Which route do you choose on your commute?

canal-route-to-workEach day I head into London and have a choice between 3 great routes. I can either go direct and take the busy A-road. I can go through some quiet residential streets and around Regent’s Park or I can head down the hill and through Camden.

When I first started living here I mixed things up and chose between the different rides. However, as it became clear the fastest route was the first one down the A-road I’ve been using it almost exclusively.

It would be the same thing if I was commuting to Canary Wharf. From where I live you could actually do 70% of the ride traffic-free. You’d simply hop on the canal at the nearest opportunity and follow it all the way down to the Limehouse Basin.

The question is: What do you prefer? The most direct and often busiest route or the quietest route? Or do you balance the two?

I’m going to hazard a guess here and say most people opt for the most direct route that tends to be the fastest.

Your answers on a postcard please… (i.e. in the comments below)

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69 Responses to Which route do you choose on your commute?

  1. James 15/10/2010 at 10:08 am #

    If I’m running late or it’s wet, the quick route down City Road; if not then the quiet route through Clerkenwell.

  2. cold cyclist 15/10/2010 at 10:09 am #

    Definitely traffic free quieter routes. I tried a more direct route last week coming down Old Street and it took about 10 minutes longer for all the traffic lights and dodging around buses. Back streets of Islington all the way!

  3. Samantha Alsbury 15/10/2010 at 10:09 am #

    I definitely choose the quick one, which is a shame in a way. One of the reasons I cycle is because I enjoy it and a nice scenic route would be a lot more enjoyable, but I see the extra time it takes as time wasted. I guess the scenic routes are for the weekends.

  4. Dave Hodgkinson 15/10/2010 at 10:11 am #

    I go the opposite way to you: Camden to Paddington Basin. Horrible roads at either end: the Oval Road/Parkway Junction, then zig-zagging across the Edgware Road.

    But the canal is lovely.

  5. Stavroula 15/10/2010 at 10:11 am #

    My route options are more or less the same in terms of distance but I opt for a combo of less busy & smooth ride! Some of the quite ones, have bumps, hence that’s why their quiet or pot holes!

  6. Simon 15/10/2010 at 10:11 am #

    I used to do the traffic free route from SW11 out to Canary Wharf through side roads, and cycle paths, but then realised the fastest route was the A3 and then the highway to Canary Wharf which was my route 95% of the time. Sometimes if it was a nice evening I would divert a longer way home along the river and through the park, but in the way in in the mornings, it was always the fastest route.

  7. Jonathan 15/10/2010 at 10:14 am #

    If it is a nice day I will often choose the longer more scenic route. This takes me through Dulwich, Clapham Common and Richmond Park.

    When it is cold or wet I want to get there as fast as possible so take the more direct A202/A3/A205. If I leave late in the morning I will take the longer route regardless as the build-up of traffic slows me down. There’s nothing worse than being stuck behind queues of traffic and having to ‘battle’ your way to the front.

  8. Dave 15/10/2010 at 10:15 am #

    Heading from Beckenham into the east end in the mornings I’ve got the fantastic Crystal Palace to climb which i really can’t avoid. Beyond that I find the the most direct route as the crow flies through Camberwell is actually slower than the longer route through Brixton, simply because the bus lanes are less busy and there’s fewer traffic lights. So a longer route in terms of distance is quicker in terms of time. Try making that decision on a cold dark morning with only an espresso fueling you!

  9. Samuel 15/10/2010 at 10:17 am #

    Uxbridge road on morning to the far west… I can do the canal but they are way too slow compared to the road, going over southall is challenging since pedestrians does not respect much lights there (ie: at all).

  10. Flavio 15/10/2010 at 10:17 am #

    I take the slower but safest route. I’ve chosen roads with little traffic and/or dedicated cycle routes. The best bit is cycling through Brompton Cemetary every day. Saves loads of time and is beautiful as the seasons change.

    There are faster, directr routes on the main roads but I’m not in a massive rush when I commute, I leave enough time so I can take the quieter route. I’m not into the whole cycling fast through London on busy roads thing.

