The tragic death of Min Joo Lee, 24, who was crushed by a lorry while cycling at King’s Cross on the 3rd of October, triggered a lively debate about cycling safety around King’s Cross.
As William Perrin reported on the King’s Cross environment blog, the junction was criticised in the strongest possible terms in a road safety report commissioned by TfL in 2008. As William puts it:
“The report was damning of the entire street environment in Kings Cross. Sober engineer speak was interspersed with phrases like ‘highly dangerous’.”
Unfortunately, this report really has a point. However, TfL did nothing to make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists. William considers to sue TfL for corporate manslaughter, BBC London reported about TfL’s failure, and the excellent “Cyclists in the City” blog got involved.
But how can you as a cyclist minimise the risks in the area?
My office is a few hundred yards north of King’s Cross station and I cycle around King’s Cross regularly. I try to avoid the Ring road and the other busy roads like Farringdon Road like the plaque. In this post, I want to describe my routes in the King’s Cross area.
Unfortunately, due to the ridiculously car-centric road design around King’s Cross, it is not possible to avoid the danger zone completely. However, there are some ways to minimise the risk. The basic principle is very simple: I always use the smallest road possible and try to stay away from the hazardous TfL roads. This might add a few hundred meters to a journey which might take a couple of minutes longer, but it’s much safer and less annoying.
Towards Covent Garden / Holborn / Waterloo Station / Tottenham Court Road (southbound cycling)
I use the road north of King’s Cross Station and St. Pancras Station (Goodsway) and turn left into Midland Road. Unfortunately, due to the construction work in the area, streets are severely congested and Goodsway currently is a one-way street that can only be used by westbound traffic. At least traffic isn’t moving very fast. I cross Euston Road and ride straight on (Judd Street).
further towards Tottenham Court Road
I never use the Ring road but take the segregated cycle path on Tavistock Place / Torrington Place. When your’re cycling south on Judd Street, turn right one street north of the traffic lights at Tavistock Place into Leigh Street and then left into Cartwright Gardens. You avoid the traffic lights at Tavistock place where you’re not allowed to make a right turn.
further towards Covent Garden / Holborn
I stay on Judd Street and use Lamb’s Conduit Street / Red Lion Street. Those roads are relatively quiet.
There’s an easy way to avoid the junction High Holborn / Kingsway, which is really nasty for cyclists. When you’re on High Holborn, make a left turn into a small street called Holborn Place (it looks like a driveway rather than a street). You’ll get on Whetstone Park - a small street going parallel to High Holborn which brings you to the north-western corner of Lincoln’s Inn Field. If you want to go to Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square or Waterloo Station, cross Kingsway and carry on (Long Acre). (Towards Waterloo, make a left onto Bow Street later).
Coming from Covent Garden / Holborn / Waterloo Station / Tottenham Court Road (northbound cycling)
From my point of view, this is the trickiest part of cycling around King’s Cross. Min Joo Lee was cycling northbound when she was killed by a HGV.
I never cycle on Gray’s Inn Road because I think it’s too busy and too dangerous. I use Judd Street instead and to take a right turn into Cromer Street, then a left into Whidborne Street which leads to Argyle Street.
Before the construction nightmare around King’s Cross began, I crossed Euston Road at the end of Argyle Street and then took a left turn into Pancras Road and later on Goodsway. However, Pancras Road is usually jammed with cabs and Goodsway currently is a one way street.
Hence, at the moment I use a different way that – strictly speaking – is not legal but avoids the terribly busy bus stop directly in front of King’s Cross. On Argyle Street, I turn right into St. Chad’s Street. St. Chad’s Street unfortunately is a one way street in the other direction. However, usually there is not much traffic and I take extra care. I cycle straight on until Birkenhead Street which leads to Euston Road.
I then use the pedestrian crossing on Euston Road (push your cycle, please!) and cycle north on York Way. Please be very careful at the junction (this is where Min Joo Lee died) and on York Way, which is plagued by fast-moving cars, lorries and busses.
Update: Apparently, it is possible again to cycle on Pancras Road going north. I’d strongly suggest going that way (cross Euston Road at the junction with Argyle Street, then turn left again at the lights) because there is less traffic than on York Way.
towards Angel Clerkenwell / the City
The intuitive way would be to use Pentonville Road (to Angel) or King’s Cross Road/Farringdon Road (to Clerkenwell).
I absolutely hate using these streets there because cars go very fast and drivers are quite aggressive. Fortunately, there is a much safer and less busy alternative. I go parallel to Pentonville Road (Collier Street / Donegal Street). If you’re heading to Clerkenwell, turn right into Penton Street / Amwell Street. For Angel, just stay on Donegal Street.
Unfortunately, due to some nasty one-way-streets, you have to use a slightly different way when you cycle from Clerkenwell towards King’s Cross. I think the best alternativ is to cycle at the canal (see map).
towards Euston Station:
I use small roads north Euston Road.
towards Camden / Regent’s Park / Paddington:
There’s a traffic free alternative – just use the canal. (A detailed description is available here.)