Obstacles to Cycling in Westminster


Photo of Aldwych

Typical of the gyratory systems of the 1960s that are now largely discredited and a hostile environment for cyclists: at some point you will probably have to cross at least two lanes of fast-moving traffic. Not to mention the noise, fumes etc.

As part of the London Bus Priority network, there was a scheme to introduce a contraflow westbound bus lane in the Aldwych and to reduce the width of the parallel section of the Strand. Some of the released space would become a pedestrian area and a service road.

When the Transportation and Highways Committee discussed the scheme on 23/01/01, members delayed further progress on the scheme (and destroyed any benefit for sustainable forms of transport) by asking officers to ensure that no group of road users would be given an advantage over other groups of road users.

In the summer of 2014, the Northbank Business Improvement District carried out a study of their area and sought to start discussions with Westminster and TfL officers on the options for reviewing the current gyratory at Aldwych.

In the summer of 2015, the orthbank Business Improvement District unveiled proposals to replace the Aldwych gyratory with two-way roads and create new spaces for pedestrians and cyclists.

In the meantime, your best way to avoid the Aldwych eastbound is to use Long Acre, Great Queen Street and Lincoln's Inn Fields. Westbound is more difficult, though the Victoria Embankment is an alternative.

Blomfield Road

Picture of Blomfield Road

The one-way section of Blomfield Road between Westbourne Terrace Road and Warwick Avenue is a serious obstacle to anyone cycling from the canal towards the Edgware Road crossing. The road is wide enough for a contraflow lane, though there is a tricky bend.

Early in 2013 Westminster applied to TfL for Greeenways funding for a contraflow cycling scheme. Unfortunately their bid was unsuccessful.

Hopes were raised in spring 2014, when new traffic signal heads were installed at the Warwick Avenue junction, facing into Blomfield Road, to serve eastbound cyclists. However, the new traffic signal heads remained hooded and out of use.

In autumn 2014 the newly-installed traffic signal heads were removed, dashing hopes that this 'quick win' might soon be achieved. We understand from a meeting with Westminster City Council on 19 August 2014 that the traffic signal heads were mistakenly installed too early, before consultation with local residents had been completed. This gave local residents the impression that the proposed two-way cycling past their houses was a foregone conclusion. The traffic signal heads have been removed pending the outcome of the consultation. We understand that the Blomfield Road consultation includes discussion of what side of the carriageway eastbound cyclists should use, and that the scheme should be synchronized with two-way cycling on Delamere Terrace.

Cambridge Circus

Cambridge Circus

As far as cycling is concerned, Cambridge Circus is a hole in the cycle network between the routes through Soho and the routes through Covent Garden. A sign indicates a southbound route through West Street, but it is impossible to reach it without dismounting and using the pedestrian crossing.

We believe that a cycle route between Soho and Covent Garden can be provided around the east side of the Circus without significantly conflicting with pedestrian movements.

Unfortunately this route was not one of the ones included in the London Cycle Network Plus project. It has not therefore received much attention.

In April 2014 Westminster consulted on proposals for Cambridge Circus. Although some of the features were useful, such as allowing the right turns from Charing Cross Road (south) to Shaftesbury Avenue (east) and from Old Compton Street into Charing Cross Road, cyclists criticized them for closing Moor Street, which could provide a more direct route between Soho and Covent Garden.

Covent Garden

Tavistock Street
Tavistock Street

The traffic-clogged streets of Covent Garden lie partly in Westminster and partly in Camden.

Problems faced by cyclists in Covent Garden include:

Long Acre:
After many years of campaigning by cyclists, Westminster has now put in a contraflow cycle lane from Bow Street to Drury Lane, creating an eastbound cycle route the whole length of the street. Something similar in the other direction from Bow Street to St Martin's Lane would be really useful!
Tavistock Street:
The one-way section west of Wellington Street means that the route through Bedford Street to Leicester Square cannot be used in the reverse direction. It also blocks a possible route from Charing Cross to Drury Lane via Chandos Place and Maiden Lane.
Westminster's consultants once proposed a contraflow lane for eastbound cyclists. This would begin on the south side but cross to the north side shortly before Burleigh Street.

Delamere Terrace

Delamere Terrace

Eastbound cyclists following the Grand Union Canal into Westminster are faced with a one-way street in the opposite direction when they reach Delamere Terrace. There is, however, no sign at that end saying that the street is one-way.

As part of the London Greenways project, Westminster was allocated �35,000 in 2010-11 to create a two-way cycle route along Delamere Terrace.

A scheme to allow eastbound cycling along Delamere Terrace, designed in February 2012, has still not been implemented. The scheme would allow cyclists to share the north footway with pedestrians. The south footway and the canal towpath would continue to be used exclusively by pedestrians.

Further information

Lancaster Gate Gyratory

Like the Aldwych, this gyratory system is a relic of outdated traffic planning and highly intimidating for cyclists.

A count in July 2000 showed that 72 of the 194 eastbound cyclists passing through the area between 08:00 and 09:00 did so on the south footway of Bayswater Road in order to reach Victoria Gate into Hyde Park.

