How to avoid King’s Cross as a Cyclist

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.)

20 thoughts on “How to avoid King’s Cross as a Cyclist

    1. David, thank you very much for you comment. I did not now this route, but it looks good indeed. This is not a way I usually have to travel. My office is right next to King’s Place and I live in Highbury…

  1. Beth A

    I live just down Gray’s Inn Road so am often cycling up towards KX from there. Sometimes my route takes me up that way but as soon as I get close to the traffic lights near Euston Road I get off my bicycle and walk along the edge of the pavement and use the pedestrian crossings. I’d never even try to cut across the lanes of traffic to turn right past KX station – it’s an absolute suicide mission with all of the traffic really aggressively driving at speed around that area.

    Cycling a lot around central London, that area is, for me, the most scary and dangerous place – and I include Old Street areas and Oxford Street and further west in that too.

    My own personal feeling is that it’s one of the worst bits of road design in London and that Min Joo Lee was killed there really saddens me deeply. TfL knew about this and could have done something about it and I feel they are accountable.

  2. And to get to Angel: continue east from Tavistock Place onto Sidmouth Street, cross Grays Inn Road through the bicycle permeable Ampton Street to turn right onto Cubitt Street, Packenham Street and left again onto Calthorpe Street, then there’s a segregated contraflow track up Margery Street, from the top of which there are all sorts of ways to get to Angel.

    It’s signed all the way. The Dutch would laugh at it, but by British expectations it’s surprisingly good.

    I might cobble together a quick blog — I must have photos of all the interesting bits along the way, albeit, buried amongst 50,000 others.

    1. Joe, thanks for you commment, you’re absolutely right. (I did not want to put too much information in a single post.)

      Interestingly, however, I use a slightly different way. I turn LEFT on Cubbit Street, right on Frederic Street, right on King’s Cross Road and then left on Wharton Street. I’ve tried the signed alternative but for whatever reason, I like “my” route more. (I have the impression that it’s slightly shorter and even quieter, but that might be a delusion.)

      If you’re going the other way (coming from Angel), my version has the downside that you have to enter the one way road at Lloyd Baker Street from the wrong direction. I blogged about this several month ago.

  3. I wrote to PC Gary Russell at the Met Police regarding the fatality of Min Joo Lee. I think I know where she was headed, but I don’t know where she had started her journey. PC Russell would not tell me that just now, in case it prejudices witnesses, but once his investigation is complete he has promised to let me know.

    The likelihood is that Min Joo Lee was engaged on a strategic journey, in which case, a revitalised London Cycling Network should have been able to provide for much of that journey.
    I also sent him a map which is, remarkably, very similar to your map (in terms of route selection). I have updated it since then to show those routes of yours (in red) which don’t currently form part of my design. The ‘LCN’ routes, if I can call them that, are shown in blue. Other useful routes are shown in green.

    Where there are differences between your map and mine is interesting.

    Working from left to right, David Arditti points out that the Mabledon Place–Ossulton St–Royal College St route gives easier access to places like Kentish Town. Obviously a map addict like me knows about this route, but I would be particularly interested to learn why he is surprised that you don’t know about it. I think it would make for a really interesting debate.

    Surely there must be occasions when you go to Camden Town after work, so which way do you go? Not Royal College Street, would be my guess. More likely Crowndale Road – Camden High Street.

    Next, how to get onto York Way from the south? My thought was to have segregated cycling on Gray’s Inn Road. I had imagined it would be more useful to continue this route up Caledonian Road, and to follow the course that I have described, but in truth, I didn’t properly consider your suggested route.

    I know you are mainly concerned to describe routes which are useful today, in order to try and prevent another cycling fatality. Still, if someone does want to start thinking about tomorrow, it would probably be one or the other routes that they would look at.

    Finally, the route which runs parallel to Pentonville Road has certainly got me thinking. It’s more of a local route, between Angel and King’s Cross, and has never been part of the LCN / LCN+. Still, for an obsessive like me, this sort of thing can keep me awake at night.