    I like to enjoy the ride and views. Then I get to work feeling good.

  11. Mark 15/10/2010 at 10:19 am #


    I cycle from Willesden Junction, along canal to paddington then back streets to hyde park. Come out at duke of wellington memorial, then down constitution hill to westminster.

    Then its a fast road along victoria embankment, upper thames street, lower thames street, the highway, then come off at narrow street (back street) and part of cycle network to canary wharf.

    on a good day 40mins for 12 miles – then time for a cappo & croisant

  12. Paul K 15/10/2010 at 10:19 am #

    From Barnet to Marble Arch, I usually take the faster main road route, but occasionally opt for the scenic route via canals & parks if I have the time

  13. Andy P 15/10/2010 at 10:20 am #

    I’m lucky that the most direct route is actually down residential roads cutting out the busy main ones. Otherwise I have always used the direct A roads.

    Although with a bit more research there was probably a quieter route but just as quick. I wonder how many people don’t try to look up different routes and get put off by intimidating main roads.

  14. Mike 15/10/2010 at 10:21 am #

    Speed wins out over everything. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the busier roads. It means a straightish route with fewer reasons to stop – junctions and traffic lights and suchlike.

  15. Nico 15/10/2010 at 10:28 am #

    I was taking the busy A road route through central then discovered I could almost half my journey time by nipping through nice posh streets around St Johns Wood. So scenic can be quicker sometimes!

  16. chris 15/10/2010 at 10:35 am #

    Direct. If I want to put some extra miles on, there are better ways than getting frustrated and tangled in backroads!

  17. pete 15/10/2010 at 10:40 am #

    from hampstead through the back streets of swiss cottage, down past lords cricket ground, back streets of marlyebone, across marble arch, hyde park, green park and along the mall to the office. its either that or the dreaded finchley road…no competition !!!!

  18. James H 15/10/2010 at 10:40 am #

    I cycle from Kilburn to Canary Wharf and always go the fastest (though not necessarily shortest and certainly not nicest!) way. Straight down the Edgware Road, Marble Arch, Park Lane, Trafalgar Square and then along the Embankbent. At elast the CSHighway gives me some respite from Tower Hill out to the Wharf.

    I’d be happy to go another route but it takes long enough (45-50mins) as it is that it would start to become less worthwhile if the journey were, say 1hr-1.5hrs.

  19. Peter 15/10/2010 at 10:41 am #

    Always the quiet route for me from Ravenscourt Park to Cavendish Square. I am still faster than I would be on public transport and I think there is nothing more annoying than having to squeeze past HGVs and buses on a smelly A road. And it’s nice to vary the quieter routes too. Why not have some fun while you’re at it…

  20. Dave 15/10/2010 at 10:47 am #

    I use a mostly A roads to make my short 3.5 mile commute through north to east london in the most direct route possible, except for a couple of slightly quieter roads to shortcut slow traffic light junctions.

    Personally, I prefer busier roads as in my opinion the biggest danger to cyclists is… PEDESTRIANS! And pedestrians are generally more aware that they can’t just step out into a busy street, they can’t just cross without looking, they can’t just open a car door without checking in the mirror first. I find that on busier roads, drivers and pedestrians tend to expect you to be there. However, on quiet roads people always seem surprised when they step out in front of their house without looking and hear your brakes squeel as you narrowly avoid them, or reverse out their driveway at 20mph because they were using their ears not their eyes to tell if anything was coming. Drivers also do crazier things on side roads which they are inevitably using to try and shortcut the rat race.

    tldr: busier, bigger roads are safer and quicker.

    • Knit Nurse 15/10/2010 at 11:52 am #

      Dave that’s what your bell is for!

    • Samantha Alsbury 15/10/2010 at 12:44 pm #

      Good point, in the past I’ve actually used a slightly longer and equally busy route because it meant staying with the flow of traffic so I would be where the cars expected me to be and would be more likely to look out for other road users.

