Camden Council is to redesign and then re-open the Tottenham Court Road cycle lane which has been closed for over 18 months due to problems with its safe operation.

The short and short-lived protected cycle lane on Tottenham Court Road is due to be redesigned.

The short cycle lane which connects Torrington Place to Howland Street is part of the West End Project — a £35m scheme by Camden Council to transform the Tottenham Court Road area, improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, and create new public open spaces.

After constructing a very successful east-west protected cycle track connecting Kings Cross, Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia (known as the Tavistock-Torrington route) the final section crossing Tottenham Court Road was supposed to be upgraded as part of the West End Project. But the cycle lane was beset with problems as soon as it opened on 20 April 2019.

The cycle lance (centre) is supposed to improve the connection between Torrington Place and Howland Street. Source: Camden Council, West End Project.

Camden Cyclists, part of London Cycling Campaign, had immediately raised concerns with Camden Council about the design and construction of the surface of the lane and the working of the traffic signals (controlled by TfL). And why was it being used as a loading bay by lorry drivers delivering to some local businesses?

Some of these problems were quickly fixed by Camden and TfL while the cycle lane was closed temporarily. But an issue with the safe operation of the signals that control cycle traffic and motor vehicles through the junction with Howland Street remained.

Eventually Camden and TfL decided to close the lane, forcing cyclists to join the main carriageway with motor traffic, while they figured out how to fix it.

With the lane closed cyclists are forced to join the stream of motor vehicles.

That was at the start of May 2019 — and it has remained closed ever since, apart from a few periods in August and October 2019 when further modifications were trialled before being abandoned.

In the meantime other problems mounted up for Camden and TfL nearby after the junction with Tottenham Court Road and Torrington Place became a hotspot for pedestrians being struck by buses.

Then this month Camden’s West End Project team finally announced that the Tottenham Court Road cycle lane would be redesigned, and it might even remain open.

“Work to redesign and reconfigure the cycle lane on Tottenham Court Road into Howland Street will begin in early January 2021,” stated an email newsletter to local residents.

“We expect the work to take around a month to complete. We will then trial a reopening of the cycle lane. Construction updates will be added to our website as normal,” said the statement on 23 December.

Other parts of Camden’s West End Project continue to grind toward its expected completion sometime in 2021.

The new cycle lanes on Gower Street have been in operation in both directions since the start of December. Work to open the section at the junction with Euston Road is progressing at a snail’s pace, subject to Crossrail works; and the section crossing New Oxford Street to Shaftesbury Avenue and Covent Garden is likely to be completed early in 2021. Maybe.

But many cyclists have questioned why the Gower Street and Bloomsbury Street lanes appear to offer no protection at junctions. And why are there loading bays in the track which would force cyclists out into the stream of motor vehicles?

At some point in the first half of 2021 Gower Street and Bloomsbury Street will change to two-way working for all traffic — cycles and motor vehicles. And a very complicated set of restrictions will come in to operation on Tottenham Court Road where sections of the carriageway will be limited to buses and cycles only from 8am to 7pm Monday to Saturday, and through traffic will be directed along Gower Street and side streets.

More information: Camden’s West End Project.

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