Amidst all the attention being drawn by the extension to Superhighway 2 along Stratford High Street, announced on Monday, I thought I’d write about another consultation in London, one which closes this Friday – the changes to Royal College Street in Camden.
This street already has a cycle track running along it; a two-way one on the western side, kerb separated from the main carriageway. The design, while adequate, is far from brilliant. It’s a little too narrow for a two-way track, and it’s not really a good idea to have a bi-directional track running across multiple side streets, even if the main road itself is one-way (this makes the track a little safer than the one in Tavistock Place, which is two-way with a two-way road, a recipe for confusion). It also peters out at the northern end, abandoning you if you wish to continue north towards Kentish Town, rather than towards Camden itself.
Nevertheless, I do find it one of the most relaxing roads to cycle on in London. Free from the hassle and stress of jostling for space with motor vehicles, I can idly pedal on my way without having to worry about taking primary, or assuming a good position, or staying out of the door zone.
The great news is that Camden are proposing to make this street even better for cycling; what looks to me like the best scheme in the UK, and getting close to best practice. In essence, the existing two-way cycle track will be turned into a wide one-way track northbound, two metres wide.
A corresponding two-metre track will be installed on the opposite side of the road, heading south. This will be achieved by narrowing the carriageway (currently approximately two vehicles wide, although there are no markings on it) down to just one lane. Parking on the street will be maintained, but placed on the outside of the cycle track.
The bus stops will remain in the road. That means when a bus is halted, motor traffic will come to a complete halt too, while bicycles and pedestrians can continue.
The other bit of good news is that this arrangement will run right through to the junction with Camden Road. At present, as I mentioned earlier, the cycle track just peters out at Georgiana Street, heading off towards Camden Town itself. Not much use if you wish to continue straight on towards Kentish Town.
If you do want to continue north on Royal College Street, you currently have to jostle for space on the road itself –
And then run the gauntlet of a two lane road, with parking on the left, as vehicles jostle for position heading up to the lights at the Camden Road junction.
This isn’t very pleasant, certainly compared to the serenity of the cycle track you have just left.
The good news is that the parking on the left will be moved over to the right, and those 2 metre wide cycle tracks will be built on both sides of the road, leaving just one bus-wide lane in the middle of the road.
The signal-controlled crossings at the junction with Georgiana Street, seen below –
This will provide a good degree of separation from motor vehicles, along with the parking bays, and will bring some extra greenery to the streetscape. The existing zebra crossings on the road will be maintained, and will continue to pass straight across the street, and the cycle tracks.
I have only a few minor concerns. Firstly, that there no details for what happens when the cycle track meets Camden Road, at a major junction at the north end of the street. This must be because Camden Road is a TfL-controlled road (and part of the TLRN), and so it would be up to them to bring about changes to that junction. Camden Council’s remit presumably runs out just short of the junction, and they’ve been forced to leave it as it currently stands.
Secondly, at the southern end of the street, a way has been found to get the southbound track across Crowndale Road, and into the continuation of the route towards King’s Cross and St Pancras. It looks – to me at least – a little fiddly, and could do with some tidying up.
The existing induction loops on the track will be moved to the new southbound track; I have to say these currently work quite well, and if you position your bike over the loop, the lights change in your favour reasonably quickly. I hope this continues to happen.
Thirdly, the tracks – while running behind the bus stop itself – will continue to run in front of the bus shelter (see the artist’s illustration above). It might have made more sense to route the track behind the shelter, where there is space, than to have cyclists passing between the shelter and the bus stop itself (this is what TfL are now proposing on Superhighway 2). In mitigation, only one bus route runs along Royal College Street, and there is not a great deal of bus passenger movement here, so this may not be the greatest problem, at least on this street.
Finally, a very minor quibble – I’d like see 45° kerbs between the pavement and the cycle track. These are better for pedestrians – particularly those with mobility problems – and for cyclists. It’s much more difficult to crash your bike if you hit a 45° kerb, and you’re also much less likely to trip over one if you’re walking.
All in all, though, this looks like a fantastic scheme, and I would urge you to write to Camden Council to support it, even if (like me) you are only an occasional user of the street. They’ve done a fantastic job.
Full details of the consultation are here [pdf]. You can fill in the form and post it, but it must be received by Friday. The better alternative is to email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.