  21. thereverent 15/10/2010 at 10:47 am #

    In the morning I’ll generally go the most direct route, there are still a few variations on this to kepp it interesting. Although I avoid London Bridge as its always so congested. As I head into the city there aren’t really any quiet routes.
    After work I use a wider selection of routes, but again more for interest than any being quieter than others.

  22. Raimundo 15/10/2010 at 10:49 am #

    I cycle from Green Lanes (Manor House) to Green Park and always use the fastest route. This means having to go via Camden which is bad at any time. The good thing is that I combine it with Regent’s Park ring which really makes my day.

    With the school run I can not afford the extra 10 minutes that alternative routes take.
    Sometimes on the way back home I ride using quieter roads.

  23. Chris 15/10/2010 at 10:56 am #

    The quiet route
    I come from Ealing to Kings Cross – the direct route is full of traffic lights and is stop start and not enjoyable. The alternative which doesn’t actually take much longer is to go on back roads (mostly) to pick up the Regent Canal and follow that all the way in.
    The only downside is in the winter much of this is unlit and I don’t feel as safe – so switch to the roads for a while (but must confess resort to the tube for a couple of months – particularly with Christmas parties etc – although not expecting much this year!)

  24. Mike (chthonicionic) 15/10/2010 at 10:56 am #

    I find it’s not the roads, but the junctions. Quiet routes are all very well, but where they cross major routes, it can be an utter pain to negotiate your way through, and anywhere you need to make a turn is always the most problematic bit.

    So, I’ve planned my routes based on going straight across major junctions so I can ride with the main traffic flow and minimise my lane changes. It’s not the shortest route, but it’s by far the easiest to ride.

  25. Fritz 15/10/2010 at 11:00 am #

    For the morning commute to work I go from Camden (Southern end) to Bermondsey. I basically head straight towards the river, going via Gower street and onwards through Bloomsbury, Covent Garden and the Strand before hitting the Victoria Embankment. I follow the embankment before using the Blackfriars Bridge to cross the river, once on the southside I utilize the network of smaller roads running in a south easterly direction away from the river to head east till I get to Bermondsey.

    The return leg usually the above in reverse or if I am in a hurry I take a faster route that involves heading towards the city directly via London Bridge, Bank, St Pauls, Farringdon and Russell Square. From there I head towards Euston and Camden.

  26. Eric 15/10/2010 at 11:06 am #

    Wandsworth Town, Clapham Common, Brixton, Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye, Nunhead, Brockley, Deptford Bridge, Greenwich, North Greenwich.

    Main roads from Wandsworth to Brixton, then a long stretch of back roads (with a couple of useful hills) to Deptford, then back on the main roads for the last stretch.

    Used to stick on the main road through Camberwell, Peckham, New Cross but got fed up with all the traffic lights and the angry drivers. The back street route is a joy. It’s marginally further, but takes the same time.

  27. Angi 15/10/2010 at 11:14 am #

    Uxbridge Road if I’m in a hurry or can’t be bothered to work my way through a longer wiggly back raod way.
    But I like to mix things up and take a slightly different route as much as I possibly can…stopps me from getting bored and I learn of new things around me…like the colourful mosaic house between Acton and Chiswick…it’s awesome. 🙂

    The main roads (i.e. Uxbridge Road and Bayswater Road), although a direct route, can be a bit of a drag at times due to all the traffic lights and volume of traffic.

  28. SM North London 15/10/2010 at 11:24 am #

    Luckily my most direct route from North London to the City is mostly on quiet streets. I could shave a couple of minutes of my journey time by choosing a flatter but busier road on one part of my journey, but it’s hardly worth it.

  29. Brian 15/10/2010 at 11:39 am #

    This just in…
    A recent post on the cycling forum http://www.lfgss.com/ reports an attack on a cyclist at night in De Beauvoir. This has been a problem in the past in De Beauvoir Square. The cyclist writes:

    “I was attacked on my bike at 2am a few weeks ago on De Beauvoir Rd and Northchurch Rd. A guy sprints out of the shadows from the other side wearing a balaclava, pushes me into a high curb, I fly headfirst into a wall and him and another balaclava’d accomplice kick the shit out of me as I’m on the floor. They threaten to stab me, steal my bag and my bike (old Peugeot steel frame custom build – not worth much). End up in A&E with fractured toe and lots of skin missing from multiple limbs. Police told me there’s been over 15 similar attacks on this stretch of road in 2 months. Guess I don’t need to spell out that’s it’s a good idea to avoid this route home at night.”

