Sustrans highlights ten of Britain's worst roads and junctions for cyclists

Sustainable transport charity says it is "working flat out" to provide safe alternatives

by Simon_MacMichael   March 20, 2012  

London:cyclist in traffic (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

Sustrans has revealed a list of ten of the roads and junctions in Britain that according to National Cycle Network Manager Martyn Brunt are among those pose the biggest danger to cyclists and need urgent attention to improve safety.

The sustainable transport charity says it is “working flat out to improve the National Cycle Network to help provide safe alternative routes.”

The list is published at a time when The Times newspaper is calling for cyclists to identify the locations they ride through that they consider present the greatest risk using an interactive map as part of its Cities fit for Cycling campaign. Sustrans is encouraging cyclists to add their own blackspots to the map.

Some of the locations will no doubt be familiar to road.cc users who live or work locally, while others have been the subject of stories on the site. Here’s the list, in no particular order, together with Martyn’s comments and, where applicable, ours.

The list isn't a definitive one, and obviously there is a degree of subjectivity involved, and as the first comments below make clear, they may not necessarily reflect the priorities of cyclists living in the locations concerned.

If you have experience of any of these roads or junctions, or if you want to flag up another in your own area, let us know in the comments below – and don’t forget to add it to The Times map.

Tottenham Hale gyratory in London

MB “A massive race track of three-plus lanes. You take your life in your hands if you need anything other than the first exit.”

  • Last month, Transport for London confirmed that the Tottenham Hale gyratory would be among the first of the junctions assessed as part of the safety review ordered by Mayor Boris Johnson following a series of deaths of cyclists in the capital during 2011.

A452 between Kenilworth and Leamington Spa in Warwickshire

MB: “The only route between these two towns, the traffic is fast and extremely heavy, and with large numbers of buses and HGVs. A single carriageway along its entire length, it has no cycle facilities except at one roundabout which is poorly sign posted, sending cyclists the wrong way. Should you survive the road itself, busy junctions await you at either end.”

Leith Walk. Edinburgh

MB: “Edinburgh has done, and is doing, loads for cyclists but Leith Walk remains a problem. It's a very popular route for cyclists as it links the Albert Dock and the city centre. But its shocking condition with potholes and rough road surfaces makes it a nightmare to cycle on. The traffic is busy and fast between junctions making the smallest swerve or stumble potentially lethal.”

York Street, Bristol, BS2

MB: “Unavoidable local distributor road which gets jammed twice a day with traffic. There's no provision for cyclists and a nasty mini-roundabout at one end.”

Hainault Road, London

MB: “A very narrow, very fast suburban road with 40mph speeds the norm. Cars totally rule, most cyclists avoid it and those that don't feel truly unwelcome and vulnerable.”

Belgrave Middleway, Birmingham

MB: “This ought to work well for cyclists because it's for buses and bikes only. However it's routinely abused by cars and taxis making it extremely dangerous. The nature of the junction and the access to the cycle path on the opposite side of the road means that if you cross on a bike and a car illegally crosses behind you, you are pitched straight into their path. A recent study showed over 300 motorists illegally crossing this junction every day.”

  • Back in November 2010 we reported on how police had fined more than 100 motorists at this junction for offences including driving in the lane intended for buses and cyclists and ignoring traffic signals. Sergeant Danny Cooke of West Midlands Police said: “Drivers who are not paying attention to the lights controlling the cycle lane are posing a particular hazard for cyclists, and we are working with the council to make this area safer.”

Botley Road, Oxford

MB: “Cyclists have to give way on shared use path at multiple intersections, culminating in an accident black-spot at the railway bridge and a six lane motorway outside the station.”

  • You could ride on the road, but that can be an intimidating prospect in morning rush-hour heading into the city centre. In any event, you’re forced onto the road ahead of the railway bridge, where the carriageway itself narrows. There are no viable detours, and that junction outside the station? Frideswide Square, where local cycle campaigners Cyclox say planned 'improvements "will almost certainly lead to injury and death to cyclists."

Oxford Street, London

MB: “How can the nation's premier shopping street be so dreadful for cyclists? Wall-to-wall buses and taxis and pedestrians who rarely look when crossing.”

  • There are streets running parallel to Oxford Street on the North side in particular that provide a safer alternative, but taxis and other vehicles turning left still present a hazard. The situation on Oxford Street itself has been made worse by Crossrail works. Last year, a bus driver was cleared of causing the death of 25-year-old cyclist Jayne Helliwell in April 2010 by dangerous driving when the prosecution offered no evidence. Immediately after her death, Charlie Lloyd of the London Cycling Campaign said "there seems to have been a failure of organisation between the different arms of TfL in Oxford St."

