Friday Facility no.8 – Wellesley Road, Croydon

The short cycle lane on Wellesley Road in Croydon is possibly one of the worst, and most dangerous, facilities I have encountered. It’s extraordinarily negligent and thoughtless, even by the standards of the mindless crap that gets put on our streets.

The road itself is a rather unpleasant dual carriageway, with bus lanes that appear and disappear, apparently at random. As I trundled southbound on my Brompton, I eventually spotted the safe refuge of a cycle lane, that appeared to be protected by a kerb, just as the road started to disappear into the Croydon Underpass.

Fantastic! Except…

It comes to a stop after a few yards. Where do you go at the end of it?

You can’t cross the road. It’s walled off to you along it’s entire length (about which more below). You can’t turn left – that’s TRAMS ONLY. So your only option is to wobble across and rejoin the main carriageway, around an impossibly tight left turn, just at the point that vehicles are starting to scream down into the underpass.

You can then exit from the road again, into the bus lane, only ten yards further along down the road.

The lack of thought here is simply incredible. It’s almost as if the ‘designers’ have actually gone out of their way to put cyclists into danger; staggeringly, they have managed to install something that is worse than the absurdly dangerous u-bend ‘facility’ that was here before -

According to that site, 12 cyclists have been injured by catching their wheels in the tramlines – presumably because they didn’t fancy going anywhere near the main carriageway, and were cutting the corner, across the tramlines at too shallow an angle.

The choice is now even more stark.

Here, youtuber SkrzypczykBass makes an illegal turn onto the tram lines.

I don’t blame him for not taking the ‘legal’ route into the bus lane, and risking the tram lines. Of course, the safest approach, by far, is to avoid the entire thing altogether, and just stay on the unpleasant road, before joining the bus lane. I think that speaks volumes about the quality of this facility.

Incidentally, Wellesley Road itself is an appallingly hostile environment, both for bicycles, and pedestrians. You find charming signs like this on the railings in the centre of the carriageway -

People are dying in their attempts to cross the road. Instead of making it easier for them to do so, by actually putting in surface crossings and slowing vehicles, this is the response.

There are no surface crossings along this road, as far as the eye can see. Only a couple of miserable subways.

And just beyond those buildings in the far distance – after only one or two side roads – this enormous urban motorway suddenly becomes… an ordinary looking road.

Walk a few hundred yards south from this point, though, and it expands into a horrible behemoth, that is impossible to cross on foot. For no apparent reason; except, perhaps, that in the 1960s, this is what roads were supposed to look like.

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12 Responses to Friday Facility no.8 – Wellesley Road, Croydon

  1. mediumspiny says:

    I used to cycle through this underpass in the 1970s on my way to school (on a 64″ fixed gear). Besides changing the slip roads to public transport only, it doesn’t seem to have changed much. It was always an urban motorway and cut the shoppers in the Whitgift Centre off from the East Croydon station side. And, as far as I remember, the sign saying you would be killed if you tried to cross was already there in the 70s.

    At one end it narrowed down to one lane just in front of West Croydon bus station (I think that this has been moved now). Cars coming out from next to the station had to accelerate fast to get into the traffic stream and negotiating the cars and buses pulling out was always a bit hair-raising. I have the unpleasant memory of being hit from behind by a car doing just that, not once but twice. I went up on the front wheel the first time that he hit me, but managed to control the bike. He then hit me again and the bike went under the wheels of the car, bending the frame. | was unhurt but when my father arrived to pick me up the driver complained that I had used foul language towards him.

    One thing that seems strange to me is that there is room for both a bus lane and a tram lane but no room for a cycle lane. Given how few trams and buses there are I cannot see why they could not share. I am sure, however, that if you asked a Croydon Borough Council town planner that they would tell you that this was impossible for some vague and entirely unconvincing reason.

    So, this road has been dangerous for cyclists for at least 40 years and the attitude of drivers towards cyclists has not changed in that time either. Without the political will to change, Croydon will always remain car-centric and cycling will be marginalised and dangerous there.

