Reviewed by Linus Rees
Green Streets Fitzrovia is a new initiative by Camden Council to encourage walking and cycling in Fitzrovia.
One of the things they have produced is a street map with a guide to walking and cycling routes. There is also information about places of interest and some local shops. The maps have been made available in shops all over the Camden part of Fitzrovia.
As a cyclist I was keen to explore the two cycling routes described on the map. I made three short videos to show how I got on.
Route G describes a journey of discovery starting in Oxford Street and cycling up Rathbone Place into Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Street, then turning east then finally north up Gower Street to Euston Square underground station.
I didn’t think it was possible to do this route because it involved going up a couple of one-way streets the wrong way. But I was assured by the marketing people at Woof London that it had been recommended by local cyclists and had been checked by Camden Council. So even after more than 15 years cycling around Fitzrovia, I thought maybe I can learn something.
Since there are plenty of Cycle Hire stations in Fitzrovia I thought it would be a good idea to try the route on a Boris Bike. There are hire stations close to the start of the route in Soho Square and also near the end of the route near Euston Square underground station. Closest to me is the hire station in Scala Street. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it to work. I tried twice and gave up. This is not the first time I’ve had a problem with the Cycle Hire stations. So I decided to use my own fixed-gear bicycle to follow the route.
I cycled down to the start of the route in Oxford Street and prepared to join the Route G as recommend on the map. Sure enough there was a “No Entry” sign at the entrance to Rathbone Place because it is a one way street for most of its length. But I saw another cyclist travelling north up it, so I followed suit. If I got caught by the plod I was going to wave my Green Streets Fitzrovia map at them as evidence that it is my right to travel against the flow.
After safely travelling north up Rathbone Place, Charlotte Street, Fitzroy Street, then turning right to join the segregated cycling lane going east along Maple Street, then University Street I arrived at the junction with Gower Street. According to the map I can turn north up Gower Street and continue my journey to Euston Square underground Station.
The trouble is, Gower Street is a one-way street with three lanes of heavy traffic going southbound. Even I am not going to try to ride against all that traffic.
However, I was at a convenient place to start the other recommended cycling route: Route E, south along Gower Street. But this is a route I rarely do and for good reason. Apart from the heavy traffic all day, the surface is very bad for cycling with a combination of steel maintenance covers and sunken tarmac in places. Cyclists do use it, but it’s not a route that I’d recommend. Route E also suggests taking a right turn heading west into Chenies Street and Store Street. But right turns are not allowed into these streets as they are one-way travelling east. Not a lot of use.
Thousands of people cycle through Fitzrovia everyday, but for much of the neighbourhood they are poorly served by disconnected cycling routes. The one way system is confusing and while some roads do allow a cycling contra-flow it is difficult to navigate the area unless you have a lot of local knowledge. Both Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street are barriers and are unpleasant for cycling.
It is much easier to make short journeys around Fitzrovia on foot. I rarely cycle within Fitzrovia as it is so small an area you are never more than 10 to 15 minutes walking time from any of its streets. But the amount of through-traffic and motor vehicles parked clogging up our streets make the place a poor environment for walkers. If we are going to encourage more cycling and walking in Fitzrovia, we need a better cycling and walking infrastructure and better directions than are on this map. It is more likely to deter people than encourage them to walk or cycle.
We contacted Woof London about the map and cycle routes and they told us they had made a mistake and that the routes would be corrected before being re-published in mid-February.