London Cyclists: Which roads do you avoid like the plague?


Stuck behind a huge bus blocking the full lane I leaned over to the left to see if there was any way past it. No way, jose. I leaned to the right to see if there was room to manoeuvre to the right. Not unless I could suddenly decrease my mass to that of a piece of paper. I huffed at my error. I was cycling down Oxford Street.

After spending 5 minutes stuck between two huge buses I made a promise to myself: Never cycle down Oxford Street again.

Not only is it one of the busiest streets in London it is also one of the narrowest with pedestrians and buses coming at you from all directions. It’s the last place in the world I would describe as friendly for cycling. (apart from the Bolivian death road).

What roads do you hate with a passion and avoid cycling down?

Other comment Fridays:

Image via Dennoir Flickr

Join 10,221 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

, , ,

71 Responses to London Cyclists: Which roads do you avoid like the plague?

  1. Jim 21/01/2011 at 8:19 am #

    The Strand, the Embankment, the Euston Road. Generally any major East-West route with ‘the’ in its name, I suppose.

    • Andreas 21/01/2011 at 10:32 am #

      Ride Euston road daily – it’s a pain but I still find it quicker than taking alternative quieter roads.

    • alistair 21/01/2011 at 2:30 pm #

      I don’t mind euston road, all most all the junctions are traffic light controlled so if you keep up with busses there aren’t too many surprises

  2. Joe 21/01/2011 at 8:28 am #

    Putney Bridge. Full of cars, more craters than the moon.

  3. Kevin Campbell's Blog 21/01/2011 at 8:29 am #

    any roads that are usually always busy with hgv vehicles

  4. Shona 21/01/2011 at 8:31 am #

    Indeed! The Old Kent Road is my nemesis.

  5. Gaz 21/01/2011 at 8:49 am #

    I only avoid Oxford street during workdays, weekends it’s normally fine due to the busses being less frequent.
    I cycled on a road that links the m25 to caterham once, I will never do that again. Having cars buzz you at nearly 90mph is not fun!

  6. Tim 21/01/2011 at 9:48 am #

    Great West Road – usually a traffic jam with trillions of side roads crossing the off road cycle lane

    • Annette 21/01/2011 at 10:32 am #

      totally agree – Great West Road off road cycle/pedestrian path, impossibly annoying especially on the way out of London

  7. Neil Young 21/01/2011 at 9:54 am #

    On my commute I used to take Shakespeare Road in Brixton, as an alternative to bus-crammed Brixton Road. It’s long and thin with cars parked on either side. After several occasions in which I was strafed at high speed by passing/oncoming vehicles, and being chased, Jason Bourne-style, through the back streets of Brixton by a driver who didn’t take kindly to my view that he’d damn near killed me, I’ve gone back to the main thoroughfare. At least the bus drivers don’t habitually go out of their way to mow you down.

  8. coshgirl 21/01/2011 at 9:56 am #

    I rode from London Bridge to Tottenham Court Road last night to catch a film and the whole area around the TCR Tube station is a complete and utter mess for cyclists and peds. I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents. Also, I noticed loads of craters on my ride back to Walthamstow, including one that nearly offed me in Dalston. It’s shocking the state of London’s roads tbh.

  9. James 21/01/2011 at 9:57 am #

    The A3 is a horrible road but sometimes it’s an unavoidable part of my route. Cars drive too fast here! There is a bike path of sorts, but it is shared with pedestrians, street furniture, side street junctions, etc, etc. You can’t win on either the bike path or the road here.

  10. Neil Young 21/01/2011 at 9:59 am #

    There’s a hellish series of potholes and rucked asphalt where Kennington Park Road turns onto Brixton Road…

  11. James H 21/01/2011 at 10:06 am #

    Kilburn High Road – bumpy, cars driving in all sorts of random directions, not wide enough, buses with maniac drivers and cars parked in all of the cycle lanes.

