Posts Tagged ‘roads’

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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South Kensington: a land of contrasts

March 19, 2012

This post is about a few things I see on my bicycle ride into town. No, no – wait! Come back! It won’t be that dull! Or at least I’ll do my best to make sure it isn’t.

Firstly, I would like to introduce you to a prime candidate for Trades Descriptions: Invisible Menders of Knightsbridge.

For a start, it’s in South Kensington, not Knightsbridge. And, as you may have noticed from the orange and brown frontage, the shop is not invisible. I mean, honestly – how could they have got away with this for so long? It’s a complete misnomer on every conceivable level.

In another sense, though, Invisible Menders is invisible, because after stopping hundreds of times at the traffic lights on the junction of Old Brompton Street and Gloucester Road, I have yet to see anyone startled by the façade or the yellowing signs with their jaunty, cursive typeface. It just sits there, unremarked-upon, a wonderful incongruity that must be around half-a-century old.

By contrast, just a few pedal-strokes away, Exhibition Road has begun making quite an exhibition of itself.

Look! No curbs! No tarmac! And no-one travelling at more than 20mph! Personally, I like the grand social statement it’s making: humans, regardless of whether they walk, cycle or use a motor vehicle, can all share the same space safely. And the chap on the left is so comfortable with these new surroundings he has squatted down to fondle his companion’s leg. An extraordinary scene, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The road planners of Kensington and Chelsea have also pedestrianised the junction of Old Brompton Road and Pelham Street, which is right outside the entrance to South Kensington station.

What you can see in that photo is a cab driver taking care not to hit two pedestrians. What you can’t see, because it happened about a minute before I took the picture, is me turning left into the junction with a big grin on my face because I no longer have to shout “WAKE UP” at someone walking blithely into my path without looking right. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know why removing a curb makes people more aware that they are stepping into traffic, but in my experience, it works.

So there you have it: one inconspicuous old novelty, and two conspicuous new ones. And I take hope from what the former could say about the latter: if you fulfill a purpose quietly, invisibly, then you’ll be around in 50 years, too.