I’m definitely not an urban planning expert. I know this, because my neighbours are studying it and whenever they get in to a heated debate about it, my eyes glaze over.
However, on a short bike ride to Covent Garden there are a number of things that as a cyclist, simply don’t make sense to me.
This is the junction on Euston Rd that I have to take to head towards Covent Garden. For any cyclists who are not Olympic sprinters or red light jumpers, this is a tough junction.
Option 1, involves moving across two lanes of traffic after the traffic light changes. This is not easy, as there is a lot of fast moving traffic that wants to proceed straight ahead (even though it makes more sense for them to take the underpass).
The second option, which I always choose, is to filter to the right lane of traffic at the red light. This inevitably means you are a few feet in front of the traffic light as there is no advanced stop box.
There must be a better way. TfL realise this and will soon be spending 11 million to redesign it. Despite this, their provision for cyclists remains negligible. As Camden Cycling Campaign have suggested, this would be an ideal location to showcase Dutch style infrastructure. Separate traffic lights for buses and cyclists could mean they could safely move through the junction.
More experienced cyclists and Boris Johnson may argue: “but I’m fine moving through that junction”. That’s all well and good but this isn’t a junction I’d like to have to navigate if I wanted to pedal to Covent Garden with an inexperienced cyclist – for example, my sister.
The next section of my route places me down Gower St. The A400 has two lanes for general traffic and a bus lane. It travels near many of the university buildings.
There’s room along this route for a segregated cycle lane, if you remove a small amount of pavement and narrow the lanes. The ultimate solution, and I’m almost afraid to type the next sentence, would be to remove a lane of general traffic.
To London’s transport planners and the Mayor of London this seems like a preposterous idea. Hand over valuable space in the heart of London from vehicle traffic to cyclists? Take this blogger in to the psychiatric ward!
Their untested fear is that this will mean backed up queues of traffic and drivers bitterly complaining about the war on motorists. The mayor fears it could cost him votes and his re-election.
This fear has paralysed any innovative thinking when it comes to London’s transportation and environmental future.
I believe Boris Johnson’s worst fear is unfounded. What is most likely to occur, is that less people will choose to drive as the route takes longer. A little like the effect of the Olympics, where everyone believed driving in London would be a nightmare, so they avoided it.
In the mean time, the benefits are many. This route suddenly becomes more pleasant for pedestrians, cyclists and anyone in the buildings surrounding the road. If you choose to look at the very big picture, this means a benefit to society as a whole. More cyclists and pedestrians, mean less pressure on an overburdened public transport system, that is subsidised by the government. The area becomes a more pleasant place to live and study. The lower pollution means less health problems and therefore a lower NHS bill for the country.
Moving swiftly on, we arrive at the next section of my route to Covent Garden. This pleasant little street is Endell St. It has some really nice restaurants with outside seating areas – I thoroughly recommend the fish and chips from here!
I don’t even believe a separate cycle lane is necessary here as the speeds are so slow and there’s barely any room for a car to overtake. Also, this road is rarely used by traffic.
However, a contraflow cycle lane would be great to extend the benefits of this side street to cyclists travelling north. To provide it, you’d have to remove some of the parking provision.
The benefit would not just be to cyclists but also to local businesses and people visiting the area. On a nice day, you often see people pouring out on to the street in to empty parking spaces which creates a great atmosphere. Parked cars really detract from what is a very people friendly street.
Another place where there’s already room for a contraflow cycle lane is the final section of my route.
I simply don’t buy the argument that London’s roads don’t have enough space for cycle lanes. I’m sure on your daily routes you can spot similar changes. Unfortunately, it seems that the moment the asphalt was first laid down, we gave away any chances of improving things for the better. Boris Johnson should focus TfL’s attention on making real changes to roads that cyclists already use.