    Actually don’t mind the Embankment – I cycle along that from Northumberland Avenue all the way up Lower Thames St to Tower Hill as part of my commute to Canary Wharf.

  12. Jon 21/01/2011 at 10:07 am #

    There are a couple of roads that strike the fear. I’ve written sbout them here here. I would agree too with @Shona, Old Kent Road can be bad.

  13. Nico 21/01/2011 at 10:18 am #

    Kilburn High Road, Euston Road are terrible, made all the worse by the fact there is plenty of space to put in a proper segregated cycle path, but instead we have to dodge HGVs, buses, black cabs and minicabs. All in the “shared” cycle lane! I thought cycle meant bicycle but apparently the meaning of that word is quite broad in London. Die, TfL.

  14. Amoeba 21/01/2011 at 10:19 am #

    I avoid any road with a speed limit above 40 mph, but I’m increasingly less keen on 40 mph roads and would prefer to avoid them.

  15. Jon 21/01/2011 at 10:22 am #

    I don’t have to do it any more but going across Parliament Square in a straight line from Birdcage Walk to Westminster Bridge used to give me the willies – too many cars, buses and lorries surging from the side and unsure themselves which lane they wanted to be in. Coming back the other way where you have to do three sides of the Square was so much easier as the traffic flow made more sense.

  16. Marc 21/01/2011 at 10:23 am #

    Hyde Park Corner is never a great one for me when coming at it from Victoria and looking to go up Park Lane or Piccadilly: not only do I have to swing out to the right on the approach, but if I have to give way when at the roundabout, it means an uphill standing start with cars flying past on both sides. Not good.

    • Tommi 21/01/2011 at 11:00 am #

      Was coming here to say the same thing. I’ve had a few cycle route suggestions that include taking a south to west right turn at Hyde Park Corner – haven’t had the courage to try it yet.

      Basically I find any roundabout with more than two lanes is just scary.

  17. Andy 21/01/2011 at 10:24 am #

    Elephant and Castle. Elephant and Castle. Oh, and Elephant and Castle.

    Fortunately there’s a way around on a refurbished cycle path. But my god what a death trap.

    • Matt Andrews 21/01/2011 at 11:44 am #

      I live in Elephant but have never dared the roundabout. Cycle about half a mile in the opposite direction just to avoid it.

  18. martin G 21/01/2011 at 10:31 am #

    New Kings Road when traffic is backed up, as cars keep creeping out of side roads and blocking the cycle lane.

  19. Dunc 21/01/2011 at 10:56 am #

    Bishopsgate has terrible potholes. I avoid it.
    Also the East Hill part of the A3 is an awful surface on a big hill so you really get shaken up

  20. Lucy 21/01/2011 at 11:39 am #

    Hollway road, I have to use it every morning, wakes you up fast with all those motobikes roaring past you either side!

  21. ibikelondon 21/01/2011 at 11:51 am #

    Oxford Street is dire, especially around the TCR end where all the Crossrail works are taking place at the moment – Charing X Rd is the same in front of the Centre Point – just a death trap.

    I’m not a huge fan of Bishopsgate either – massively congested with buses, potholes as big as my head, pedestrians everywhere coming out of Liverpool Street – luckily my route to work takes me off Bishopsgate before you get to the station ‘cos past there it is just horrible. Very, very busy for cyclists though!

    My own street is a nightmare – as you turn off the busy A road, there is an epic pothole (well, a trench) from one side of the road to the other and about 4 inches deep. Have fallen off a couple of times there, and now stop at the end of my street and push my bike down cos the road surface is so bad.

    Lastly, ANY of the bridges in central London are pretty awful. They act like an hourglass, drawing lots of traffic and cyclists from a wide area onto them, and the cycling provision on most is dire. The segregated part of CS7 across the river has been closed for months now for bridge repairs….

    …the list goes on!

  22. Dunc 21/01/2011 at 11:53 am #

    Dog Kennel Hill is horrendous too. Yuk

  23. Mary jeavans 21/01/2011 at 11:58 am #

    Farringdon road …..attrocious potholes and bumps.

