Laura Laker May 16 2017
A major London route, with 2.5 times as many cyclists in rush hour as all other vehicles put together, according to one count, could be transformed from a place people “literally run to get away from” into a showcase Healthy Street, according to campaigners.
Dubbed the London Boulevard by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) for its strategic importance for cycling, the 1.9 mile stretch of road from Old Street to Tottenham Court Road, via Clerkenwell Road and Theobalds Road, sees 1152 cyclists per hour in the morning peak according to one count, and yet lacks any protected cycling infrastructure, beyond painted cycle lanes. According to a separate traffic count in 2013 cycles are 64 per cent of all vehicles in the morning peak.
The LCC says stepped cycle tracks along its length, as well as improved pavements, seating and trees, are achievable without significantly impacting motor traffic flows, and will release designs showing this imminently. A further option, they say, is to ban all traffic but buses and cycles from the route.
Camden Council, which owns a substantial part of the route, say although it is a priority it may be some time before improvements are made, and designs would need to carefully manage high traffic flows in a constrained space. Islington Council says it is working on a plan for the popular cycling and walking route, which will be released this year.
The LCC’s Simon Munk said: “You have got some of the highest cycling flows in London outside the cycle superhighways; well over a thousand cyclists at peak on some sections, and vastly outnumbering motor vehicles.”
Chaotic route could be iconic London boulevard
However, he adds: “It’s chaos at the moment, van drivers are trying not to hit cyclists, moped drivers and cyclists are trying not to get hit. Separated space would be better for everyone in terms of enabling people to get through.”
The proposed east-west route will run from Old Street Roundabout to Tottenham Court Road via Clerkenwell Road, Theobalds Road, Bloomsbury Way and New Oxford Street – a distance of 1.9 miles (see map below).
The route has long been one of London’s busiest for cycling but for LCC the Give a Beep campaign highlighted just how much cyclists were suffering to use it. Each “beep” from cyclists using specially designed bells to highlight places they feel uncomfortable, goes onto a digital map, and Munk says stressed riders were lighting the route up “like a Christmas tree”.
“If you look at that map it’s a huge scar across London,” he said. “It is a key desire line for cyclists, which is really stressful to ride and actually very dangerous.”
“We have some of these junctions, they have among the worst collision rates that I have seen in London. Cyclists are being swiped left, right and centre.”
In 2015 11 people were seriously injured cycling, and two killed, on the route’s length.