Camden Road has long been an unpleasant and threatening environment for cycling, yet it offers a key route for people cycling between Camden Town and Holloway and beyond. 

Transport for London, which controls Camden Road, was not willing to forgo the space needed for separate cycle lanes. Instead, they funded Camden Council to create a parallel route between York Way on the Islington boundary and Royal College Street, using roads in the Camden Square area. This route and its planned extensions is designated as C50 and signage has recently appeared on this Camden part of the route marking its completion. 

Extending C50 to Finsbury Park and eventually to Tottenham Hale is now a firm part of TfL’s plans and we are pleased to hear that TfL aims to build protected cycle lanes on the one-way roads between Caledonian Road and the Finsbury Park railway bridge by November 2023. But the connection between York Way and Caledonian Road is to be deferred until mid-2024, leaving a difficult connection unmodified.

Ham & High: George Coulouris and Jean Dollimore want linked cycle routes across LondonGeorge Coulouris and Jean Dollimore want linked cycle routes across London (Image: Camden Cycling Campaign)

This concerns us, because to be useful, safe cycle routes should form links to create an unbroken network enabling cycle travel across London - and often, shorter trips using parts of this longer, safe route. C50’s contribution to the network is to link the existing north-south C6 route (Hampstead Heath to Elephant and Castle via Bloomsbury) to the recently-completed safe route in York Way. Any gap in this route potentially prevents journeys on other parts of it.

Although it may sound simple, achieving the portion of C50 that is already complete has demanded substantial ingenuity. The creation of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in the Camden Square area that closed Murray Street to through traffic has reduced the weekday count of motors there from 4,750 to just over 500 and calmed several roads on the route to the east and west of Murray Street. Motor traffic on the surrounding roads has decreased as well. The junctions with Agar Grove, St Pancras Way and Royal College Street have been upgraded, including the provision of separate green signal times for cycles at one of them.

The number of cyclists has already increased by some 11% in the Camden Square area. We have observed a wide variety of people enjoying these new safe cycling conditions, including parents accompanying children to school or transporting them with cargo bikes.

As the safe network link provided by a more complete C50 route emerges, we can expect increasing numbers of people to choose to cycle on this route and enjoy safe, easy access to both local and more distant places.

George Coulouris and Jean Dollimore are part of Camden Cycling Campaign.