Holyhead Road, Coventry

MB: "A nicely painted cycle lane lures you on to this road and gives you excellent separation (where it isn't blocked with parked cars) right up to a major junction where it completely abandons you just when you need it most. The road from there is first wide and jammed past a supermarket, then narrow and jammed under a bridge, before you're dumped on Coventry's major ring road. There's a lovely new cycling bridge nearby to help you cross the ring road and reach the city centre, but you'd never know it because it's not sign-posted from the cycle route."

Severn Street, Birmingham

MB: "A one-way street with a contraflow cycle lane. Simple enough, you'd think, but it's adjacent to the Mailbox shopping centre and the cycle lane is almost permanently blocked by delivery vehicles and taxis. Riding around these means you're cycling downhill into the path of oncoming traffic. At the end, there's a kerbed cycle lane to join the slip road, which is inevitably blocked by a taxi queuing for the ranks outside the mailbox. We've never seen any parking enforcement along this road."

11 user comments

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What were the selection criteria for these? Surely just within London there are more dangerous places than Oxford Street that should be highlighted? Elephant & castle and Old Street spring immediately to mind.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [294 posts]
20th March 2012 - 13:25

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E&C has a cycle bypass, so by some measures it has been accounted for. I agree with you about Old Street though, you need to have your wits and your sprinting legs from the off at Shoreditch High Street to the roundabout at Old Street, the junction with Curtain Road might be the worst, lots of construction truck going full tilt as the road narrows to one lane, I've watched them drift five foot or more as they corner.

Cannondale CAAD10, Condor Terra-X and an orange Brompton.
Ride for East London Velo

zzgavin's picture

posted by zzgavin [204 posts]
20th March 2012 - 13:42

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it's not meant to be a definitive top ten, just a selection, I'll tweak the article to make that clear.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7839 posts]
20th March 2012 - 13:43

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The whole Knightsbridge/Piccadilly/Park Lane/Marble Arch complex is a disgraceful mess, which I'd nominate for fairly brutal lane and speed reductions.

posted by steff [81 posts]
20th March 2012 - 13:46

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I hate to say this but no junction or road is dangerous.

What makes them dangerous are the other dimwitted, lazy, impatient users. Just imagine each section with no traffic then look how dangerous they are. Then look at the other users behaviour.

Why is it that bad manners on the road are accepted and the authorities think that segregation is the way forward?

Steps back ready to be flamed.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [271 posts]
20th March 2012 - 16:46

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Yorkshie Whippet wrote:
I hate to say this but no junction or road is dangerous.

What makes them dangerous are the other dimwitted, lazy, impatient users...

Both are factors, and both need addressing.

A poorly designed junction can make conditions dangerous, no matter how much care people are taking.

Likewise, good junction design doesn't matter if people are driving through without looking out for other road users.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [7839 posts]
20th March 2012 - 18:15

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I live and cycle in Bristol, and York St is so bad I had to ... um ... look up where it is on a map!

posted by mbrads72 [108 posts]
21st March 2012 - 0:55

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Tottenham Hale gyratory is obviously awful but no one I know who does the City/West End to NE commute goes anywhere near it. Everyone either uses Coppermill lane or Lea Bridge Road, both of which give you a much better chance of survival and have a degree of cycle friendly features.

I would question that it's more pressing to update the THG over some of the inner city roundabouts, unless it was part of the (desperately needed) overall review of this horrible road - and I mean horrible for cars, bikes, pedestrians and locals alike.

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [242 posts]
21st March 2012 - 10:10

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I've found York Street in St. Werburghs - not good but not exceptional. The junction with Ashley Hill has poor visibility and uncertain but impatient drivers.

Ken Barker

posted by Ken Barker [1 posts]
21st March 2012 - 19:55

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Not sure why Leith Walk is in that list. It's not great but there are far worse roads than that all over the UK. Edinburgh's West End has bits that are worse for a start.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2114 posts]
21st March 2012 - 22:34

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Not so much a danger issue, but Oxford City Council haven't got the first idea with their recent efforts at 'improving' things for cyclists and pedestrians on The Slade leading into Headington, Oxford.

We have ridiculous arrows painted on pavements with the word 'slow' written at regular intervals. Not to discriminate, but even a pensioner would have problems going slow enough as not to cause danger for pedestrians who in my opinion have more of right to be on the pavement than cyclists.

Then there is a bus stop which has had a 'platform' added to it so it juts out about 7ft into the road, causing an idiotic and lethal constriction. Cyclists are forced out in to danger, that's if they can spare the mental capacity to look around to see what's going on AND follow all the road signs and street furniture.

Add to that all the side roads have had ramps added where there used to be simple give way junctions, meaning then when you make a left turn, you are thrown off balance a bit; if it's icy, you are almost certainly off.

And all this in 1 mile of road.... I'm glad I don't use it everyday.

I would be amazed if other councils have managed to get it so catastrophically wrong as Oxford!!

posted by carl j [23 posts]
21st March 2012 - 23:26

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