Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The worst cycling streets in London (Part 1)

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while will know I'm a pretty upbeat person. "Gratingly chirpy", even, if you're a somewhat misanthropic current affairs journalist. Most of the time I spend with Trusty is truly pleasant, discovering the array of wonderful routes in this great city. Many of the best cycling streets, especially if they involve a hill, leave me beaming and wanting to high five pedestrians. However, there are some days, and some streets, which instead leave me crying, shaking and wanting to punch someone. Probably the miscyclopist who designed the road.

Regent's Street is possibly the worst example. Near by Oxford Street is bad, filled with ugly shop-fronts and clogged with dozy shoppers and taxis, but it is at least single lane. Regent's Street should be much better. It is beautiful, a long, wide curve lined with stunning white terraces, a giant version of Bath's Royal Crescent. It should be an absolute pleasure, up there on the 'best cycling streets' list, but instead it is a death trap.

Every bus route in central London seems to run down Regent's Street. There are two, and sometimes three lanes of the huge red predators, weaving and swaying in a complicated dance between stops. They are my very own Red Scare. I always feel like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom, darting between falling axes and flamethrowers as they pull out and pull in with equanimity. There is no cycle lane in which to take even fleeting sanctuary. Part of the trouble is that there isn't really any other traffic to slow the buses down, so they actually pick up quite a lot of speed. Perhaps the drivers sense the slow crawl of Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square approaching and just want to let the throttle out while they can. I really wish they wouldn't. I really wish they'd use their mirrors. I really wish I wasn't too stubborn to get off and walk rather than risking my life. And I really wish someone would sort it out. Because the genteel shops and charming architecture are going to be no consolation for the tourists who witness one of us splattered like strawberry jam across all three of those lethal lanes.


  1. Regent's Street is a very scary place for a cyclist...anyone for that matter. I sometimes find myself wedged between two towering red buses and a long row of black cabs...and none of them want to give way to me! Thankfully I don't cycle down there that often.

    No no...I have Shepherd's Bush to contend with on a much more regular basis...basically one giant roundabout and another smaller uphill roundabout (where motorway(ish) meets normal road)'s all crazy.
    People like to hang out on the actual road in Shepherd's Bush...right in the bus lane and sometimes further in the actual middle of the road.
    Joggers also take a liking for jogging on the road too...
    People avoid the pavement like the plague in Shepherd's Bush...
    Maybe it's the prospect of being mugged or getting caught up in a fight...who knows...*sigh*
    The worst part is that the pedestrians on the road seem very ambivalent to approaching cyclists...anything else and they will quickly dash out of the way or squeal...but oncoming cyclist...doesn't even seem to register with them!
    Thankfully I'm not the only one whose noticed this problem...I thought I was going crazy for some time until someone overhead my conversation and agreed with me!

  2. The West End in general is terrible for cycling. Tried to go from Aldwych to Oxford Circus on a Boris Bike during the summer and I it's a nightmare to navigate your way through.

    Not had to cycle there yet, but I would say Elephant & Castle would be the worse place to cycle around in London.

  3. But they've put in a detour at E and C which is brilliant- much less death-defying!

  4. Whitechapel High Street. I find it much more dangerous and stressful than even Elephant and Castle roundabout. WHS is potholey, too narrow for two lanes, rude boy drivers, crammed with pedestrians darting out of the market and constant ambulances. I guess the latter two can't be helped, but that stretch really needs a rethink.