  2. This is the kind of road that springs to mind whenever people say that London’s roads are “just not wide enough” for proper segregated bike lanes. There’s absolutely no reason why a road like this couldn’t accommodate cycle lanes on either side; and surface level crossings seem like a no-brainer. If people are trying to cross the road where there aren’t crossings, that should be a signal to build them, not to persist in trying to funnel them into subways and cattle pens!

  3. Gaz says:

    Did you get a chace to look at the rest of Croydon and how to cross the town centre from north to south or south to north?
    It is a very tricky thing to do and one which I must do daily.
    If i’m feeling up to it then I will cycle down wellesley road, but it’s not an easy thing to do, speeds of near 30mph are required just to try and keep control of a lane!
    Other options are to cycle through the town centre, not really possible from south to north without dismounting or take to roman road, which is just as bad!

    A massive issue with cycling in croydon is the tram lines. nearly every junction with them is a death trap. just look at Tamworth road (which is probably the way to get from south to north) it has this nasty angled tram lines (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=croydon&hl=en&ll=51.374147,-0.105553&spn=0.003168,0.008315&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=12.292461,34.057617&vpsrc=6&hnear=Croydon,+Greater+London,+United+Kingdom&t=m&z=17&layer=c&cbll=51.374147,-0.105553&panoid=BHQ08RHcaiEBkr8yUSWYQQ&cbp=12,31.07,,0,19.51) and then look further up where you are not allowed to use the bus lane and must pass through the tram stop, something i never do on my 23mm tyres (http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=croydon&hl=en&ll=51.375236,-0.104563&spn=0.003168,0.008315&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=12.292461,34.057617&vpsrc=6&hnear=Croydon,+Greater+London,+United+Kingdom&t=m&z=17&layer=c&cbll=51.375414,-0.10431&panoid=Qo1HM7QmRWeAgpn-N-giig&cbp=12,14.93,,0,17.65)

    It’s funny how it’s not really something I have thought about, i’ve done most of my cycling in croydon and it’s just something you are used to. But since you have pointed it out, it very much is a 1960/70’s town (that is when the infrastructure was last updated) with lots of urban motorways.

    • It’s especially odd that you should be forced to negotiate the tram lines, instead of using the bus lane, when on Wellesley Road precisely the opposite situation applies!

      I didn’t see too much of Croydon – I was cycling to Ikea and back, which was not an especially enjoyable experience, particularly around Ikea itself, where the roads are not exactly designed for bicycles.

      Incidentally, I chose Wellesley Road instead of Roman Way, which looks terrifying if you are attempting it on a Brompton. I don’t think either is a particularly good option though.

      • If you want fun negotiating tram lines have a look at the turn near “No.1 Croydon” (the old NLA Tower) by East Croydon station heading towards Addiscombe Road – you have to cross the tram lines at a very awkward angle to get into the cycle lane then further up by Lebanon Road you have to cross again them again as their isn’t enough room between the tram platform and lines.

  4. Timoohz says:

    It looks like there should be a similar cycle path cut through the traffic island between the tram line and the bus lane. If it was there, then the existing path would make sense.

    Have you seen any plans for this road? Was the traffic island built before the cycle path was put in? Because I wonder if this is half-planned or just half-built? Did the architect draw a cycle lane in the traffic island but the road builders botched the job and ‘forgot’ to build it? Or did the architect to ‘forget’ to think where the cyclists would go next?

    And why did they put lowered kerbs on the traffic island and then put fences to block them? Doesn’t make any sense. Streetview at http://g.co/maps/hkrxm shows a closer view of the fence.

  5. Mark Strong says:

    How could you write about this bit of Croydon without mentioning DIngwall Rd (parallel to Wellesley Rd, to the east) – proud winner of the narrowest cycle lanes in London competition. See http://g.co/maps/ekqa6. Note also the misleading “Bus lane” marking (no mention of cycles).

    Imagine an outer white line added to double yellow lines at the same spacing. No, you don’t need to imagine it actually, just turn around through 180 degrees.

  6. Pingback: Croydon’s Urban Motorways | Croydon Cyclist

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