    I would like to leave you with a comment I posted on the BBC London News website:

    Visitors to Amsterdam are given ten top tips for cycling safely, including: ‘Know where to ride’, and ‘See the signs’. “Not all Amsterdam streets are meant for cyclists,” it says, “so ‘winging it’ without a route plan can be inefficient and dangerous.”

    1. Simon, thank you very much for joining the debate. You’re right: My aim is to describe alternatives for today’s cyclists. If TfL or anyone else wanted to work out a decent cyclign infrastructure around King’s X (a big if), I would not necessarily recommend to base this on my routes.

      Working from left to right, David Arditti points out that the Mabledon Place–Ossulton St–Royal College St route gives easier access to places like Kentish Town. Obviously a map addict like me knows about this route, but I would be particularly interested to learn why he is surprised that you don’t know about it.

      This is fairly easy to answer. I have been living in London for two years and I just never had to travel from Bloomsbury to Camden/Kentish Town. I either cycle there form home (Highbury, using Brewery Road, Agar Grove) or from my office (adjacent to King’s Place, using the canal – I’m really a big fan of cycling at the canal!)

      Next, how to get onto York Way from the south? My thought was to have segregated cycling on Gray’s Inn Road. I had imagined it would be more useful to continue this route up Caledonian Road, and to follow the course that I have described, but in truth, I didn’t properly consider your suggested route.

      Yes, if there was a budget, a segregated cycle lane on Gray’s Inn Road would be fantastic. However, given the political priorities in London, I don’t think it’s likely to happen. I just don’t cycle on Gray’s Inn Road at all. When I cycle from Angel towards Covent Garden, for instance, I always use Doughty Street / Mecklenburgh Place as an alternative on my way to Lamb’s Conduit Street. Interestingly, this route isn’t shown on your map).

      I think a segretated cycle path either on York Way or on Pancras Road was more important than one on Gray’s Inn Road. You can easily avoid Gray’s Inn Road but currently it is impossible to avoid York Way.

      From the perspective of a cyclist, a segregated cycle path on the left curb of York Way would be fantastic. It could be easily connected to Birkenhead Street.

      However, a cycle plath probably would come at the expense of the bus stops on York Way. Hence, I think it is highly unlikely that this will ever be realised. The most realistic option probably is a segregated cycle lane on Pancras Way.

      Finally, the route which runs parallel to Pentonville Road has certainly got me thinking. It’s more of a local route, between Angel and King’s Cross, and has never been part of the LCN / LCN+. Still, for an obsessive like me, this sort of thing can keep me awake at night.


      I used to live at Angel. In those days, my daily commute to King’s Cross was via Cloudesley Square / Coudesley Road / Copenhagen Street / Charlotte Terrace and the canal. I discovered the Collier Street / Donegal Street because I was looking for a safe alternative to King’s Cross / Farringdon Road and really like cycling on Penton Street / Amwell Street.

  4. Olaf, I hope it was modesty that led you to say that any development of the cycling infrastructure around King’s Cross should not necessarily be based on your choice of routes. The case is, these routes are useful now, and relatively quite safe, so developing them even to a minimum level of functioning would obviously yield the maximum effect.

    Ultimately I would want to see the A501 given the Go Dutch treatment, but this route has never been part of any official network, so it would probably be more fruitful to begin by seeking the development of the CS / LCN+ / LCN routes to European standards first. I think if we could do that, the modal share of cycling would, perhaps, get beyond ten per cent. From this point it would probably be much easier to set about developing some of these major roads including, for example, Euston Road / Pentonville Road, and Cromwell Road.

    I recognise that any segregated cycling on Gray’s Inn Road might be a long time in coming, but that’s by the by. I think, for the moment, your post about Lloyd Baker Street is more relevant to the point I am trying to get across.

    I note from David Hembrow’s blog that campaigners in Amsterdam began by painting cycle logos on the tarmac. That seems like a very good idea to me. Wasn’t that one of the LCC’s first actions on Lowndes Square? However, before we go out and purchase a load of spray cans, we need to determine where we would want the logos to be painted.

    Of course you use the canal to get to Camden from King’s Place. Of course you do. What was I thinking? And thank you for your suggestion of Doughty Street / Mecklenburgh Place as a short-cut to Covent Garden.

