Driving’s hard enough, says CRASH

Back in October last year, Camden asked locals what they thought of some changes to our streets. The most controversial was the provision of “cycle permeability“. In other words, allowing cyclists to pedal the wrong way up one-way streets. Not all one-way streets were included; some, such as Broadhurst Gardens, were considered unsuitable. But many of the quieter residential streets, especially around the Gardens area of South Hampstead were part of the plans.

There were 76 replies to the consultation [pdf], 21 positive, 37 netural and 18 objections. Camden made a couple of tweaks to the plans, but otherwise decided to go ahead. Fairhazel Gardens has had such a system in place for more than 10 years, so one assumes that both the council and cycling lobby groups have sufficient data to make meaningful recommendations. Indeed, looking at a map of pedestrian and cyclist accidents in London from 2000-2010, there wasn’t a single reported bike accident (or pedestrian accident) on Fairhazel Gardens during that period.

Fairhazel Gardens has had contraflow cycling for years

However, South Hampstead Residents’ Association (appropriately, in this case, named CRASH) is not happy. At this late stage, it is appealing for people to write to Camden expressing their horror at this scheme. Their argument is that it is unsafe for cyclists and other road users (the scheme was initially proposed [pdf] by Camden Cyclists). Crash’s argument includes this gem of a debating point (original emphasis):

“You will not only have to keep an eye on your rear mirror and side mirror for cyclists on your left, as usual, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, look forwards and in your right hand mirror for a cyclist on your right”

Imagine having to look forward when driving!

In other words, drivers would have to behave as they would on a normal road – checking both side mirrors and their rear-view mirror, as well as keeping an eye on the road ahead. Or as they have been doing on one-way stretches of Fairhazel Gardens for many years already.

Is there a safety risk? Well, cars should be driving slowly anyway on these residential streets. It’s also up to cyclists to ride responsibly and err on the side of caution (and use lights when it’s dark). But to my mind it doesn’t seem to be beyond the wit of man to accommdate such a thing, even if drivers do occasionally have to look in the direction they’re going.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, the statement sounds utterly stupid, but, if I were a cyclist (which I am), I would have to carefully think about whether I want to ride the wrong way up a one way street (even if it is legal) as it is VERY dangerous. Regular users of the road may (eventually) become habituated to looking both ways (which on a one way street you technically have to but mentally do not), but pedestrians and visitors to the area will find it both confusing and dangerous. A recepie for disaster if you ask me and a lot of blame game going on too. A one way road is a one way road.

    • I think this is a very valid comment. Nevertheless, the fact that the Fairhazel system has been in place for so long, and the fact that traffic tends not to speed long these roads (and cycle traffic is light) makes me think that it’s still a good idea. You may have read this before I added the data showing that in 10 years there’s not been a single reported bike or pedestrian accident on Fairhazel where the system has been in place.

  • Anonymous’s claim that ‘a one way road is a one way road’ is remarkably daft. One-way roads used to be two-way, and are only one-way as a matter of convention, and the sole point of the convention is to make it easier for motor traffic (to go fast). Please consider why some roads in the South Hampstead area are two-way (e.g. Acol Road) and others not (e.g. Greencroft Gardens). There is no physical reason, in terms of road widths, why one road is determined as being one-way and the other as two-way. “Anonymous” just appears to be an apologist for speeding & careless drivers.

    As for South Hampstead Residents’ Association, well, what can one say! Are none of its members cyclists?

    • Anonymous

      Meade, How can it be daft? Please explain why the fact that it was once two way and is now one way changes the fact that IT IS A ONE WAY ROAD!!! I am a cyclist/driver/motorcyclist and not apologising for anyone at all (oh, and NEVER had a speeding fine either). Drivers, distracted pedestrians on their mobiles, mothers/fathers with pushchairs are all big risks to pulling out looking only one way as it is a one way street. Feel free to cycle up it all you want and if you feel comfortable doing so then so be it. Just make sure to expect the unexpected as you are travelling the wrong way up the road and other road users will not expect you to be there. That way you may have a chance of being safe. I am amazed that there have been no (reported) accidents where this has been in place – do any cyclists use it? I have been living in the area for 25 years and do not remember ever seeing a cyclist going towards me

    • Oh, and to clarify as perhaps my original post was not clear – the main concern is not oncoming drivers – yes, they will probably spot you. It is the parked up, pulling out, door opening passengers/drivers, pedestrians that are the problem. One of the rules of cycling is to always ride a doors length away from parked cars to avoid the opening door. That puts you in the middle of the road in these roads.

    • How is that a problem? You cycle in the middle of the road, at an appropriate speed based on visibility, and if you and a car spot each other, you slow down to an appropriate speed and pass each other. Just like every other narrow road in the country that hasn’t been made one way.

      I used to cycle along the contraflows in that part of town every day on my commute. It was the safest, most pleasant and convenient part of my journey. Big thanks to Camden Cycling Campaign for pushing for contraflow over the years.

  • Paul Braithwaite

    There are a couple of roads in Primrose Hill too that are relevant precedents – King Henry's Road and Gloucester Avenue (at the southern end). I drive and cycle on both very regularly and I've never had a problem.

    • Paul's examples are not quite precedents for the South Hampstead contraflows, as they are in fact two-way roads with cyclist exemption no entries. But the general point, namely that cycing against the flow of motor traffic makes you very visible, remains good.

      For exact comparisons, look to the recent changes south of King's Cross:

  • I spent a few days last year cycling in Kyoto. There the back streets are almost all one-way with contraflow cycling everywhere. I was impressed by how safe it all is.

    When driving, negotiating slow narrow roads with oncoming cyclists is easier than watching out – as per the Highway Code – for cyclists filtering past on either side.

  • Anonymous

    The one street that really should be two way for cyclists is…Broadhurst Gardens!!!!
    It's so annoying having cycled up it to Finchley Road to Waitrose or further, and then not being able to cycle back the way you came. I just cycle back along the pavement! I was once stopped by a bossy young policewoman and received a lecture. Silly kid!

    • I think there are two challenges with Broadhurst Gdns – the first is that it's a bus route, so it's a little tight in places. The second is that the turn into West End Lane would be dangerous. I see cyclists making that turn and I've seen a few close calls as cars and the C11 swing round that corner at speed.