Sunday, 19 October 2014

While focus is on the Mayor's Superhighways, Camden plans to double its length of segregated track

I wrote a post about two years ago entitled While Boris so far fails to 'Go Dutch', Camden quietly gets on with it. This is something of a 'second round' of that. Today, there is somewhat more sign of Boris Johnson trying to make a permanent mark on London before his mayoral term ends in May 2016 by building some good-quality cycle routes. Though what he will have achieved still looks likely to fall well short of the commitments he made before the 2012 election in response to London Cycling Campaign's Love London, Go Dutch campaign, in particular, he will not have completed the Cycle Superhighway programme to an adequate 'Dutch' standard on all its routes (nowhere near, in fact), the plans for the East-West and North-South superhighways are a substantial advance and have generally been welcomed by campaigners, business, the public and the media, while plans for Cycle Superhighway 5 in south-west London and the long-demanded upgrade to Cycle Superhighway 2 in east London look pretty good as well.

I'm planning to make a more general assessment of where the Mayor's Cycling Vision has got to, 18 months after it was announced, in another post, although attempts to write that keep getting overtaken by relevant events. However, I will to draw your attention here to the fact that, as coverage has been concentrated on the plans above, the Borough of Camden, pioneers of the on-street segregated or semi-segregated cycle track in London, have been continuing to 'get on with it' in a manner that, though it is not above criticism, must be said is not being replicated by any other borough.

When the rebuild of the Royal College Street cycle track was announced in 2012, replacing the two-way track on one side of the street, which had had an intractable collision problem at two junctions, with two one-way tracks, I supported the scheme because it was linked to a commitment to extend the track northwards to Kentish Town Road, making it go from 'somewhere to somewhere', to adapt the words of Jon Snow when he opened the track in 2000. Since then, this has developed into a plan to extend the route southwards as well, down Pancras Road and Midland road, forming a more main road and direct alternative route to the Kings Cross area than the existing back-strteet Somers Town Route (one of the oldest cycle routes in London, dating from Ken Livingstone's GLC era, before 1986).

The consultation on the northern extension closed earlier this month, and the response from Camden Cycling Campaign can be seen here. The gist of the scheme is that Royal College street will become two-way for bikes all the way, the bike space generally protected by rubber armadillos, and in places by car parking on the east side as well. The cycle tracks bypass bus stops and loading bays on the inside. The southbound approach to the Camden Road junction is not protected, and this is a concern, though the northbound is protected.

The southern extension to the route is now being consulted on. The consultation runs to 14 november, and I encourage people to respond. This will be an enormously important pice of infrastructure, linking residential areas in Camden with the big employment growth areas around Kings Cross and St Pancras, with the new Google headquarters, the Francis Crick Institute opening in 2015, and much else. Argent, the developers of Kings Cross Central, say that their site will eventually be home to some 30,000 office workers, 5,000 students and 7,000 residents. It looks as if, at last, we have some cycle route planning in London that is coming at exactly the right time. This route will link southwards into the existing east-west Seven Stations Link segregated cycle route across Bloomsbury   (which itself needs major improvement of course, to cope with the high number of cyclists it already attracts), and that will link to the Mayor's North-South Superhighway at Clerkenwell. We will have the beginnings of a functioning, continuous segregated or semi-segregated network on the streets of central and north London.

It is of credit to officers at Camden that they are conceiving part of this Royal College Street route extension also as the beginning of an east-west route across Camden Town. Ultimately this should run along Crowndale Road to Oakley Square and Hampstead Road. It is not too much of a stretch to suggest that the stage after that should be the construction cycle tracks on Hampstead Road to connect with Tottenham Court Road. This is consistent with the overall Central London Cycle Grid plan.

The part of the Pancras Road plan that would also form the beginnings of the East-West Camden Town route. I would oppose the advance stop areas, which suggest confused thinking about where cyclists should be on the road. I also think it would be better if the north/west-bound route was on Goldington Crescent, merged with the Somers Town Route, approaching Royal College street via the existing bicycle signals.
More southerly section of Pancras Road scheme. The bus stop bypass looks a bit substandard, and having been set back behind the stop, the cycle track would be better continuing its setback across the Chenies Place junction.
The overall network is being developed in stages, and the current consultation goes down south to the Pancras Road / Midland road junction (the tunnel under the railway lines). This junction was consulted on in August, along with a plan for a 2m wide kerb-segregated cycle track on Midland Road northbound (in the contraflow direction), from Brill Place. This plan showed southbound cycling on Midland Road with taxis segregated to the left (there are lots of these serving St Pancras) but only a painted advisory cycle lane separating cyclists from the general (heavy) traffic flow. The Camden Cycling Campaign response called rightly for this design to be improved.

Curious proposal for Midland Road: the caption misleadingly suggests there are 'kerb segregated cycle lanes' on both sides, but the two sides are actually the opposite of one another. Also the central cycle lane on Pancras Road (section under the bridge) is a poor solution. (North is to the left)
The plans for Pancras Road, currently being consulted on, are for armadillo-separated lanes on both sides, which will be 2m wide for most of their length (actually 2.5m wide for 105m, 2m wide for 375m, 1.5–2m wide for 34m, and 1.5m wide for 30m). There is no parking on this stretch, but there will be bypasses for the bus stops.

The existing Royal College Street cycle tracks seem to be popular and working well, except that the planters have in many cases been bashed out of shape by motor vehicles colliding with them. Camden are looking to find out specifically why this occurs. There are no planters planned in the future schemes. Camden quote, from their surveys, a doubling of cycle traffic on Royal College Street since the rebuild of last year.

If all goes well, by the end of this year Camden should have almost doubled its length of segregated or semi-segregated cycle track compared to 2012, and that means they will have increased the total length of on-street cycle track in London by a considerable fraction, as the other boroughs have little. This is being done for very small sums of money compared to what will be absorbed by the Superhighways – hundreds of thousands of pounds rather than millions. It will be paid for out of the TfL's Quietways funding for the Central London Grid.

Whatever detailed comments and criticisms of Camden's current plans may be made, and I am making a few as you can see, and whether the schemes meet the optimum Go Dutch standard, which they probably do not, it needs to be strongly noted that of all the boroughs involved in the Central London Grid, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Camden, Islington, Hackney, Lambeth Southwark and the City, only Camden is making clear and rapid progress towards realising its section of the Grid to any useful standard at all, genuinely planning for broad-demographic 'eight to eighty' cycling on a grid of major and semi-major roads. For this, Camden councillors and officers deserve credit. I urge you to write in support of the Pancras Road scheme.

TfL's indicative map of Central London Cycle Grid routes, Camden section


  1. Nice to see the Camden councillors and officers getting credit for their vision and the effective work they have been doing.

  2. Great post. Thanks for alerting all of us to this. As a recent students at the new King's Cross site I've just responded in support of the protected cycle tracks and asking them to extend them all the way along York Way.