We have considered a number of solutions:

A contraflow eastbound lane along Bayswater Road
This might not tempt cyclists away from the south footway because of the need to cross Lancaster Terrace and Westbourne Terrace. And it is an expensive solution.
A cycle track along the south footway
This could lead to conflict with pedestrians near the bus stop and the park entrance and with visitors to the weekend art market.
A path through Kensington Gardens between Marlborough Gate and Victoria Gate
This might be used at excessive speed by (downhill) westbound cyclists and would not be open after dark. After several studies, the Royal Parks concluded that it would be unsafe to allow cyclists to use this route.
Converting the whole gyratory system back to two-way
This has proved an effective solution elsewhere in London, for example at Mansion House Station in the City of London. Westminster's transport commissioner, Martin Low, has said he would not be averse to reintroducing two-way working, if space could be found for the buses that currently park around the gyratory - which suggests there is surplus road capacity.

As part of the proposals for the East-West Cycle Superhighway, the section of Bayswater Road through the Lancaster Gate gyratory system is being made two-way for all vehicles, providing a safer and more direct route for eastbound cyclists. Further details (PDF)

In the meantime, cyclists heading towards Hyde Park Corner can use the two permitted paths through Kensington Gardens to avoid Lancaster Gate altogether - except after dark, when the park is closed.

Harrow Road Gyratory System

The Harrow Road Gyratory System

The Harrow Road, the railway and the canal are a formidable barrier to north-south cycle movements in the Paddington area and the gyratory systems on the Harrow Road are best avoided.

For many years there has been a legal agreement between the City of Westminster and the developer of the Goods Yard site that there should be a pedestrian and cycle route across the site between Bishop's Bridge Road and the junction of Harrow Road and Westbourne Terrace Road, where there is now a surface-level crossing.

After many years of inactivity, the Goods Yard site, now known as Paddington Central is now being developed in phases. The final phase has still to be completed, so the path does not yet reach the Harrow Road. In October 2001, the developer applied for permission to defer the design of the cycle route. Westminster Cycling Campaign and Sustrans successfully objected.

In the meantime, the canal towing-path has been improved and cyclists are now allowed to use it.

We strongly support a proposal to install traffic signals around the Harrow Road / Bishop's Bridge Road gyratory system.  As well as taming traffic, this would allow pedestrians to cross at surface level.

Parliament Square

Parliament Square

The Hansard Society's report, A Place for People – Proposals for Enhancing Visitor Engagement with Parliament's Environs, concluded that, rather than a place of national pride, this landmark area was a national disgrace. The report described the area, which attracts over 30 million visitors a year, as unwelcoming: ‘a noisy, polluted, inaccessible place, seething with traffic and pedestrians and pockmarked by fortress-like security’ It's not much fun for cyclists either.

To mark the launch of its biggest campaign ever, Love London, Go Dutch, the London Cycling Campaign published exciting new designs of Parliament Square to show how Go Dutch key principles could radically change your experience of living in London. The LCC wants to turn Parliament Square into one of the world's premier destinations, not just an unpleasant and uninviting roundabout.

As part of the East-West Cycle Superhighway, an off-road cycle track was built across the north side of the square, linking Westminster Bridge with St James's Park. A feeder lane was provided from St Margaret Street (Millbank) and Broad Sanctuary (Victoria Street). Further details (PDF) But some movements, for example Westminster Bridge to Victoria Street, are still difficult.

Pavement Cycling

 From Private Eye, 14-27 December 2001

In the minds of many people, the word associated with 'cycling' is 'pavement'.

If unauthorised cycling on the footway really is as prevalent as some people allege, then it is symptomatic of a number of problems, such as:

  • hostile conditions for cycling in the carriageway
  • the frustrating one-way systems
  • a lack of training in how to cycle safely in the carriageway

Westminster Cycling Campaign is determined to tackle all three of these problems. We therefore welcome reports of where unauthorised cycling on the footway is a particular problem, so that we can address the issues that cause it.

Victoria Station

Difficult to reach on a bike because of the gyratory system and even harder to escape from. As for parking your bike, it's likely to make you miss your train.

Land Securities plc are redeveloping the site bounded by Buckingham Palace Road / Victoria Street / Bressenden Place with a mixed development. But an opportunity has been missed to transform the road system.

The closure of the end of Wilton Road to traffic other than buses, taxis and cycles has been a small small step in the right direction.

The Mayor's Roads Task Force and TfL's Victoria Vision envisage future changes to the road network around Victoria, which could include the permanent diversion of the Inner Ring Road away from the front of Victoria Station and the introduction of two-way working on the gyratory.

Victoria Street / Storey's Gate / Great Smith Street

Westminster Abbey

A difficult junction on the route between Lambeth Bridge and St James's Park.

Southbound cyclists have a difficult right turn out of Storey's Gate.

Northbound cyclists have difficulty in reaching the advance stop line in Great Smith Street when there is a queue of traffic.

We strongly supported a proposal to install traffic signals on Broad Sanctuary to the east of Storey's Gate as part of LCN+ Route 0. Stopping the traffic at this point would not only allow cyclists to turn right more easily from Storey's Gate but also enable visitors to cross the road between Westminster Abbey and the public toilets. Unfortunately engineers concluded that the signals would be so far apart on Victoria Street - Broad Sanctuary that traffic would be delayed by an abnormally long inter-phase gap.

This junction also lies on the proposed Quietway between Fitzrovia and Pimlico (further details). But only minimal interventions were proposed ‘whilst we await the implementation of the East West Cycle Superhighway at Parliament Square’.