Monday, 12 February 2018

Going one way in Hackney

Last year I wrote about the most dangerous junction for cycling in Hackney, locally named as Britannia junction it is located where Pitfield Street, Hyde Road, Whitmore Road and Hoxton Street meet, or if you prefer, where cycle superhighway 1 and the Central London Cycle grid quietway 16 meet. It was converted from a roundabout into a crossroads in 2011 and despite the space available no dedicated cycle provision was provided with people cycling expected to "take the lane" on a narrow carriageway, alongside gigantic pavements. Following its conversion in the three year period to the end of 2014 there were 14 casualties for cyclists at this junction, more than double the amount of cycling casualties than any other junction in Hackney. The times also reported that this was the 7th most dangerous junction for cycling in the entire UK.

Although I don't have collision statistics available I'm convinced that for the past year this junction has been much safer than it previously was. The reason for this is due to the Colville Estate regeneration, where Penn Street has been made one way for motor traffic but has been kept open in both directions for bicycles just west of Britannia junction

Whilst motor traffic continues to cross CS1 westbound, travelling from Whiston Road and the A10 to New North road, the only motor traffic going eastbound across this junction are from residents living along Penn Street and Hyde Road or those driving back from the Britannia Leisure Centre. The junction is still far from perfect and I've had a few near misses this year where drivers have failed to give way as they cross it but at least the majority of the time you now only have to beware of this happening in one direction, instead of two.

Once the regeneration of the Colville Estate has been completed it would be a real shame if the road was reopened in both directions and I would hope this long, enforced experiment would be enough to convince Hackney Council that keeping the road one way for motor traffic and two way for people cycling makes for a safer junction. 

A one way road for motor vehicles in Utrecht provides safe space for people of all ages to cycle. Imagine how worse it would be if driving were allowed in both directions and the cycle lanes were removed

Before and after in Rotterdam. An example of how to create space for cycling, along with new street furniture and trees, on a narrow urban street by converting the road from two way to one direction for motor traffic
Hyde Road, just west of Britannia junction, alongside the Britannia Leisure Centre car park. Not too narrow here as it has two lanes for motor traffic and two lanes for car parking 
This cycle track in Eindhoven links the university with the centre of the city, via the John Cleese "silly walks" Tunnel under the railway lines. It is one way for motor traffic and provides a direct, quick route through the centre of the city. 

Breaks in car parking provide space for trees, flowers and crossing points for pedestrians
The "still in experimental phase" redevelopment of  Tavistock Place in Central London, a lane of traffic has been removed to allow for cycle tracks on both sides of the road, rather than the narrow bidirectional cycle track which existed here previously
One of the great elements of this scheme is that the one-way arrangement is being used to reduce motor traffic levels by having opposing directions of traffic, meaning motor traffic cannot use this route as a through route from Tottenham Court Road to Clerkenwell, or vice-versa

Unfortunately the position of Hackney Council has traditionally been to oppose one way streets and convert them back to two way
This occurred on Pitfield Street as part of Cycle Superhighway 1, where people cycling previously had a protected lane to head south (albeit a narrow one with high kerbs), this was removed to allow motor vehicles to use this route southbound too

I find this particularly bad in the morning peak, where vans and taxis especially use it to cut down Haberdasher Street and onto Old Street via Coronet Street, something that was impossible to do before CS1. This scheme has created new routes for drivers and encourages rat running. Whilst the removal of large one way gyratory systems designed to enable more motor traffic capacity is welcome (ideally with protected cycle tracks, as is happening in Stratford), turning roads one way can be an effective way to reduce levels of motor traffic whilst providing a better environment for people walking and cycling.

Hackney Council have pledged to improve both Pitfield Street and Britannia junction and I hope making some or all of it one way for motor traffic will be considered. Certainly reopening Penn Street to motor traffic in both directions once the regeneration is complete and reintroducing the East to West 'quietway' motoring rat run through the most dangerous junction for cycling would be a huge step backwards.

UPDATE: October 2018 - Unfortunately after nearly two years of Penn Street being a cycle only street eastbound Hackney Council have reopened it to motor traffic in both directions, renewing quietway 16 as a rat run for motor traffic and ensuring less safe conditions for cycling at the most dangerous junction for cycling in Hackney; Britannia Junction on Cycle superhighway 1

What could have been a golden opportunity to create genuine world class cycle facilities for the families due to move into the Colville Estate has been squandered. Even on dedicated cycle quietways the motor car remains at the top of the hierarchy in Hackney. 


  1. The comment from Feryal Demirci regarding the safety of one-way streets may seem confusing and disingenuous, nevertheless I'd like to defend her comment, as one that may be valid in certain contexts.

    In America, streets are generally much wider than those in the UK, and one-way streets are generally created in urban areas as a way of increasing traffic capacity and speed. Our central business districts are often criss-crossed with multi-lane, one-way arterials that encourage speeding while discouraging and endangering active use (i.e., biking, walking etc.) Converting these wide streets back to two-way operation actually makes sense as a safety measure, especially when there is still room to provide dedicated cycle infrastructure.

    When streets are narrow, however, reducing them to one-way for motorists (while retaining 2-way facilities for cyclists) can be an important safety measure that actually encourages active use.

  2. I agree with you and hope my comments in the post would have made this clear:

    "The removal of large one way gyratory systems designed to enable more motor traffic capacity is welcome"