Clerkenwell Boulevard

Talk to Camden Cyclists by Andrea Casalotti, 21 january 2014

Andrea is campaigning for a ‘Cycling Boulevard’ from Old Street to Bury Place running through Islington and Camden via Old Street, Clerkenwell Road, Theobalds Road and Bloomsbury Way where it links to other routes via Bury Place.

Andrea introduced us to the current conditions for cyclists using this road by showing extracts from the following videos

You can also view these videos with further commentary from Andrea within the page. Both pedestrians and cyclists should have better conditions in the new boulevard:

  • terrible “disrespectful” conditions for cyclists on Theobalds Road corridor: despite 20mph.
  • scandal that Theobalds Rd outside the Globe pub still has signalised junction with no pedestrian lights.

These videos would have been sufficient to convince anyone that the route is very popular with cyclists in spite of the very
poor conditions they experience riding along it.

Andrea presented his slides which are available on Google Docs. His vision is of a ‘pleasant, vibrant, traffic free avenue from the British Museum to Silicon Roundabout”.

He referred to the O’Brien’s London Cycling Census Map noting that Theobalds Road is the most cycled road in London, in the 7AM -10 AM peak (2157 cycles (149 buses) out of 3348 vehicles westbound, April 2013). Counting both directions, cyclists are 51%, 49% and 38% of the vehicles in AM peak, PM peak and all day (6am -8pm) respectively.

He then referred to Levene’s casualty map showing statistics for 2005-12 which shows a dense scattering of casualties all along the route with clusters around the junction with Gray’s Inn Road and Southampton Row.

  • the nine signalled junctions increase the journey time by maybe 50%.
  • some sections are narrow (11-12m) leaving scant room for cycle infrastructure; Farringdon Bridge has been narrowed
    to 7m
  • Numerous bus routes use this alignment so as to gain space for cycling without penalising the bus timings, Andrea advocates the elimination of through journeys by private motor vehicle; some traffic signals could be removed
  • Segregation? Andrea proposed three alternatives: no segregation with 10 mph buses; one-way cycle track on each side
    of the road; ora two-way segregated track on the south side of the road (his preferred solution).

Andrea mentioned the film of New York metamorphosis which ran in the background during the discussions that followed the presentation.

Motoring Grid – unbundling modes

In order to explain how private motor traffic would manage without using these roads, Andrea introduced the Dutch idea
of a “Motoring Grid”. The idea is that motors use busy roads on a course-grain grid while cycles use much
quieter roads in a fine-grain grid. Bicycle Dutch calls this ‘unravelling (or unbundling) modes‘. The Dutch have for many years separated cycles from motors by means of segregation but more recently they are separating them at route level. The
Video of Groningen explains this concept particularly well.

Some people were worried about the effect on other roads and one even said it would be detrimental to cyclists on
Euston Road, but who would want to ride there in the polluted air? The well-know fact of traffic evaporation was
emphasised as what would happen within a few weeks of making journeys more difficult of private motors.

Graph traffic flows
Soon after the meeting, @philjones79 tweeted “motor traffic falls by 25% in 10 years in Camden as policies in favour of sustainable transport take effect”

So we should be optimistic about being able to reduce through motor traffic in Clerkenwell Road, Theobalds Road and Bloomsbury Way. But this will require very careful planning so as to ensure it doesn’t move into any of the quiet
ways the central London Grid.

At about 9 pm, we moved on to a more informal discussion. It was positive to have so many present and so much apparent

Note on Bloomsbury Way

Cyclists will allowed into Vernon Place/Bloomsbury Way bus lane from 23 Jan. The associated roadworks will take place
on a weekend soon after –probably the first in February.The council has identified Holborn as the next big major
scheme. It is at a very early stage but the council recognises that the route needs to be improved and has allocated some

Here is a summary supplied by Andrea the day after the talk:

Some points with regard to separating motorised traffic and cycling traffic on route level:

  • Motorised traffic can be diverted well around areas that cyclists can simply cross, because distance is not such
    a problem for motorised traffic. As long as the travel time stays under a certain limit and as long as the new routes
    have a good flow, people in cars are willing to travel (much) longer distances to get from A to B.
  • The fact that the diverted routes for motorised traffic are longer gives cyclists the advantage of the shorter
    route, which makes cycling more attractive than using a car.
  • When motorised traffic is diverted around an area, that area becomes more pleasant and liveable and the available
    space can be used for people, often even without the need for separated cycle infrastructure. The traffic calmed
    areas can for instance be changed to 30km/h (18mph) zones in which cyclists and the remaining lower amount of
    motorised traffic can easily mix.
  • Where road managers do make a choice for separated cycle paths, these paths are well away from noise and air
    pollution of motorised traffic. This makes cycling even more pleasant than on a cycle path directly next to a main
  • Because traffic is unbundled there are fewer places where the different types of traffic have to interact. That
    makes it possible to make the fewer crossings multilevel within reasonable costs. This also reduces the number of
    traffic lights and thus the number of stops. That makes travel times shorter and to be able to cycle un-interrupted
    at a constant speed is very pleasant for cyclists.
  • Unbundled cycle routes can be made bi-directional in a more safe way (because of the fewer crossings). A
    bi-directional cycle path is wider than a cycle path for one direction, which makes it easier for faster cyclists to
    pass slower cyclists.
  • Unbundled cycle routes usually go through residential areas giving cyclists a better sense of social safety than
    they would have on cycle tracks on larger roads which are kept well away from homes and people.

(Please note the penultimate point)