Cycling in London calling… would Ireland please answer? And should it?

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: the scale of cycling infrastructure London is probably not a million miles away from Dublin but — unlike Dublin — London is making more progress stitching together a network.

Like Dublin, the network in Dublin is still patchy at best. But London has edged ahead.

They have a mix of Cycle Super Highways (CS routes) and Quietways (Q routes), the former are generally but not always on main roads and the latter are on backstreets.

CS3, the east-west cross city route, between the Docklands and Hyde Park seems to be the longest, most continuous route of high-quality segregation.

CS3 is mainly a two-way cycle path along the embankment or close to it and then it routes past Big Ben and into Hyde Park.

With a few hours to burn and after leaving my bag at St Pancras, I rented a TLF Santander Cycle (the London version of DublinBikes) and started cycling on backstreets south towards the Embankment section of CS3.

While crossing Euston Road from St Pancras to the to the docking station, the first thing I noticed (beside the mad traffic on the main road) was an “except cyclists” sign beside the no entry sign.

Exceptions to no entry streets are all over the place and offer permeability and more importantly London is big on “filtered permeability”, with streets blocked off to rat running with bollards only allowing people walking and cycling past.

There was a good deal of filtered permeability just south of Euston Road and shortly I spotted Q2 and, looking at Route Plan Roll, I decided to cycle northeast on Q2 and back towards the embankment on CS1.

Here’s a rough outline of the route I cycled using an extract from the Route Plan Roll map:

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Q2 is mostly impressive and has low-traffic but I cycled it at a quiet enough time and some bits were busy enough even then and would only get worse at rush hour. When it is properly “filtered” it’s a joy.

CS1 was mostly what I’d image to a poor quietway to be like — some nice bits but overall not a great feeling of safety as it’s too busy even in the mid afternoon.

Then my half-baked plan brought me to northern section of CS6, which is a mix of very heavy and then light segregation, some bits with parking inside the raised cycle track (which I’ve only ever seen in the Dutch town of Wassenaar).

This continues over south side of the city and links to CS3 — I cycled most of its length towards the docklands and the back to Hyde Park.

CS3 isn’t perfect, for a city’s main spine and flagship route — there’s some narrowness and small things like some sections with way too many traffic lights. But overall it’s a thing of beauty. A cycle route in the middle of a city which a five year old can safely cycle on.

People — from commuters to tourists to teenagers — fully segregated from the many large construction trucks and large buses on the road beside it.

London needs more of what it has and it is slowly building it (note: campaigners there also say progress is too slow and the mayor is not delivering fast enough, and only delivering sections).

Dublin can learn a lot of London’s lead — London proves that two-way cycle paths can be used as part of the mix (as too do the most cycling-friendly Dutch cities who continue to build such), and Quietways have a place as long as the will is there to filter out all but very local traffic or add segregation on sections where needed.

Dublin seemed to be ahead of London for some time but London is pulling ahead. As Dublin only now gears up to build cycle paths started to be planned the best part of a decade ago, the question is: can Dublin overtake London? Does it have the will? Can it work — like Dutch cities — without a directly elected mayor and make progress?

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

2 Comments

  1. I think you need to be careful judging by a quick visit. After all the Copenhagenize guy seemed to think Dublin was great after spending a few hours here. There’s no doubt that London has some good points regarding cycling but there are still people whining about quietways using pretty much the exact same feeble reasons as here and roads which are cycling hostile.

    I’ve never seen so many of those pedestrian herding fences along the kerb as I did in London. Those things serve purely to ensure that motorists can go faster at the expense of inconveniencing pedestrians and endangering cyclists.

    There’s a good blog on transport issues in the UK which deals with London a lot.
    https://therantyhighwayman.blogspot.com/

  2. @Eric — to be very clear: London is around the same as Dublin or slightly better — I’m not saying it’s good or great overall, just that they are pushing faster than us in starting to develop a network.

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