My own Superhighways (I): Paddington – King’s Cross/St. Pancras

There has been a lot of fuss around the Barclays Cycle Superhighways in London – and a lot of criticism. This is the gospel according to “Transport for London” (TfL).

Barclays Cycle Superhighways are new cycle routes that run into central London from outer London to provide cyclists with safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city. The new routes are clearly marked and easy to follow.

By 2015 twelve of those cycle paths are supposed to be built. Currently two are in operation. However, a lot of cyclists severely criticise the superhighways.

Be that as it may. Here I want to present a different view on the issue. I’m going to present my own personal cycle superhighways. Or, to put it differenly and with an appropriate degree of decency, the real cycle superhighways. Most of them are not running into central London from outer parts of the city but are running across central London – routes that I frequently use on my Brompton.

My personal cycling philosophy probably is different than that of the ordinary London cyclist.  I’m trying to avoid busy “A” and “B” roads as well as large roundabouts asmuch as possible. Both are notorious accident hot spots where almost all fatal cycling accidents happen. I just don’t use them.  Most of the time, that’s amazingly easy. You’ll (almost) never see me on the Old Street roundabout, on Euston Road or High Holborn. I’m constantly looking for routes on quieter roads and trying to avoid those notorious accident hotpots.

Here’s my first example: going from Paddington station to King’s Cross station.

View and download the route ad

The most straightforward way to go there would be the ring road (Marylebone Road, Euston Road). For cyclists, however, that route is a complete and utter nightmare. The northern ring road is one of the busiest and most congested roads of the city with dozens of bus lines, a lot of lorries and way too many cars. Cycling there is definitely no fun.

However, there is a great alternative which is almost completely car-free. Just use the canal.

Looking for a real cycling superhighway?

Since I’ve moved to London in October 2009 I’ve always been a big fan of the canals for cycling. But it took me almost 1.5 years to realize that there is a direct link between King’s Cross (where I work) and Paddington (where I have to get sometimes to catch a train to Oxford). This route is approximately 1.5 km longer than taking the ring road but it’s MUCH safer (I haven’t seen a lorry at the canal, lately, for instance.)

Today, in the early afternoon, it took me 28 minutes to cycle from Paddington to King’s Cross. The tube takes 19 Minutes, and the highly theoretical travel time by car according to Google Maps is 13 minutes (probably at 3am, that’s doable, in the peak hours I bet it’s more than double). I reckon that taking the canal route adds 6 to 8 minutes to the cycling journey time at most.

From my personal point of view, instead of painting existing cycle paths blue, at least some superhighway funds would have better been invested in upgrading the cycle paths at the canal. Underneath some bridges, for example,  the path is very narrow and should be widened.

Do you have your own personal cycle superhighways? Just tell me, please!

7 thoughts on “My own Superhighways (I): Paddington – King’s Cross/St. Pancras

  1. James Underhill

    Great site! Very well done indeed. Thanks for a fantastic tip. I and my son will be using your St Pancras – Paddington route on Monday on our cycling holiday.
    Kind regards

  2. Pingback: How to avoid King’s Cross as a Cyclist « Cycling Intelligence

  3. Pingback: Paris To OxfordCycling from Paddington to St Pancras

  4. Matt

    Hi Olaf
    Tried this route yesterday. Very pleasant. Took a bit longer as it was lunchtime and Camden and beyond we’re busy. Lots of places where you have to dismount where moorings are. Maybe there are some places to divert onto road for a spell before rejoining. Anyway many thanks as it made my ride much more enjoyable.
    I use the canal to go from paddington up to Kensal as well which is good for getting to portobello. You can walk down golborne road to the ladroke grove end.
    Should be more made of these routes.

    1. Hi Matt,

      thanks for the feedback. Camdem Lock at noon is a real nightmare, you’re right. I’m not really aware of easy alternatives though (but I did not look for them either). There can also be an issue in the early morning and evenings, BTW: A little bit further west of Camden Lock, there is a gate that is ususally closed at night. However, then you can easily get on a road.

      In general, the canal is not the quickest route, because of the pedestrians and the narrow bridges. However, I think it’s much more enjoyable and safe. When I had to cycle from King’s Cross to Chanary Wharf recently, I took busy roads and the so called “Cycle Superhighway” for getting there. Traffic was a nightmare, it really wasn’t fun at all. On the way back I took the canal. It was early afternoon on a weekday, the footpath was not really busy and – obviously – there were no lights and no motor traffic. In the end, the whole journey took me five minutes longer….

      Safe journeys!

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