Posts Tagged ‘Blackfriars Underpass’

A short guide to shortcuts

June 6, 2013

I’m not a red light evader, but I am certainly a red light avoider. Increasingly, I’ve been choosing roads that allow me to circumvent traffic lights, those sometime enemies of constant pedaling motion. It’s all perfectly legal, officer, and now I’m about to tell you about these roads, should you also wish to avoid getting momentarily held up on your bicycle while riding around London. There’s no need to thank me.

Putney Bridge
A road engineer or similar expert might be able to explain why there are two successive sets of traffic lights within a few feet of each other at the southern end of Putney Bridge. Law-abiding cyclists such as myself simply see them as a pointless delay. So if, like me, you’re trying get to London Dynamo’s ever-popular Parkride on time, simply get into the bus lane on the left, which isn’t governed by the first set of lights, then move to the right once you’re past them. If you’re lucky, the second set of lights will be green, and you can whoosh round the corner straight into Lower Richmond Road. But remember: this isn’t a race, so whoosh responsibly.

Upper Richmond Road and Sheen Lane
You’ve just completed another successful workout in Richmond Park, and you wish to reward yourself with a scenic pootle along the river as you make your way home. This could involve leaving the park by Sheen Gate and following Sheen Lane until you are deposited at the busy junction on Upper Richmond Road. So forget that. Instead, when you’re halfway down Sheen Lane, take a right onto Richmond Park Road, which will lead you to Pearson Performance.

Pearson Performance

Hop across Upper Richmond Road to get to the pedestrianised area just outside the shop, carry on down Milton Road, take a left at the end and you’re back on Sheen Lane. Much more pleasant, and quicker, than wading through traffic at the main junction. Also, for added smug value, remind yourself that motor vehicles can’t perform this shortcut.

Lonsdale Road and St Hilda’s Road
This is a simple way to avoid the traffic lights at the southern approach to Hammersmith Bridge. On Lonsdale Road, simply go left at St Hilda’s Road, which is the last turning before the lights…

Lonsdale Road and St Hilda's Road

…then take a right at Glentham Road and carry on until you reach the bridge.

Exiting Glentham Road

My friend and neighbour Dr Nick Dove pointed this one out to me. Proof, if proof were needed, that you should always heed a doctor’s advice (although I must stress he’s not actually a medical doctor).

Victoria Embankment and Castle Baynard Street
My final tip doesn’t actually involve any lights, red or otherwise, but I’m throwing it in as a bonus entry on this list chiefly because of its uniqueness. Castle Baynard Street is a short tunnel in central London which is usually completely empty. In this photo you can see the traffic bunching as the Blackfriars Underpass begins to jam up…

Blackfriars Underpass

…while Castle Baynard Street, which runs parallel to it and is right next door, is almost totally clear.

Great Baynard Street

So when you’re heading east along the Victoria Embankment, take a left at Puddle Dock instead of entering the underpass and then immediately turn right. You are now on Castle Baynard Street, which will take you just past the exit of the underpass. Of course, you can creep between the two lanes of stationary motor vehicles in the underpass, but it’s not going to be as quick as Castle Baynard, and you’ll almost certainly have to cross the double white lines, which is wrong and evil. It’s your choice.

I hope all of this has been of some use. Happy shortcutting!

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Blackfriars Galactica: the hole saga

April 15, 2012

You know how it is with punctures: you go for ages without getting any articles on the blighters, then three come along at once. During the past seven days, the Inner Ring has considered a giddy, technology-led future of sealants and tubeless tyres, while London Cyclist kept it old school by revealing that he prefers the age-old method of patching his inner tube at the roadside. And now I, too, have had a visit from the Puncture Fairy – an occurrence which, like the activities of her kinder, more popular cousin the Tooth Fairy, took place in the middle of the night – so it is now my turn to muse on the activities of that mischievous little sprite.

The visitation took place late on Wednesday night when I flatted in the Blackfriars Underpass. This is notable for the simple reason that, thanks to my hardy Continentals, I hardly ever puncture going in to or coming back from town. But when I do, it’s invariably in the frigging Blackfriars Underpass. This has happened three times. Three! Why should this be? Well, the westbound section is sometimes closed at night for maintenance work, so I suspect a small amount of workmen’s detritus is responsible for turning it into my personal puncture blackspot – particularly as the previous flat I had was caused by a nail the size of my index finger which made a terrible CLANKCLANK-CLANKCLANK-CLANKCLANK sound as it spun against the stays.

Which is a shame, because the westbound tunnel is one of my favourite places to ride at night.

It reminds me of the landing bay in the old version of Battlestar Galactica – a coldly welcoming maw of white light waiting in the darkness – and once inside, you’re magically freed from the tyranny of air resistance. It’s an anti-wind tunnel, and no matter how knackered I am, I’m often unable to resist walloping the bike through the flat section with enough gusto to cruise up the short uphill exit.

But the unexpected outcome of the underpass periodically becoming a partial building site and puncture-attracting annoyance is that I’ve discovered an amazing little substitute which reroutes my journey by guiding me north to Queen Victoria Street. It’s called Skinners Lane, and you can find it by going up the wide, shared-use pavement opposite the approach to Southwark Bridge and turning left.

I’m sure there are plenty of narrow streets in London that look like they haven’t been resurfaced since the days when Penny Farthings roamed the land. But a cobbled road that is less likely to cause a puncture than the nearest stretch of tarmac? I think I’ve stumbled upon the Bizarro Paris-Roubaix…