Friday Facility no.10 – Ampton Street, Camden

The segregated cycle track along Tavistock Place in Camden often gets a lot of attention – it’s one of the few examples of separated provision for cyclists in London of any length. It is not adequate in width, nor is it helpful that the two-way track runs alongside a two-way carriageway. These are flaws that the advocates of the path never wanted, and that were forced upon them. It’s worth reading this post by David Arditti, which sets out the background, most notably, the original plan to convert the road into a one-way street, with a two-way track alongside it. This would have allowed the track to be far wider, and would have eliminated the more dangerous turning conflicts.

I’m interested here in the continuation of that route, eastbound, as it heads across Gray’s Inn Road, into the residential Ampton Street. You can see the route below.

Importantly, this is a journey that you can only make on foot, or by bicycle, because the entrance to Ampton Street at the junction with Gray’s Inn Road is closed off to motor vehicles. Looking west from Ampton Street, towards Gray’s Inn Road –

Similarly, the eastern end of Ampton Street is also closed off to vehicles. Below, we are looking west into Ampton Street, from Cubitt Street –

The only way you can get a motor vehicle into Ampton Street, therefore, is via Frederick Street to the north, turning into Ampton Place.

Both these streets have become a dead-end for motor vehicles – and consequently the only vehicles using them will be those gaining access to the residences on them.

For this reason, it feels very safe to cycle on this short stretch of street – you will very rarely encounter a (moving) vehicle along it. This is a form of segregation rather different to that of the cycle path on Tavistock Place, but just as effective in making the street seem safe to use by bicycle.

You also have a fun little path to use at the eastern end, which wiggles past a small piece of park that has been constructed on what was once the roadway.

The street is quiet, too. You can hear birds singing, even at the start of the rush hour, when the video below was taken. (Note the total absence of moving vehicles.)

I expect the houses here are worth considerably more than they would be if this was a road fully open to motor vehicles.

Despite the lack of this form of traffic, the street is not ‘quiet’ in the sense of lacking busyness, because as you can see, there are plenty of people walking and cycling through it, which gives enough activity to make it feel subjectively safe.

We can close roads without them becoming stagnant – we just need to do it in the right way.

(There is some good background here on how the eastern end of the street was opened to bicycles as part of the London Cycle Network, and how the changes were consulted upon with local residents.)

This entry was posted in Friday facility, Infrastructure, London, Safety, Street closures. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Friday Facility no.10 – Ampton Street, Camden

  1. It’s like a tiny piece of a Dutch “homezone” in Central London🙂

  2. We’ll be visiting it on the Infrastructure Safari today, Friday 27 Jan 2012. Meet 18:15 forecourt of Euston Station, by the statue of Robert Stephenson, for a 2 hour ride round the best cycle infrastructure of central London.

  3. You mean you found a “Friday Facility” that isn’t “good” enough to be Cycle Facility of the Month?

  4. Pingback: Cycling in London – Assorted Links 29/01/2012 « Cycling Intelligence

  5. Paul M says:

    Blocking a road to motor traffic somewhere along its length, not necessarily at one end but perhaps in the middle – is I understand one way of achieving “filtered permeability”. Vehicles can access homes or offices in the relevant streets but they can’t barrel through them as a rat-run. It doesn’t make them traffic free but is is a fairly effective calming measure.

    There are some quite good examples in the City of London, such as St Andrews Hill, Blackfriars Lane, and Breams Buildings – the first two bollarded in the middle, the third closed at its western end with a seating area and a hire bike dock.

    Gresham Street, which runs parallel to Cheapside to its north, was from 1993 onwards closed to traffic entering from the west. This closure was temporarily reversed under pressure from the LTDA to relieve traffic which could no longer use Cheapside while the works were underway. The original closure was for thre “Ring of Steel” (funny how sometimes terrorism can be our friend!) but was retained after the entrance point was moved north to Aldersgate.

    Now, under further pressure from LTDA but also I understand from members of the City Corporation, who presumably find this a more convenient way to drive to Guildhall, there is talk of reopening it permanently after a trial. Cyclists get a consolation prize in the form of an as-yet to be tested shared-use access from Angel Street against the gyratory traffic flow to Gresham St..

    Objections have been raised. If the trial goes like the Boris bus route motorbike trial, hopefully there will be plenty of objections when the mesure is made permanent.

  6. I cycled that route via Regent Square and then down Cubitt Street at the end of Ampton Street just over a week ago! (Exclamation mark because I live in Newcastle – remarks about what a small world it is to follow…)

    I’m a huge fan of this method of traffic reduction – a few bollards are all it takes to turn a rat-run into a really civilised space. The work done in Ampton Street is just lovely… my only criticism would be that the prettily-landscaped wavy bike path isn’t wide enough, and you end up having to slow right down as a result.

    But maybe that was the point – calming of all traffic!

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