Camden Council has a relatively dense cycle route network with around one cycle route every 4-6 blocks in the southern half of the borough (Kentish Town & southwards), to one route per 8-10 blocks in the northern half. The network has two grades of cycle route:
- those belonging to the London Cycle Network (LCN) which is funded by central government and which are supposed to link key centres in Camden and neighbouring boroughs,
- those on the Local Camden Cycle Network (LCCN) which are intended provide linking routes with the LCN and local centres, and will be funded as part of local safety or other schemes (but the council acknowledges that the timescale for implementation is likely to be several decades due to lack of available funding).
A Brief History
Back in 1979 LCC started work on an original plan for a Strategic Cycle Network (SCN) for London to encourage more people to use a bicycle to get around – if you like, a cyclists’ motorway network for our capital city. The Greater London Council (GLC) had the bright idea of forming a Cycle Project Team whose task was to build it, and over 6 years managed to implement 50 schemes.
One of the schemes to escape from the drawing board, before the Tories abolished the GLC in 1986, was part of the Somers Town cycle route which has a heavily used signalled two way cycle crossing at Crowndale Road, and a 50 metre section of two segregated cycle route 1/2 km further north up Royal College Street. Unfortunately the circuitous, tricky and unsignposted route required to reach the latter scheme from the north, and its splendid isolation from the surrounding cycle network means it remains to this day a pretty virginal facility.
In the late 1980’s the London Cycling Campaign resurrected the concept of the SCN, and put in a mammoth amount off effort into drawing up a Londonwide map showing local centres and the consequential desire lines showing where significant numbers cyclists would want to travel between. It then posted out this conceptual map to the 33 Borough Coordinators, who all did their best to use their local knowledge of the road system to turn this theoretical concept into a real map using real roads.
After 2 years strenuous lobbying of the government for money to fund the network, the London Cycle Network was finally given the go-ahead in March 1990, with a nominal £45m funding spread over 7 years.
From Camden’s route network’s origins in the late 1980’s as the theoretical LCN comprising a series of
straight lines linking local centres and longer distance routes from other boroughs, and the original mapping of concept to physical road network, it has undergone a series of ad-hoc modifications and additions, which has led to the strategic nature of the network becoming blurred.
In 1994 the Camden Cycling Campaign got fed up that the network remained essentially a paper concept, as barely a single cycle facility had been actually been built in the borough for a decade. It undertook considerable research and submitted a series of modifications to the LCN in order to take account of one way streets, hazardous road systems and a series of big holes and hanging links (ie where routes did not join up). Unfortunately at the time the local political scene (unduly influenced by a few heavyweight
old-guard councillors) was pretty hostile to cyclists, and Camden Council’s Environment Committee rejected them all early in 1996.
But thanks to an officer’s hard work, many routes were nominally salvaged and accepted as forming the beginnings a new Local Camden Cycle Network. The LCCN remains little more than a twinkle in the planner’s eye at present, as no funding has been identified for it, and no work has been put into developing it from its conception as the bits of the LCN that were nearly thrown away.
Since then we have seen a considerable number of cycle facilities (such as advance stop lines) and a couple of complete LCN routes ‘implemented’; the most notable of the these is the east/west route running to the south of Euston Road. Whilst of the better LCN routes in London, and of some benefit to existing cyclists, road space pressures means that parking and poor driving standards degrade the effectiveness of the route. Thus under the guidance of Campaign member Paul Gannon, the physically segregated Seven Stations Link between Paddington & Liverpool Street was proposed, and is currently (Feb 1999) the subject of a consultant’s feasability study for the Camden section.
Current Network Status
So whilst being denser than most London boroughs cycle networks, Camden’s has a series of
holes partly due to the possibility of the LCCN not being built in our lifetime, and also due to routes running along one way streets where there are no contraflow facilities; in some of these cases it is unlikely that contraflow facilities will ever be built due to factors such as the combination of car parking demand and insufficient street width.
A further problem exists, which is intrinsically down to route quality. In common with most borough’s, Camden Council maintains that an LCN route is
implemented when it has been through the design/consult/build phases.
This blind adherence to procedural bureaucracy instead of commonsense led to an outcry from the Campaign during 1997/98 when the 1.5 km West Hampstead LCN route along Mill Lane was implemented at a total cost of £40,000. The facilities which actually appeared on the ground comprised 10 metres of advisory cycle lane and 3 metre section of mandatory lane in the centre of the road to help cyclists negotiate a junction. 95% of the cost was acounted for by the consultant’s fees and a public consultation after which the council supported residents and businesses
right to continue parking along the road above the provision of cycle lanes. However the council did acknowledge that this outcome was not acceptable, and that
something had to be done for future schemes.
The process behind the design of LCN routes again fell under scrutiny early in 1999 after Tufnell Park to Covent Garden LCN route plans put out to consultation proved to be so inadequate that the Campaign felt it had no alternative but to object on the basis of it being a waste of government funds and a scheme that would bring facilities for cyclists into disrepute. One of the outcomes is that the route was put on hold pending the Campaign’s review of the routing and facilities required.
On a positive note, the council is now actively encouraging the Campaign to submit designs for cycle facilities.
implemented route quality varies from those such as the aforementioned Mill Lane route where facilities are minimal, ineffective, and do not address the most basic of hazards that cyclists face, through to some of London’s better routes such as the popular main north/south route through Somers Town (running north from the new British Library), which runs along relatively quiet streets, and has some dedicated cycle facilities.
So whilst implementation quality in the borough is improving, most still fall well below what even the averagely competant cyclist would consider to be reasonably safe, let alone someone new to cycling. As the council has a target of doubling cycle use by 2002 for 1997 levels, the public’s perception of the network’s attractiveness & safety must be a key consideration when setting adequate design standards.
The Campaign believes that it is important to revisit the original principles behind the LCN (see LCC’s
Guiding Principles for LCN), and embark on a review of the routing and general network status. We intend to grade all of the
implemented routes, with a view to highlighting where additional facilities are required.
As the first step in the process, we have produced a map below of the borough and the
theoretical LCN which indicates what we consider to be primary & secondary trip attractors within, and up to 1-2 km outside of, Camden, and the resulting ‘desire lines. The Seven Stations Link route is also shown as we expect this to be a primary corridor for cyclists, which due to the higher than normal standard of protection should act as an important attractor for cycle trips.