  30. Kerena 15/10/2010 at 11:44 am #

    I tried out lots of different routes when I first started commuting. I cycle from Forest Gate (E7) to Belgravia (SW1). I now do about 65% of that route on Greenway & canal – & yes, it’s probably a lot longer than the direct route, but it’s far more enjoyable – & the extra miles don’t do me any harm. Even if it’s pouring with rain, I still tend to stick to the scenic route. Only time I might do a shorter route is if I’ve been out & it’s late (although sometimes admittedly & then cycle to Liverpool Street & jump on the train!)

  31. meredith 15/10/2010 at 11:45 am #

    I have only been riding to work for a few months so still getting my road legs, so I tend to go only on roads without buses and do take the long way home. But I really don’t mind, I think it is only in the end about 5 minutes longer and way less cars/buses etc so all good with me.

  32. PJ 15/10/2010 at 11:46 am #

    My route to work is Clapton to Clerkenwell.

    Whenever I am cycling anywhere I figure out the most direct route here:


    But then check it against the cycle route maps to see the quieter streets nearby.

    So, basically, when I come onto Balls Pond Road, instead of going up and onto Essex Road, I go down Southgate Road and then right at the mini roundabout and through the back streets instead. It’s a bit longer but I find that the traffic holds me up so much when we get to Angel that it’s just as quick.

  33. peter 15/10/2010 at 11:54 am #

    A mixed route – I spend some time on cyclestreets.com (or the iphone app). Quietest is usually very slow the first few times while you work out the twists and turns, but once you get the hang of a route it can be quicker (fewer red lights and busses) and certainly much nicer. And even after I’ve been using a route for months I’ll sometimes find better ways. For instance I’ve recently changed my route around smithfields to avoid an illegal right turn into the farringdon road – the new route is flatter and nicer too. It’s worthwhile being a map geek.

    BTW, For cutting across main roads it’s often best to use a ‘dog leg’ route, so you can turn left and cut across traffic that way, rather then trying to go straight over

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  34. Gaz 15/10/2010 at 11:54 am #

    The most direct route for me means going through streatham and brixton. Which is VERY SLOW. So i tend to mix it up and i have a choice of about 5 routes. i do 4 of them regularly and the other i use when i need a challenge, as it has a big hill to climb.

  35. Knit Nurse 15/10/2010 at 11:55 am #

    Same route every day from SE8 to Pimlico – mostly back streets, I would say about 75% is on traffic-free or traffic-calmed roads. Takes longer than the main roads but allows me to relax a bit more.

  36. botogol 15/10/2010 at 12:12 pm #

    fastest route.

    I look for – bus-lanes / wide cycle lanes with priority / direct route / smooth road surface / other cyclists

    I avoid – speed humps / cycle lanes on pavements with give way at side roads / pot-holes / small roads with lots of junctions

    So I use A roads. CS7 is good and fast.

    I try to time my journey home so that I have got through the central parts by 7pm when the bus lanes end.

    • Richard Cleverly 15/10/2010 at 7:51 pm #

      It depends on my mood, weather, time of day and how much time I have (or can choose to take!)
      I’ve recently taken to using the super highway from Clapham on my route from Putney to Canary Wharf, mainly just to try it and also for a change of scene after several months of pounding down nine elms.
      If time allows I love to jump down a road I haven’t used before, especially in areas like Clerkenwell or Bermondsey, it opens up some gems and some horrors but always interesting. I also like to alternate bridges – I love the different views of the river and on a crisp blue morning nothing beats Westminster or the Tower of London to give you a little jolt of inspiration for the day.
      I just love being on my bike so it is all good!