  24. botogol 21/01/2011 at 12:00 pm #

    The Highway through Wapping… narrow lanes, cars either too fast or stationary, blocking narrow lanes. Pot-holes. Worse even than the slippery blue contra-flow cycle path on Cable St that is the alternative.

  25. Dirtycash 21/01/2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Its seems that since we had all the snow and ice the pot holes have got a lot worse. Who is responsible for the upkeep of the roads in London, does it fall on local councils?

    I cant see roads I ride through in Lambeth/Southwark roads being sorted anytime soon, what with the budget cuts kicking in.

    • RD 22/01/2011 at 11:00 pm #

      Local authority. Until it’s a TfL road, in which case it’s TfL.

  26. Pgd 21/01/2011 at 12:29 pm #

    @Neil Young: Interesting what you say about Shakespeare Road. I use it daily and haven’t had any trouble yet… maybe I’ve just been lucky :/

    Totally with you about Brixton Road/Kennington Park Road though. Absolutely bloody awful in either direction, and the traffic all around you makes it tricky to avoid the craters.

    • Neil Young 21/01/2011 at 2:19 pm #

      @Pgd Maybe I should give Shakespeare Rd another shot. The upside is that it then allows me to nip through Brockwell Park, rather than head up Brixton Hill.

  27. Jackart 21/01/2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Any london road is better than a fast B road with hedges as found out my way.

  28. Robert Adlington 21/01/2011 at 12:47 pm #

    I have two areas that I hate to cycle in and they are:

    Gallow’s Corner roundabout (Romford) where the A12, A127 and A118 meet. For me, it’s safer to get off and walk.

    The other place is also a roundabout at the junction of Winston Way and Ilford Lane leading down to Ilford Hill near Saunsbury.

    Also, the cycle lane along the A118 is always full of parked cars and no one seems to care.

  29. Russell 21/01/2011 at 12:53 pm #

    I have to say I don’t mind Oxford Street. I usually come across Hyde Park and through the back of Mayfair (Upper Brook Street), but since they’ve closed Davies Street I’ve had to get to the office on Oxford Circus from the Marble Arch end. As long as I stick to the right of the buses, just inside the centre line, it’s okay, although I *have* had to re-adjust any thoughts of speed…

    Hammersmith roundabout is a nightmare, and the Hammersmith to Gloucester Road stretch of the A4/Great West Road is just hell on earth

  30. Higgs 21/01/2011 at 1:06 pm #

    I used to cycle along the Uxbridge Road through Shepherds Bush (and roundabout) up to Notting Hill. Found this road horrible particularly in the rain when buses and cars would crowd you out.

    Now use some quieter roads some of which have provision for cyclists and find myself less stressed.

    Du Cane road (Acton) has a cycle lane but the road layout and other users conspire to make it pretty difficult to use at times (for pics

    so need to take the lane

    • Higgs 21/01/2011 at 1:09 pm #

      oops left ) in the link in error

      • Nick 21/01/2011 at 2:08 pm #

        Agree with Du Cane road – the random snaking of the cycle lanes in and around the bollards in the centre of the road when heading west is idiotically dangerous.

  31. Freddie 21/01/2011 at 1:34 pm #

    The North side of Tower Bridge is just a total free for all. Will often use London Bridge nearby even if it’s a longer cycle going that way.

    • theandyman 21/01/2011 at 9:24 pm #

      Could not agree more! There isn’t a safe linkup between the two ‘superhighways’ but going via Tower Bridge is hair-raising…

  32. Paul 21/01/2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Kentish Town Road

  33. alistair 21/01/2011 at 2:35 pm #

    I hate farringdon road, at spittalfields, too many cyclists, teh road width varies rapidly and taxis taking all sorts of imaginative u-turns

  34. robbie C 21/01/2011 at 3:15 pm #

    I avoid Euston road/Pentonville road, the Embankment, Kingsway and the Strand.

