • mark 11/01/2014 at 4:02 pm #

      ive been using e& c for 6 years

      i’d say the worst junction ive cycled is vauxhall. it seems like the motorists are in a reall rush to get awfrom the lights – even more so than a normal junction!

  22. Duncan 11/01/2014 at 8:07 pm #

    The trick with junctions like Aldgate is to pretend you are a car, in fact a car where you are sitting right in the middle of it. Follow the path of where a car should go and you will be central in lane with the right path to getting to the lane where you want to be. Don’t worry about getting to the bike box. I actually feel safer following cars and using them as a shield and by doing so you know you following the natural car line. It works. I travel down Mile End Road then turn right to Old Street roundabout. Also from Aldgate gyratory heading east to Commercial Road. This technique works nicely and I think cars actually respect you for not going up the inside of them at these junctions – they can see exactly where you are.

  23. James 12/01/2014 at 5:55 pm #

    I can’t believe so many of you use the Vauxhall Gyratory. If you need to go from South West London to central London don’t use the Wandsworth Rd (which goes past Vauxhall tube station) find an alternative. I changed to the South Lambeth Rd cycle lane which is on the pavement and is painted green. I then cross over Kennington Lane at the pelican crossing and go through the park (Spring Gardens), Vauxhall Walk, Tyers St etc.
    From there you can easily get to Lambeth Bridge of if, like me, you need to go further east, there are several routes to get you to Upper Ground on the South Bank.
    You’ll hardly see a car, and there are fewer lights to slow you down. Anyone commuting evry day using the Gyratory wants their head testing!

  24. roger 13/01/2014 at 11:14 am #

    Junction north of Tower Bridge is tricky unless you happen to realise that its just the outside lane – heading north – that is straight on. Given that this links with Cable Street (superhighway) and used by a lot of cyclists things should be clearer. Speeds are pretty high as well as card acceletate to the next junctions.

  25. John Anderson 13/01/2014 at 10:30 pm #

    I’ve done most of these over the years but I cut most of them out nowadays by using the wonderful cycle maps you can get free from any tube station. Once you’ve used one to work out your version of a route you rarely need the map again till a new challenge presents itself..

    One of the worst experiences is the Euston Road Westbound on a Friday (I don’t do that any more either). Brands Hatch doesn’t come near.

    I still remember a trip to France and all the drivers giving me a ten foot wide berth. Of course I later learned French law holds the driver automatically in the wrong in a collision with a cyclist…

    Kind of throws Boris’ commitment to cycling into its proper perspective.

  26. Phil B 16/01/2014 at 8:06 am #

    My observations as a vehicle passenger, the original article, and peoples’ responses, have further reinforced my intention to never cycle in London. I’m sure that those of you who do may well regard me as some species of milquetoast, but I would not risk my well-being in such a bike-hostile environment.

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