      • John R 04/10/2011 at 1:34 pm #

        Hi there, I am just about to move back to London after 11 years in Holland, so I am used to cycling but in a more relaxed way than London commuting! I am planning to live in Putney and commute to Canary wharf – any advice you can give on the route? What’s a reasonable time to be able to make that journey?

        • Pedalingfuriously 04/10/2011 at 1:52 pm #

          Hi John, don’t worry not everyone treats their daily commute as a race! For every route I have tried they typically come to between 17-18 kms and take between 40 and 50 minutes. Happy to point you to some gps routes if that is helpful but it is largely defined by which bridge do you cross. Some cross at Putney and then follow the river, some use Wandsworth and do the same. Some head via Battersea, Albert or Chelsea. Or you can stay south of the river and cross at Vauxhall or Lambeth. Finally you can do the Clapham, Elephant and Castle route and cross at Blackfriars, Southwark, Borough or Tower. Once you get to Tower Hill there is really only one sensible route which follows Cable Street and then cuts across to Limehouse and in to the Wharf.

          The much maligned Cycle Super Highways have at least created some legitimacy for cyclists to be on some of these roads which were previously pretty unfriendly.

          Once you are here, drop me a line and I’d be happy to ride some of the routes with you.

  37. dan 15/10/2010 at 12:18 pm #

    backroads, backroads and more backroads. Very happy to cycle half a mile out of my route so as not to share the road with lots of traffic. Scooting down the side of cars at lights isn’t a lot of fun and a couple of waits at traffic lights on the A roads can easily mean you lose the time saved by taking the more direct routes, so much safer and so much more relaxing.

  38. matt_fantastic 15/10/2010 at 12:20 pm #

    shortest is not always quickest… quickest is best… http://connect.garmin.com/activity/48956909

  39. Neil 15/10/2010 at 12:36 pm #

    Depends what bike I’m on. With the road bike I’ll take a slight detour to avoid speed bumps. On the mountain bike I go the most direct route because speed bumps and a bit of off road is not an issue. The shorter route is nearly a mile less but they both take about the same amount of time.

  40. Jules 15/10/2010 at 12:46 pm #

    from upton park to westbourne park and i stick to the big roads – mainly because it’s the way. i used to do vauxhall to westbourne park and i miss having a big section of park in the middle – but that said i soon stopped doing the backstreets bit of that journey because of the priuses – quiet cars and cars that expect the roads to be quiet made me feel less safe. on the big roads i feel more visible.


  41. JimF 15/10/2010 at 1:11 pm #

    Quiet routes. I can save half a mile/five minutes by going up the Harrow Road to Wembley. I never do that – I get to cycle 4 out of my 6 mile commute either by the side of the canal or by the River Brent.

    Much nicer.

  42. David 15/10/2010 at 1:15 pm #

    I go from Blackheath to Ewell in Surrey and use the TFL route planner’s 18.6 mile mainly backroad route which, although slow, manages to avoid a lot of traffic.

    It is slow thanks to the 30+ lights and side road turnings – so the average speed hasn’t gone above 15mph.

    However the cycle superhighway CS2 from Balham to Colliers Wood makes what would be a horrible road to cycle, really good. Most motorists (buses excepted) respect the lane but you have to watch the side roads!

  43. Neil 15/10/2010 at 1:32 pm #

    The scenic route is my preference. It’s not the shortest or quickest but it has better views, slower cars, bus & cycle lanes nearer to the City and more hills (especially Greenwich Park). Just switched to a fixie to make the workout more strenuous.

  44. Tim 15/10/2010 at 2:48 pm #

    Canals are fine in the warmer months and can be a delight. However if it is cold wet or windy I tend to take the road and the safety of the bus lanes. So I guess the weather plays its part in my choice. I was always advised to alter my route regularly to avoid boredom and I have always done that.

  45. Cait 15/10/2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Both my routes hit reasonable main roads – there’s nothing I can do to avoid it really. However, I will always make the efort to dig out the little road that runs parallel to the main one and take the wee road instead.