    I would love to avoid Trafalger square (southbound to admiralty arch from Charing cross road) and Russell Square (northbound) but hard to find sensible alternatives for my commute

  35. Corin 21/01/2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Agree about Oxford Street – I go out of my way to avoid it.

    Stopped doing Moorgate as well – too stressful at rush hour.

    Not much of a fan of Southwark Bridge, but then my daily alternatives are Blackfriars and Waterloo. Prefer Waterloo Bridge northbound to southbound.

  36. Rosstheboss 21/01/2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Generally, any that Boris’ incompetent TfL ‘maintain’.

    Red Routes are generally in an appalling condition with pathetic provision for cyclists. Even when they’re eventually resurfaced or fixed the same piss-poor cycle gutters are there with no improvement to their layout.

    Boris only seems interested in gimmicks. Filling in pot holes may not be a glamorous photo opportunity but it’s an essential part of the infrastructure on which everything else depends.

    TfL buses that regularly infringe on the ASL should have their contracts revoked.

  37. Dan 21/01/2011 at 7:06 pm #

    Kingsway going south is scary but I’m determined not to be forced off of it. I have to turn right about half way down and try to position accordingly … but motor bike drivers seem quite happy to over and undertake at speed. And roundabouts generally – everyone seems to assume you are always going to turn left and stick to the left hand side of the lane.

  38. nicolep 21/01/2011 at 8:56 pm #

    Elephant and Castle, Hyde Park Corner, junction of Blackfriars Bridge and the Embankment filtering onto the Embankment and Bishopsgate are the worst ones for me. All of the former almost too scary to contemplate unless absolutely necessary. And all of those terrifying lorries that carry building site rubble on any street make that street the scariest one at that moment. I hate them. They go too fast, they stray into every other lane and overhang and generally make life pretty unpleasant. I think there’s a fleet of ghost lorries just driving rubble around the capital to piss us off!

    • Jon Russell 03/02/2011 at 2:33 pm #

      Hi Nicole,

      Do you know about the shortcut through Elephant and Castle ? Ok it might not work exactly for you. But it has been a godsend for me:

  39. Kenny M 21/01/2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Have to disagree with Botogol about the Highway. I used to avoid it like the plague until they painted Cable Street blue. Now I’d much rather take my chances, and take up the whole inside lane, rather than get stuck on the M25 cycle park that Cable Street cycle path has become. I’m even considering the A13 as an alternative.

  40. Uzair Siddiqi 21/01/2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Ah, Oxford Street is horrible to cycle along! Tourists are indeed coming from every possible direction and don’t seem to stop for you. There are way too many buses there as well.

    After recently cycling there, I now try to avoid Westminster (north side), Piccadilly, Leicester Square and Cumberland Gate Roundabout. Another one that isn’t too bad but quite busy is Garratt Lane. Unfortunately when I cycle to school, I’m forced to cycle on the road. Not something I’m too keen on doing in the morning.

  41. Labour Cyclist 22/01/2011 at 8:30 am #

    The Strand is impossible to get down. Have even tried ridding the cobbles of the central reservation. Went down the underpass that comes up on Piccadilly yesterday – that was a trifle scary as cars told to stay in lane but go fast round dark corners. Road surfaces usually relevant councils so report them; the ice does destroy the concrete.

  42. Carolyn 22/01/2011 at 8:56 am #

    Streatham High Road, cars use it as a race track and the cohorts of buses gang up on the cyclist plus road layout is disastrous, I used to take a detour adding to my 9.8ml commute.

    The other scary road is Tower Hill dual carriageway again traffic too “gung ho”

    Actually there are so many caused by bad driving!!

  43. PaulM 22/01/2011 at 2:48 pm #

    Strand is horrible – two very narrow lanes which a bus or lorry fills completely so no gaps. Horrid cobbled central reservation. Why oh why do they do thta? They could make room for a cycle lane if they just separated the directions with a painted line like anywhere else!

    Moorgate is just as bad for the same reasons.