  5. Olaf, thanks very much for this post. From a purely selfish perspective, I had no idea you could cycle down Holborn Place so this will save me having to negotiate the main junction when I go from Holloway to the LSE.

  6. I commute from Cricklewood to Crinan Street (next to Kings Place), so my route starts with the A5, then I turn to Abbey Road, past Lord’s cricket ground to Prince Albert Rd, continue straight on Park Village E, right on Hampstead Rd, then the dreaded Euston Rd and left on York way (where I almost always have to avoid pedestrians jumping into my path).

    When I feel tired I take Regent’s canal, but I find it way too narrow at many spots. I am not scared of falling in the water, it is more that it brings me into conflict with pedestrians, and I do not like the impression it makes on them. It really is no different than cycling on the pavement (although allowed). The area that was recently renovated near Kings Place is particularly poor, very narrow concrete slabs with slippery turf on either side. And the gates they have put in to slow down cyclists are just a pain (don’t even think of it if you have panniers). I’d much rather have good segregated infra on Prince Albert Rd and Euston Rd, but then I hear hens do not have teeth yet.

    On my way back I make a point of using Royal College St, if only to remind me it doesn’t have to be such a struggle.

    1. Nicolas, sorry I am not a tweeter, otherwise I would have been in touch with you via that medium.

      I freely confess to being a map nerd. Very dull at parties. I can empty a room in seconds.

      I had a look at your journey, and contrasted it with my ideas for a revitalised London Cycling Network.

      Firstly, within reason you should be able to cycle wherever you want. I don’t regard you as some sort of train on a track.

      Secondly, I am mostly concerned to identify routes which are, more than anything else, meaningful and direct. Ideally these routes should also be (safe and) pleasant, but this must never be to the detriment of the first two-listed factors.

      Thirdly, these routes should be joined up to form a comprehensive, city-wide cycle network.

      The routes on this revitalised LCN are not yet functional – it’s a notwork rather than a network! Mostly the problem is one-way streets. For myself this doesn’t make any difference whatsoever – I routinely ignore all ‘No entry’ signs – they are directed at motor traffic – they don’t apply to me as a cyclist – I regard myself as a pedestrian on wheels – but I understand that not everyone thinks as I do.

      Getting the routes on this revitalised LCN to function in both directions is the barest minimum that should be acceptable. I absolutely want to go further than that, but this seems to me an excellent place to start.

      At some point quite soon I am going to publish this network in order that it may be scrutinised by my peers. Obviously I don’t want there to be any mistakes, even though I know that these are unavoidable. As you can imagine, I am constantly refining it, trying to create a precision piece.

      Anyway, I laid down your route on Google maps, as you described it, and note that your journey is 6.6 miles. Now, as I say, my design is not yet functional, but using just three routes … well, you’ll see, it’s about a mile-and-a-half less.

      It doesn’t make any difference whether you go via Royal College Street or York Way, but going via RCS I use five routes. It just sounds better if I can do the journey using three routes.

      By the way, I agree with you about the canal.

  7. The summary of this, is that it is far too ********** complex to expect people who don’t know that area to be able to avoid going on horrid roads and use alternative quieter roads instead. The cycle path that runs parallel to Euston Road has pretty much no signage to any of the train stations or other destinations along there (or if there is it’s rather hidden). The only reason I came across it is due to the CycleStreets routing!

  8. Pingback: There’s more to ‘going Dutch’ than cycle lanes | Environmental Articles

  9. alicejAlice

    Thanks! I don’t live in London but I’ve had to go there a lot recently and my train gets into Kings X. I didn’t realise that the canal would take me to Camden Road – is this not obvious on the TfL cycling maps, or did I just miss it? Will take a print out of these routes with me next week, thank you x

  10. Pingback: There’s more to ‘going Dutch’ than cycle lanes | Greediocracy

  11. Don’t forget that Camley Street (just north of KX) is now linked to Agar Grove for cycles and pedestrians. This makes it much the best way to reach Kentish Town from KX.
    See also and

  12. Pingback: Cycling at King’s Cross – A new docking station for Boris bikes gives me shivers « Cycling Intelligence

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