    Just recentlly have switched from Stratham hill/Clapham North/Stockwell/vauxhall bridge/Buck Palace/Hyde Park corner (etc) to a route across clapham common/Queentown Road/Battersea/Chelsea bridge/Sloane Street (etc)

    it’s marginally quicker but i’m not sure about safer. The drivers and pedestrians around sloane street are a little bit like blundering sheep wandering all over the place!

  46. Steve 15/10/2010 at 4:44 pm #


    Actually, if I have the time, I like to take the scenic routes, through the parks or along the canal.

    Hyde Park in particular is full of cyclists every day, alongside pedestrians, rollerbladers and squirrels, and not a red light in sight.


  47. LTMWB 15/10/2010 at 4:51 pm #

    My commute is just under two miles but I use one main road and the rest are side roads it takes me bout eight minutes on my bike compared to ten minutes in the car so bike is a no brainer 🙂

  48. Higgs 15/10/2010 at 5:25 pm #

    I prefer less traffic so backroads and towpaths are my preference.

    Used to go the main uxbridge road through Shepherds Bush but found the roundabout a pain particularly with cars in the wrong lane or when it was raining.

    I’d rather get there have a reasonable amount of exercise than use main roads

  49. John 15/10/2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Depends on the time of day and wether I am in a rush!
    Main roads early morning or late evenings and side roads, lanes and parks at busy times, works out at about the same time as opposed to being stuck in traffic or at red lights on the main roads.

  50. theandyman 16/10/2010 at 10:49 am #

    I’ll take the quieter route LCN 5 I find much quicker than CS2 with 1 hill istead of 3, 14 fewer traffic lights (!) and a pleasant breeze across Tooting and Clapham Commons. Pedestrians and their dogs may be as much of an obstacle as cars etc. but they don’t hurt like a cement mixer…
    Thinking of varying my route though since Lambeth Council (?) has been putting up notices on Clapham Common saying that the speed limit is 8 mph. Can they be serious? I have no means of judging my speed, but my 9 mile commute takes me 40 minutes – an average speed of 13.5 mph. Besides, it defeats the purpose when joggers are overtaking you… Seriously – does anyone know if this ‘bylaw’ is legal or enforceable? I can’t get a straight answer from the council, City Hall or the police!

    • ClaireF 16/10/2010 at 12:44 pm #

      Yes the same sign has gone up on a gate to Victoria Park. I think thats 8 as well. No-one seems to be either slowing down or enforcing it so far! Be interesting to find out the legality…

      • Dennis Goycoolea 18/10/2010 at 11:39 pm #

        Bow – Bloomsbury here.

        In the morning I usually take a route through Victoria Park and along Regents Canal which covers most of it. On a nice day and when the canal is quiet it can be genuinely attractive and relaxing cycle in to work.

        Problems: other cyclists playing “silly commuter racing” on the towpath, including dodgy overtaking and all kinds of impatience; small children; dogs. With children you can at least rely on parents being aware of danger, but dogs! More than once a dog has swerved to run under my front wheel. I am extremely cautious of dogs and assume any dog off the lead wishes me to the be agent of its death.

        On the way back the canal’s not an option as I never use towpaths after dark and avoid small streets, especially residential areas. Many residential areas although fine in daylight turn bad at night – my basic rule is to avoid all residential streets I don’t already know to be OK on foot at night.

        This “quick” route means main roads all the way, braving Theobald’s Road – Clerkenwell Road – Old Street and eventually Bethnal Green Road – Roman Road. I actually enjoy this route as it’s a good workout and I ride faster with a car or van in front unwittingly ‘pacing’ me and providing a draft.

        It’s nowhere near as frightening as I’d imagined before doing it the first time as there are lots of bus lanes, generally wide roads and a ‘safety in numbers’ feeling with lots of cyclists on the road much of the way. Roman Road is the only place I have to take an ultra-assertive primary position to stop drivers forcing me against the rows of parked cars. Thanks to Tower Hamlets for providing ample parking on so many roads where there would actually be space for segregated cycling infrastructure.

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