    Oxford St is horrible at the best of times but with the Crossrail works it is even worse.

    But for something really scary try Upper & Lower Thanes St

  44. EmmeG 22/01/2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Oh yes, definitely avoid Oxford Street like the plague. I generally avoid any big streets and anything that involves big roundabouts, like the one joining Southwark Bridge Road or the Old Street one. I prefer to add a mile or two to my cycling! Once I got off Old Street/Clerkenwell/Theobald Rd. I felt so much more relaxed on my commute.

  45. Henz 22/01/2011 at 11:55 pm #

    After a couple of hair raising trips;
    Holloway Rd (A1) – in addition to an ill maintained, rough road surface, a bus lane which disappears at every junction and a high volume of traffic, last time I cycled along here there were roadworks forcing me to fend off impatient taxis.
    Oh and going up East Heath Road – or not until I’m a lot fitter.

  46. Fi 23/01/2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Approaching Hyde Park corner (coming up from Victoria Street / Carlisle Place) has got me so jittery I’ve stopped cycling when it’s dark – which basically means all winter. Can anyone help me figure out a sensible diversion to avoid it? My journey’s only to Paddington, but the alternative route via Belgravia virtually doubles my journey which is proving a major deterrent to my cycling ambitions!

    • nicolep 23/01/2011 at 5:11 pm #


      If you log in to and put in your start and finish point, it should come up with three alternative routes, busy, not so busy and a bit quieter! I find their route planning really good, and they have an iPhone app for when you’re out and about.

      It’s a pretty good route finder for showing alternatives to the major thoroughfares, which the other programs seem unable to do.

    • Alex 25/01/2011 at 2:39 pm #

      I think I know the bit you mean, I don’t like it at all either

      Last time I did it, I was also heading for Hyde Park, but cycled instead as if heading to Knightsbridge, so that way you are on the far left of Grosvenor Place, by the kerb and don’t have to worry about either yourself or other traffic changing lanes. Then, immediately having turned left towards Knightsbridge, just before the lights outside the the Lanesborough Hotel is a cobbled access road for taxis to pick up outside that hotel. You can dismount there and cross the lights with your bike into Hyde Park.

      I’m sure the tip about cyclestreets might give other routes, although I suspect any other route might involve more roads and less park, which would ultimately be less safe anyway

  47. John90 23/01/2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Walworth Road to Denmark Hill is unpleasant. A lot of left filters that require lane changes in heavy traffic and motorbikes sharing your space. I also dislike Albany Road which connects Camberwell and the Old Kent Road. It too has filter lanes, is way too narrow for the amount of traffic on it and the state of the road in some sections is atrocious. But armed with my Garmin GPS I’ve been able to find routes that avoid these and most of the other horrors already described above.

  48. NinaJa 23/01/2011 at 10:51 pm #

    I couldn’t have made a better comparison than the bolivian death road…. it’s brilliant!
    For the little story, they build a new road to go from LaPaz to Coroico, and now there aren’t as much truck and bus on that road. So isn’t the most dangerous road in the world anymore, still pretty scary though!

  49. Ben 24/01/2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Old Kent Road is always a nightmare, going from 3 lanes to 2 to 3 to 1 and with lots of geezers, taxis, busea and white vans. Part of the skill and experience of being a cyclist in London is finding a satisfying route around roads like the Old Kent Rd. You shouldn’t really be on them if you’re clever. I used to quite enjoy going down Old Compton street on my bike for the challenge, feels a bit like being in a computer game, but it does give me an excuse to ding my lovely bell.

  50. thereverent 24/01/2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Borough High Street for being alway stationary.
    The Stand between Waterloo Bridge and Trafalgar Square as it’s a wall of Taxis.
    Bishopsgate or anywhere near Bank for lemming pedestrians.
    Old Kent Road for having the worst drivers in London.
    Oxford Street for being an Indiana Jones style assault course.
    Waterloo Road for more lemming pedestrians.

Leave a Reply